Ramses II: One Big, Bad Dude… Plus Memphis, Egypt

Ramses II is one of the world’s giants in terms of ancient Egyptian history, the monuments he left behind and ego. This elegant 42 foot statue (from the knees up) is located in the Open Air Museum of Memphis. It speaks to his power.

The Open Air Museum of Memphis, near the modern town of Mit Rahina south of Cairo, is relatively small considering Memphis was established as the first capital of Egypt 4000 years ago by the pharaoh Narmer when he united Upper and Lower Egypt. It continued to serve as the capitol for over a thousand years. As such, Memphis would have been a bustling city filled with temples, palaces and tombs. Now it is mainly scattered ruins with most of its remains buried beneath villages and farms. The museum is well worth a visit however. First and foremost because of its huge statue of Ramses II, which was found lying in a swamp in 1820 missing its lower legs.

Ruling between 1279 and 1213 BCE, Ramses II is recognized as Egypt’s greatest pharaoh. He’s best known for ruling 66 years, expanding Egypt’s territory by fighting in multiple wars, and for building monuments, cities and temples throughout his realm. More ancient statues of him have been found than any other pharaoh. Peggy and I saw several as we made our way up the Nile. Then there is also the matter of the 90 children he was said to have fathered! As I noted in my heading, he was big— and he was bad.

Here, Peggy provides perspective on the size of the Ramses II statue at the Open Air Museum in Memphis. Visitors can both walk around the statue on the ground floor and observe it from the balcony above.
A view of Ramsey II as seen from head to toe. He’s wearing the crown of Upper Egypt.
This view of his face provides an idea of how beautifully he was carved out of granite with close attention to detail. Note the ear. The figure on his forehead is Wadjet, the female cobra god of Lower Egypt who provided protection for pharaohs.
Ramses II was also protected by the dagger he wore in his belt. Most pharaohs are shown wearing one as a symbol of power. A cartouche, spelling out one of his names in hieroglyphics, is on his belt over his dagger. Another, spelling out a different name is lower on his belt. Pharaohs had several names, one, to stress their various positions and accomplishments, but two, also important so they wouldn’t be forgotten, a critical factor in achieving immortality.
A cylindrical object in his hand also has a cartouche with one of his names as do two more on his wrist band. I searched for what the object he is holding represented but couldn’t find an explanation. It is obviously another symbol of power that several other pharaohs carry as well. My assumption is that it represents the chisel of Narmer that he used to smash into enemies’ heads, as I showed in my last Egypt post.
Narmer doing his thing. The chisel is shown in his name between the two images of Hathor, the cow goddess.
Could it be if one chisel was good, two were better? This statue of Ramses II is at the entrance of the Egyptian museum. Note he also has cartouches on his belt, shoulders and chest. Some of them were not his…
His son and successor had one of Ramses II’s cartouches removed and his own added— a quick, easy and cheap way to gain recognition and entrance to the afterlife. The practice was not unusual. “Oops, sorry Pop, my chisel slipped.”
Speaking of which, another large statue of Ramses II stands outside at the Museum of Open Air. It may actually be of the pharaoh Senusret I, taken over by Ramses with his names removed and Ramses added.
When most people think of Egypt and sphinxes, they think of the Great Sphinx of Giza. Actually, there are hundreds if not thousands of Sphinxes. Consisting of the body of a lion and the head of a pharaoh, this one is located at the Open Air Museum. It likely represents the head of Amenhotep II or III with the carving estimated to have taken place between 1700 and 1400 BCE.
A back view of the sphinx. It is 26 feet long (8 M) and 13 feet (4M) high, weighs in at over 80 tons, and is carved out of alabaster.

Memphis was an important religious center for the triad of Ptah, the creator god who gave shape to all things, his consort Sekhmet, the lion goddess, and their son, Nefertem, the god of blossoms and perfume. It was common for the Egyptians to create triads for their gods, not unlike that of the Christian triad of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost.

I’ll conclude today with a statue of the triad that is located in the Open Air Museum. Ptah with his long, skinny beard is shown in the center. Sekhmet is on the right, and Nefertem on the left. (At least, I assume that is the arrangement.) Their arms around each other demonstrate their common bond.

Next Post: We will return to South Dakota where we will visit a museum that is crammed full of dinosaur bones in a chaotic but wonderful arrangement.

A Mountain and Its Monuments: Mt. Rushmore, SD

The massive carving of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln on Mt. Rushmore in South Dakota.

Like many public projects, Mt. Rushmore was conceived as a way to encourage tourism. The project was thought up by Doane Robinson of the South Dakota Historical Society in the early 1920s. Peter Norbeck, who was serving as South Dakota’s Senator at the time, gained Washington approval and funding for the concept. Robinson then proceeded to hire the sculpture Gutzon Borglum to implement the vision. It was Borglum who selected the specific location, chose the four presidents to be featured, designed the sculpture, and oversaw the work, i.e. just about everything.

Given George Washington’s role in the Revolutionary War and as the first president of the nation, he was a natural for inclusion.
As was Abraham Lincoln who freed the slaves and saved the union.
Thomas Jefferson was the primary author of the Declaration of Independence, and the third president of the US, but Borglum chose him because he nearly doubled the size of the country with the Louisiana Purchase, which by the way, also included South Dakota.
Theodore Roosevelt was a Republican known for his strong foreign policy overseas and his progressive reforms at home. The latter included the control of powerful corporations, protection of consumers, and pro-conservation efforts— all worthwhile efforts, even more important today than they were then.

As might be expected, an incredible amount of work was involved in creating the massive sculptures shown above. Started in 1927, the work took 14 years to complete. Over 400 tons of rock were removed— around 90% by carefully placed dynamite charges and the rest by jack hammers and facing bits. The latter designed to smooth the rock. Over 400 workers were recruited to do the work, among them local miners, lumbermen and ranchers. Going to work involved first climbing 700 steps to the top of the mountain. Workers weren’t paid for the climb. The carvers would then be lowered by rope to do the job.

This illustration from the Visitors’ Center provides details on the size of the sculptures. It doesn’t capture the size nearly as well as another photo in the Visitors Center, however…
A nostril-sized carver works on what I think is Roosevelt’s nose. (Photo from Visitor Center at Mt. Rushmore.)
This early photo, also on display at the Visitors Center, shows Mt. Rushmore before carving commenced. The bottom to top crack on the left marks the beginning; the knobs on the right mark the ending.
This photo will provide perspective by moving back and forth between the two photos. Originally, Borglum had plan to carve Jefferson on the right of Washington but poor quality rock led him to blast off the work that had been done and put Washington first.
A trail leads down to Borglum’s studio from the main visitor area and displays the models of the sculpture he worked from. Note Lincoln’s hand. The original plan had been to represent the top half of the president’s bodies. Problems with the lower rock base and funding led to only the presidents’ heads being carved.
The view from Borglum’s workshop provided him with a clear view of the work in progress.
Another trail from the workshop brings you closer to the presidents and provides a different perspective.
This was our first view of the monument when we drove in from state highway 385 on highway 144.
A close up of George.
In conclusion: With over two million visitors a year, Mt. Rushmore is one of America’s best loved national monuments. South Dakota has more than succeeded in creating the tourist attraction it first dreamed of.

Next post: It’s back to Egypt with a focus on Memphis, a giant statue of Ramses II, and a look at one of the first pyramids created.

Hathor, the Cow Goddess… Plus, the Narmer Palette

What’s not to love about Hathor, the Egyptian cow goddess of beauty, sensuality, music, dancing, wine, maternity and much more. She could change from a cow, to a woman with a cow’s broad head and cow ears, to a beautiful woman with cow horns and a sun disk. She could also take the form of a lioness, goose, and a sycamore tree! She was popular with both pharaohs and common people alike. Her beginnings trace back to the dawn of Egyptian history. She is even found on the Narmer Palette, considered Egypt’s most important historical relic, that dates back to 3,100 BCE and reflects much of the next 3,000 years of Egyptian art and history.

Today, Peggy and I are continuing our series on our trip up the Nile in March with Uniword Cruises traveling with our excellent guide, Sabaa. Once again, we will be mixing the mythology, history, and architecture that make Egypt such a fascinating place. All of the photos in this post were taken by either Peggy or me.

Photo of Hathor the Cow Goddess and Peggy Mekemson taken by Curt Mekemson.
Of all the goddesses I have read about, Hathor is my all-time favorite. Peggy good naturedly agreed to pose with her. I think the side profile of Hathor looks a lot like George Washington. Another role, perhaps?
Lacking a photo of Hathor as a cow, I decided to throw in a California cow I found while hiking down the Pacific Crest Trail and named Hathor. It’s only fitting that the goddess of motherhood be very pregnant like this big bovine is.

Gods evolve over time. Hathor is certainly an example of this. She probably started out as the local goddess to a pastoral tribe of nomads as they moved their cattle from place to place. Her responsibilities grew as the regions she was identified with expanded and she took on the role of other female deities. The most dramatic increase in her territory was when Narmer, the pharaoh of Upper Egypt conquered Lower Egypt around 3,100 BCE. (Lower Egypt included the Nile Delta where it flowed out into the Mediterranean. Upper Egypt followed the Nile south of Cairo as it climbed up to the cataracts at modern Aswan.) The unification of these two areas is central to much of the subsequent history of Egypt. Since the Narmer Palette showed the first phase of the unification, plus Hathor, it’s worth looking at closely. The palette is located in the Museum of Egyptian History, which was just outside the backdoor of our hotel in downtown Cairo.

This is the back of the Narmer Palette. Following is what I’ve been able to derive from the various interpretations.

Two images of Hathor are located at the top of the Palette look favorably down on the Narmer. You might say that she is offering her blessing, supporting his position as pharaoh. Such approval was critical in legitimizing the position and power of the pharaohs, who also claimed divinity and made sure gods were part of their family trees. The raised relief between the two images of Hathor spells out Narmer’s name in hieroglyphics, represented by a catfish and a chisel. The background, called a serekh, symbolizes the entrance to a castle and was used to show that this was a pharaoh’s name. Later pharaohs would use a cartouche to emphasize their names.

A number of other things are used to demonstrate Narmer’s power that would be common to future pharaohs. One, he is smiting his enemy. Pharaohs did lots of smiting. In this instance, Narmer is using his mace to pound what I believe is his chisel into the head of his unfortunate enemy from Lower Egypt. Two, he is much larger than anyone else. Three, the bowling pin shaped hat on his head is the white crown of Upper Egypt, the Hedjet. Below his belt, Narmer’s kilt features four more images of Hathor on top of columns, just in case there are any doubts about her support. His beard will be seen on all future pharaohs. And finally, he has one fine tail. It’s a bull’s tail that symbolizes pharaohs could take the shape of large bulls.

The small figure off to the left is his servant, who is tasked with carrying his sandals. On the right, Horus, the falcon god, is perched on a papyrus plant while he uses a rope to pull up another enemy out of the marsh by what appears to be a hook through his nose. That would hurt. Note how his claw and leg have become an arm and a hand. This likely symbolizes that Horus also supports Narmer’s military success over Lower Egypt. Two more dead enemies are shown on the bottom.

Here’s the front of the palette, which is packed with even more symbolism. Once again, Hathor and the pharaoh’s name are on top.

From left to right on the next level, we have the servant still faithfully carrying Narmer’s sandals. His flower may be the lotus, the plant symbol of Upper Egypt. It looks quite perky. Narmer is wearing the crown of lower Egypt here, showing the unification of Upper and Lower Egypt and the fact that he now rules over both. He is still carrying his mace. His right hand, however, holds a shepherd’s crook that will become another symbol of pharaohs— and, far into the future, popes. His catfish and chisel come next, announcing him. Below them is another servant carrying what appears to be wilted papyrus, the plant symbol of Lower Egypt. Compared to the perky lotus, are they mourning the defeat? Standard bearers come next followed by the defeated enemies. Their heads have all been cut off and are laid between their feet. This isn’t enough, however. They have also been de-manned and their parts draped over their heads. Not a pretty picture in anyone’s book— or blog. Above them, a barque, Ra the sun god’s boat, sails across the sky, which is a story for a future post.

The delightfully weird mythical beasts below with their long necks are called serpopards, a modern name concocted from serpent and leopard. Egypt adopted them from neighboring Mesopotamia. The round space in the middle is designed for grinding minerals used in makeup, possibly for ceremonial purposes in the worship of the gods. Could it be Hathor? The goddess of beauty was also the goddess of makeup. Below, Narmer has adopted his bull persona and is destroying the walls of a village or city where he is smiting another enemy.

Now back to Hathor.

Here’s Hathor in her form as a beautiful woman, smiling down on people entering the Egyptian Museum of History. The horns on her head display the sun disk. Wadjit, the cobra goddess of Lower Egypt, adorns her head while Nekhbet, the vulture goddess of Upper Egypt, soars beneath her, both providing protection.

One of my favorite myths about Hathor is how she served time as the Eye of Ra, which like the Eye of Horus, could wander around on its own. Unlike the Eye of Horus that brought good things, however, the Eye of Ra was an object of power and could bring devastation.

In the Book of the Heavenly Cow from the Middle Kingdom, Ra becomes angered by humans’ lack of respect and bad behavior so he releases his eye Hathor in the form of Sekhmet, the lion goddess, upon humanity to destroy it. Note the parallel here with the God of the Old Testament, who decides to flood earth and destroy humanity for similar reasons. The goddess in a passion of blood thirsty destruction descends on mankind killing everyone she finds and destroys their farms, towns and cities. At first Ra is pleased that humanity is getting what it deserves, but eventually becomes concerned (with the help of the other gods) that maybe he has gone too far, and soon there will be no humans left on earth. Who’s going to worship him? He decides to show mercy.

He asks Tenenet, the goddess of beer, to brew a large, potent batch, dye it red, and deliver it to where Sekhmet will see it. (Brewing a large batch of beer in Ancient Egyptian terms was indeed large. Vats found in Hierakonpolis could brew up to 300 gallons of beer at a time.) Sekhmet finds it, and, thinking she has found a huge cache of blood, drinks it down to relieve her blood lust, the whole batch! Glug, glug, glug—becomes drunk beyond imagination, and falls into a deep sleep. She wakes up in the form of the beautiful Hathor who henceforth does only good for the people of Egypt and becomes their most beloved goddess. 

Another set of myths I enjoyed about Hathor was her relationship with Horus, partially because it reflects how myths can change and don’t necessarily need to be consistent. In at least one version of the Isis-Osiris myth that I shared in my last Egypt post, Hathor nurses the young Horus with her bounteous udders while he is hidden in the papyrus marshes of the Nile Delta. She also helps hide him by shaking a sistrum, an ancient Egyptian music rattle that sounds like rustling papyrus, and muffles any noise Horus may make. Need it be said that Hathor was also the goddess of the sistrum?

Another myth suggests that Hathor was the mother of Horus. So much for Isis. But maybe that’s okay, since Isis eventually takes over the role and form of Hathor, looking exactly like her. And finally, this gets a little kinky: Hathor becomes the lover/consort/wife of Horus. BTW, Hathor translates into the House of Horus, giving a whole new meaning to “I’m home, Honey.”

Now it’s time to wrap up this post with some photos of Hathor. Many of these images came from the Temple of Hathor at Dendera, which we will visit later.

This is from Hathor’s temple at Dendera. Ra, the sun god, has just completed his nighttime journey through Nut and is born again. His rays shine down on Hathor. Take a moment to look at the other images, like the snake emerging from the lotus.
New hair-do?
Same hair-do, more basic version.
On a column: Big Hathor above; little Hathor below.
Hathor looking a bit more cow-ish at Dendera. Grin. Check out the nose and nostrils! Same hairdo.
And finally—an interesting trio, to say the least. Hathor is on the left, in her human form. Horus comes next. He is wearing the combined crown of Upper and Lower Egypt. And no, he is not overly excited to be in the presence of two beautiful semi-clad women. That’s a dagger in his belt. Isis is last. Note how Isis now looks like Hathor. Both are wearing the vulture goddess, Nekhbet, as a hat, and both display horns holding the sun disk from which the cobra goddess, Wadjit, dangles. The only difference between the two is that the object protruding from the sun disk above Isis is her crown.

Our next post will feature Mt. Rushmore in South Dakota. We will be back in Egypt the following week.

In-Spiring Rocks Stand Tall; Narrow Tunnels Squeeze…The Needles Highway of Custer SP

It’s impossible not to feel awe when traveling through the towering Cathedral Spires of South Dakota’s Custer State Park. They so impressed Peter Norbeck, the governor of the state from 1917-21, that he personally scoped out a route on foot and horseback that would feature the best views. Known as the Needles Highway, it’s also famous for its narrow tunnels hewn out from the granite rock. We visited Custer State Park on our RV trip around North America last fall. All photos in the blog are taken by either Peggy or me unless otherwise noted.

They tower above Custer State Park, silent sentinels made of granite. Once they were chosen as the site for the presidential carvings that dominate the nearby Mt. Rushmore, but the granite lacked the solid mass that was needed. It may have been a gift, given their outstanding beauty. While I like Mt. Rushmore, I prefer these rocks au naturel.
Photo along the Needles Highway of Custer State Park by photographer Peggy Mekemson.
Visitors to the Cathedral Spires of Custer State Park wind their way through the granite pillars on a narrow, curvy road that barely accommodates two larger vehicles on sections.
The road provides up close and personal views of the granite monuments.
Every spire has its own personality.
Towering spires like this gave the Needles Highway its name.
Rock garden with breaching whale?
Rock climbers look for challenging rock faces to scramble up in the Cathedral Spires. Peggy and I just looked for faces.
Our active imaginations have no problem finding them… The nose, small mouth below it, eyes above, and baseball cap gave away this fellow. (There’s a chance he had a duck billed platypus on his head instead of a cap.)
This photo illustrates just how narrow tunnels are along the Needles Highway of South Dakota's Custer State Park.
Part of the fun of the Needles Highway is maneuvering along the narrow, curvy road. The tunnels bordered on scary. This sign announced that one tunnel was 8 feet, zero inches across. Our truck is 8 feet, zero inches across! Fortunately, our mirrors folded in by 7 inches on each side. I had 14 inches to squeeze our large F-150 through. Woohoo! I almost peed my pants. My normally talkative driving advisor was strangely silent. She may have been praying.
Beware, all ye who enter here! Once you start, there is no backing out.
The ‘light at the end of the tunnel.’ The road snaked off to the left.
Even this larger square tunnel seemed skinny.
I thought this photo was interesting. I didn’t spot the colorful abstract until I was processing our photos. It’s a reflection off the hood of our truck showing the exit and road of the square tunnel. At least that’s what I assumed it was. Maybe it was a gateway to another world with a monster bird hoping to dine on Curt and Peggy a la carte.
I’ll conclude today with two more photos. This one with its gnarly old dead tree…
And a closer view of the ‘Cathedral Spires.’

Next Monday, May 15, Peggy and I will be back in Egypt with a trip out to the ancient city of Memphis, near Cairo, where we will visit the colossal statue of Ramses II lying down, and then return to Cairo for a tour of the Museum of Egypt, which was out the back door from our hotel. There will be more of the history of Ancient Egypt, some treasures from the tomb of King Tutankhamen, a cow goddess, and much more. (So much that I may turn it into two posts.)

The Monday after that, May 22, we will take you on a tour of even more colossal monuments than Egypt has, the presidents on Mt. Rushmore in South Dakota. It’s located 10-15 miles north of today’s post on the Needles Highway.

On Being Photo-Bombed by a Camel… Plus Some Egyptian History and Mythology

Today, Peggy and I are beginning our series of blogs on our journey through Egypt up the Nile River on a riverboat with the UniWorld Cruise company. We hope you will join us. As always, all photos are taken by either Peggy or me unless otherwise noted.

Photo of camel photobombing a picture of the pyramids by photographer Curt Mekemson.
I was setting up a photo of the pyramids of Khafre and Menkaure when a camel head suddenly appeared in my viewfinder. Was I being photo-bombed? I quickly snapped the picture. A free photo of a camel at Giza is not to be passed up. Note the emphasis on free. Camel drivers and camels are everywhere. You are welcome to the take their photos, have your photo taken with them, or even go for a ride. All for a substantial fee, of course. Not paying is frowned upon.

Visiting the pyramids of Egypt at Giza is like climbing into a time machine. The Pyramid of Khafre on the left was built around 2,570 BCE and the Pyramid of Menkaure on the right around 2510 BCE, which makes them both over 4500 years old! The beginning of Egyptian history is traced back even further, to 3100 BCE, over 5000 years ago.

The Sahara Desert and the Nile River kick-started the process. 10,000 years ago the Sahara Desert wasn’t. It was a huge savanna where wandering herders grazed their goats and cattle. It is now thought that some combination of climate change and overgrazing changed the savanna into the vast desert it is today. The herders needed somewhere to go and the Nile River was their best option. The river provided a continuous source of water for thirsty stock. Its annual floods assured that there would be rich soil for farming. Increasing population along the river led to the creation of villages and towns, eventually leading to cities, kingdoms and even empires in a time period that extended over 3,000 years.

We took this photo from our boat to capture the ducks flying over the Nile River, but it also serves to illustrate the contrast between the green of the river and the reddish-brown Sahara Desert beyond that stretches all the way west to the Atlantic Ocean.

The pyramids speak to more than ancient history and the engineering marvels. They reflect the ancient Egyptians’ deep belief in the afterlife, magic, and the numerous gods who impacted their lives from birth to death— and beyond. This belief in the afterlife (plus the pharaohs’ exploits and claimed relationship to the gods) dominated the temples, tombs and monuments we visited as we explored the area around Cairo, made our way up the Nile, and visited the city of Alexandria.

There are numerous myths about the gods and I’ll be relating several as I go though my posts on Egypt. I find them both fascinating and fun. One thing to note here is that most of them have several versions. Five thousand years is a long time to keep a story straight. For example, today I am going to tell about one of the great founding myths, that of Osiris and Isis. Like most great tales, it is filled with murder, mayhem, adventure, sex, twists, magic and even a bit of humor. That Osiris was killed by his brother, chopped into pieces, put back together, and became God of the Underworld where he sat in judgement of the dead is generally agreed upon. The details on how he was killed, managed to get Isis pregnant with Horus afterwards, and was put back together vary with the teller.

The version that I am writing about was originally told by Plutarch in the second century AD. I first read it in a book by Joseph Campbell, Transformation of Myth through Time, over 30 years ago. I like this version because it has a Cinderella aspect to it, i.e. if the coffin fits, wear it.

This story starts with the goddess of heaven, Nut, and the god of earth, Geb. The god of air, Shu, separates Nut from Geb. Night and day are created by the sun god, Ra, who sails across the sky in his boat during the day, is swallowed by Nut in the evening, journeys through her at night, and is born again in the morning through a somewhat natural birth.

Photo of Egyptian Goddess Nut taken by Curt Mekemson.
Nut the Goddess of the Sky is about to swallow Ra, the Sun God, in this photo we took in one of the tombs in the Valley of the Kings. Night is about to begin. The symbols on Nut’s body represent stars. Hieroglyphs fill the space on the right, providing advice and spells to aid the pharaoh in getting through the dangerous underworld on his way to eternal life.

Nut and Geb get together and give birth to four children.  The older twins, Osiris and Isis, are born first, and, in the tradition of Egyptian gods and pharaohs, marry each other. Osiris, with the help of the clever Isis, replaces Ra as the king of Egypt and gets the throne. Seth and Nephthys are born next and and marry each other.  Now the fun begins. Osiris is the typical good son and represents order. Seth is the typical bad son and represents chaos. It’s Osiris that creates the trouble, however. One night he sleeps with Nephthys, claiming he thought it was Isis. (Joe Campbell notes that this isn’t paying attention to detail.) Whatever the reason, Seth doesn’t buy it. Would you? He vows to get even. 

He builds a beautiful (and undoubtably incredibly expensive) sarcophagus/coffin made out of gold that is exactly fit to Osiris’s size. He waits until a great party is going on and everyone has consumed large quantities of beer (the go-to drink of the time) before showing up with his golden sarcophagus. “Whoever fits can have it!” he declares. Naturally everyone is excited to try, but nobody fits. Except Osiris. He’s just beginning to enjoy his triumph when 42 of Set’s servants rush out, slam the lid closed, wrap iron bindings around it, and throw it in the Nile. 

End of story, right. A solid gold coffin can hardly be expected to float. Except it does. Osiris is a god, after all. In fact, it floats all the way to Syria where it lands and a tree grows around it. And what a sweet smelling tree it is. So sweet that the local king decides he wants to use it for a pillar in a castle he is building. Meanwhile, Isis, in deep mourning, is searching the world over for Osiris. She ends up in Syria where she stops for a drink at the community well and hears the story of the sweet smelling pillar from maids who work at the castle. “Aha, Osiris!” she thinks. She also learns that the king has a new son who needs a nursemaid. She applies for and gets the job. 

Isis really likes the baby, nurses it from her finger, and decides to make it immortal  by throwing it in the fire each night to burn away its mortality. While this is going on, she assumes the form of a swallow and flies around the pillar, twittering mournfully.  One night the queen comes in on this scene and discovers her baby has been thrown in the fire and the nursemaid has become a twittering bird. Needless to say, she gets a little excited and screams. Isis immediately morphs back into herself, saves the baby, explains what she was doing, and asks the king if she can have the pillar. “Of course,” he says. (My thought is that he wanted to get the baby-burning goddess out of his life as quickly as possible.)

Isis gets a barge, loads the sarcophagus and heads home. Feeling lonely on the way, she opens the coffin, finds a quite dead Osiris, and climbs on in what seems to be a bit of Necrofilia. I’m not sure how it works, but she becomes pregnant (god thing again). Another version, which I like better, has her turning back into a swallow, flying over the coffin and being impregnated by magic. Immaculate conception is a common theme of Egyptian mythology. One myth I came across has the sphinx being born as the son of the lion goddess Sekhmeth after she is impregnated by a moonbeam from the Moon God. Explain that one to your husband. The Ankh, Egypt’s well known symbol of life and immortality, is also problematic when it comes to immaculate conceptions as well.

Having an ankh blown or shoved up your nose by a god was a great gift of life and immortality, highly desired by the pharaohs. Down around a woman’s midsection, it might have something other than a nose on its mind and be on its way to making a baby. It was known for making some women ankh-ious. (Sorry, my bad.)

Back home in Egypt, Seth has assumed the throne and will not be glad to have Osiris back, dead or alive. So Isis heads into a papyrus swamp where she hides out and gives birth to Osiris’s second son, Horus. Nephthys has already give birth to his first son, Anubis. 

All goes well until Seth follows a boar he is hunting into the papyrus swamp and finds the dead Osiris. Infuriated, he tears Osiris into 15 pieces and scatters them throughout Egypt. Once again, poor Isis sets out to get her dead husband back. Anubis, who is a Jackal in his animal form, and Nephthys help in the search. They can only find 14 pieces. Osiris is missing his genitals. A fish has eaten them.

They stitch Osiris back together with the parts they have and Anubis embalms Osiris, turning him into a mummy. Meanwhile, Horus grows up and goes to war with Seth to avenge his father. In a horrendous battle, Horus loses one of his eyes while Seth loses a testicle. Not quite reciprocal justice (an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth), but close. Seth also loses the battle, however.  Horus takes the throne and order is restored to Egypt while Seth is banned to the desert. Horus’s eye is magically restored and comes to symbolize making things whole and healing.  It even brings life back to Osiris, who becomes god of the underworld.

People admire a sculpture of Annubis at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. The sculpture was found guarding the tomb of King Tut. Egyptians considered Annubis’s animal form to be that of a jackal because of his close association with the dead. Jackals were known to hang out around cemeteries, probably hoping to dig up a free handout. Heh.
Peggy and I brought home this tapestry featuring the Eye of Horus from Egypt. Nekhbet, the goddess of vultures, is shown on the right. Wadjet, the coba goddess is shown on the left. All three were frequently depicted in ancient Egypt. Not a bad trio. Nekhbet and Wadjet protected pharaohs and the Eye of Horus could heal them.

My next post on Egypt, two weeks from now, will feature more history, mythology, and photos of ancient Egyptian sites from around Cairo. Next Monday Peggy and I will take you on a drive through Custer State Park, South Dakota that will focus on some rather unusual and magnificent stone sculptures.

Custer City… Where the Buffalo Roam in Town

Given that 2,000 buffalo roam on the outskirts of Custer City, South Dakota, it’s not surprising that the town has a buffalo fixation. We found one on every corner!

Photo of colorful buffalo sculpture in Custer City, SD was taken by photographer Peggy Mekemson.
This colorful creature was one of many buffalo sculptures we found in Custer City.

Over the past several years, Peggy and I have been in a number of communities that feature sculptures of animals. Several have been buffalo, but we have also seen bears, cows, horses, elk, and sandhill cranes. I’ve little doubt that other communities feature dogs, cats, pigs and rhinos. Rhinos? Apparently you can find a hundred of them in Cape Town, South Africa. We love the unique, colorful, sculptures. Like murals, they are attractive to locals and visitors alike, and encourage both community pride and tourism.

Photo of ghostly buffalo in Custer City, South Dakota by photographer Peggy Mekemson.
This ghostly buffalo…
Photo of side view of buffalo sculpture showing bones in Custer City, South Dakota by photographer Curt Mekemson.
Was a lesson in buffalo anatomy, as well as a possible Halloween treat. All of the buffalo featured ‘keep off the buffalo’ signs like the one beneath the buffalo’s chin. I could see tourists climbing on top or plopping their 5-year-old on top for photos.
Photo of white buffalo sculpture in Custer City, SD by photographer Peggy Mekemson.
Rare white buffalo were considered sacred by American Indians and played important roles in their legends.
Photo of horses featured on white buffalo sculpture in Custer City, SD taken by photographer Curt Mekemson.
One side of the white buffalo sculpture featured horses that were used by the Indians for hunting buffalo.
Photo of buffalo featuring local scenery in Custer City, SD by photographer Peggy Mekemson.
Several buffalo featured local scenery.
Photo of Buffalo sculpture in Custer City, South Dakota featuring a painted buffalo by photographer Curt Mekemson.
And buffalos, including a painting of a very colorful buffalo escaping from a forest fire.
Photograph of brown buffalo sculpture in Custer City, SD by photographer Curt Mekemson.
This large brown fellow featured another large brown buffalo and a buffalo herd. We really liked the way the buffalo’s shoulder provided a three dimensional effect for the painted buffalo.
Photo of buffalo hunting scene on a buffalo sculpture in Custer City, SD by photographer Curt Mekemson.
A more abstract painting on another sculpture featured a buffalo, horse, possible medicine man, mountains, desert, and a lightning storm.
A dramatic scene that featured a Native American with his dog and two lurking wolves.
Photo of buffalo sculpture in Custer City South Dakota featuring mountain goats by Photographer Peggy Mekemson.
The artist for this buffalo sculpture in Custer City featured mountain goats, including one romping on top of its head. Note the scene on the back…
Photo of buffalo sculpture in Custer City, SD featuring a scene from Custer State Park's scenic Needles Highway by photographer Curt Mekemson.
It’s a scene from along the Needles Highway in Custer State Park, which is named for its dramatic rock formations— a must-see of the park. Mountain goats live there. We will feature the narrow, curvy highway with its gorgeous scenery and tunnels our truck could barely fit through in our next South Dakota post two weeks from now.

Next Monday’s post will feature the Egyptian myth of Osiris and Isis plus the ancient Egyptian city of Memphis near Cairo.

Mt. Shasta, California and a Beautiful Lenticular Cloud…

Airplane photo of lenticular cloud over Mt. Shasta on April 10, 2023 by photographer Curt Mekemson.
Flying down from Seattle to Sacramento last Monday, Peggy and I were awed by Mt. Shasta and a lenticular cloud that was hanging above it.

On Monday, Peggy and I flew from Seattle, Washington to Sacramento California. It was cloudy through Washington and Northern Oregon, which was hardly a surprise given the weather in the West this year. In mid-Oregon, however, the clouds suddenly parted. We enjoyed great views of the Three Sister volcanoes and the iconic Crater Lake. 

As we crossed into California, I told Peggy to hold her breath. Mt. Shasta was coming. We would be flying to the East of it. We didn’t have a clue what the weather would be like. Shasta could be cloud covered, partially covered, or totally clear. What we got was a rare treat, a lenticular cloud was perched on top of the mountain. While Peggy oohed and awed, I grabbed my camera to snap a few photos. 

I love Mt. Shasta. It’s one of the most beautiful volcanic mountains in the world. I’ve been driving by it for decades as I made my way from California to Oregon and back. I even climbed the mountain in 1979 with my 75 year old friend, Orvis Agee, who’d been up it so many times that he was  known affectionately as ‘The Old Man of the Mountain.’ For my own 75th birthday in 2018, I had spent two weeks of my 750 mile backpack trek down the PCT enjoying spectacular views of the mountain as I made my way south from Mt. Ashland to Burney Falls.

It was my intention to slap up a quick post on our Monday fly-over but we were in Sacramento for a personal and sad reason. Peggy’s sister, Jane Hagedorn, and my friend of 50 years had unexpectedly passed away. We had come in from Virginia to attend a celebration of life memorial and help her children for a couple of weeks as they sort though things and prepare for the memorial. So, I put the post off. I actually forgot it.  

Until Saturday. I was reading a blog I follow by Bubba Suess, hikemtshasta.com, and he had photographed the same lenticular cloud and others from the ground. I suggest you jump over to his web site and click on his blog at the top. He had photos from both Sunday and Monday. They are amazing, especially the flying saucer lenticular cloud! They inspired me to put up my photos as well. 

Jane drove up to see us several times while Peggy and I were living in Oregon, sometimes with her husband, Jim, and sometimes by herself. She considered our home and property as a retreat. Along the way, she would pass by Mt. Shasta. She shared our awe of the mountain’s beauty. She was a faithful follower of my blog and I know she would love this post on Shasta. This one’s for her.

A distant view.
Closer… The squares are mainly cattle ranches.
Photo of lenticular cloud over Mt. Shasta by photographer Curt Mekemson.
And a final view.

My post on the buffalo sculptures of Custer City, South Dakota that I was going to run today will be posted next Monday. My post on the history and mythology of Egypt will be on the following Monday.

Germany’s Black Forest… Cuckoo Clocks, Great Scenery, Weird Hats, and a Donkey

The Black Forest is legendary, a land of dark fantasy. The Brothers Grimm reportedly based their fairy tales on the region. We found beauty and humor instead.

We are wrapping up our Rhine River series today with a trip into Germany’s Black Forest. Our riverboat journey up the Rhine with Uniworld Boutique was special, no doubt about it. I’d highly recommend it to anyone. Given that we took our daughter’s family and son’s family (which included their five kids) along, Uniworld’s Generation Cruise was particularly appropriate. Riverboat trips can be expensive, however. One can also travel through the Rhine River Valley by car, bus or train. An advantage here would be having more time to stop and enjoy the scenery, towns and castles. All photos on this blog are taken by either Peggy or me unless otherwise noted.

Photo of Germany's Black Forest by photographer Curt Mekemson.
Our impression of Germany’s Black Forest was of a scenic, bucolic area.

The Black Forest is world-famous for its cuckoo clocks and our trip into the Black Forest included a visit to one of its most famous shops, The House of Clocks. There are photos, of course, bur first I have two related Black Forest cuckoo clock stories that took place decades before our riverboat trip up the Rhine. One is my son-in-law Clay’s; the other is mine.

Clay’s is the most relevant. He had actually visited the House of Clocks when he was a child in the 80s. His dad was in the army and stationed in Frankfurt, Germany. Even more to the point, his dad and grandfather bought clocks from Adolph Herr, the owner of the House of Clocks, when he brought grandfather clocks to a Christmas Market that was held on Abram’s Army Base in Frankfort. As we headed into the Black Forest, Clay was on a mission to buy his own cuckoo clock from the House of Clocks and Adolph Herr.

My cuckoo clock story goes all the way back to1951when I was in the third grade. My town was so small that the grade school only had five rooms. My introduction to it hadn’t been great. First grade took me two tries. I was kicked out the first time. My mother had altered my birth certificate to get me in early. She was eager to get me out of the house. Obviously. The teacher had been teaching for decades and knew first graders, however. She became suspicious and mailed off to Oregon for my birth certificate. I was sent home. I was happy with the reprieve. My mother— not so much. The following September I became an official first grader. It was a tough year. Mrs. Young, the teacher, had decided that Marge Mekemson’s kid was a wild child in need of taming. She was right, but I’ve never done taming well.

The second grade went much better. Second and third graders shared a room and had the same teacher for two years. I lucked out. My second grade teacher, Ruth Jones, was my godmother. She was required to like me. And did. My attitude about teachers and school took an abrupt turn. I began to enjoy school, and, I confess, even became something of a ‘teacher’s pet.’ Miss Jones was married and became Mrs. Hall the summer between my second and third grade and went on a honeymoon to Europe. On the last day of third grade, she asked me to stay after school briefly. “I have something for you, Curt, and want you to keep the fact I gave it to you to yourself.” She was careful about showing favoritism.

The gift was a cuckoo clock she had bought for me the previous summer in Germany’s Black Forest. I had it for years. Visiting the Black Forest had been on my agenda ever since.

Clay, with his family, standing in front of the Black Forest House of Clocks. From left to right, our grandsons Ethan and Cody, Clay, and our daughter Tasha. They are standing in front of a giant cuckoo clock with 21 moving figures. Some action is about to take place in the scene above them to the left…
If I were the two drunken revelers, I think I’d pay attention to the bar maid with the poised rolling pin and finger pointing “Out!”
As might be imagined, the House of Clocks is packed with cuckoo clocks, each hand crafted.
Adolph Herr, who owns and operates the Black Forest House of Clocks along with his son and grandson, represents 7 generations of clock makers dating back to the 1700s.
The Cox family can also claim a generational connection to the House of Clocks. Cody and Ethan, show here with Adolph, represent four generations of Coxes that have visited the shop including Clay’s grandfather, father, himself, and his sons.
This is one of our favorite photos of Clay. He is picking out a clock made by Adolph Herr, just as his grandfather and father did.
The clock that Clay bought.
A close up of the clock. Adolph Herr’s signature is on the back. And yes, it does make cuckoo sounds on the hour.

Grimms’ Fairy Tales are said to have been based on Germany’s Black Forest, so one way to think of the area is as a dark place filled with terrifying beasties. Well, we did run into two beasties and some of the trees were dark in appearance, but our overall impression was of a bucolic, scenic area. Our lunch stop included time to wander around in the woods for a time.

Photo of Black Forest by Curt Mekemson.
Peggy on on a dirt road into the Black Forest that we explored.
Photo of Black Forest by Photographer Peggy Mekemson.
The dark trees and brooding skies gave a clue of where the name Black Forest originated. I liked the lone tree. Windmills can be seen in the distance.
Sunlit photo of Black Forest by Curt Mekemson.
Sunlight provided a brighter, more cheerful view of the Black Forest.
Photo of trail sign in Germany's Black Forest by photographer Peggy Mekemson.
A number of trails passed over the dirt road we hiked down. They demanded exploration and called to me. The one that really caught my attention, however, was the bottom one. It’s the symbol for the Camino de Santiago, the world renowned 500 mile trail that I associated mainly with Spain. What was it doing in the Black Forest? I learned that the Camino de Santiago includes a number of different pilgrimage routes that start throughout Europe and finish in Santiago de Compostela, Spain. I could have started my pilgrimage right there!
Photo of Scottish Calf in Black Forest by photographer Peggy Mekemson.
Back on the road, we ran in to some strange beasties. Now, had we been driving through Scotland, this one wouldn’t have seemed so strange…
Phot of Llama in Germany's Black Forest by Curt Mekemson.
The Grimm brothers would have fun with this creature, probably giving it long, curving fangs. To find one, however, they would have had to travel to South America and the high Andes.
These modern, attractive homes seemed to fit well with the historic church into their Black Forest setting. We were in search of an older home, however, and found one built over 400 years ago.
Photo of the Vogtsbauernhof farmhouse at the Black Forest Open Air Museum taken by Peggy Mekemson.
The Vogtsbauernhof farmhouse dating from 1612 is the central attraction of the Black Forest’s Open Air Museum.
I was also hoping to see women wearing the traditional Bollenhut hat of the Black Forest, which was promoted on the the museum’s website. The hat consists of 14 pompoms, red for unmarried women and black for married women. I took this photo of a mural in Breisach, which claims to be the gateway to the Black Forest.
Photo of VW wearing a Bollenhut  at the Open Air Museum in the Black Forest by Curt Mekemson.
It was not to be. Instead, we found a Volkswagen Beetle wearing a Bollenhut. Maybe it was waiting for a VW Van to come along and offer it a good time.
We found this cute heifer wearing a Bollenhut at The House of Clocks.
Photo of Stream flowing through the Black Forest's Open Air Museum by photographer Curt Mekemson.
So, instead of seeing women sporting traditional hats, we wandered around the Open Air Museum checking out other sites such as this peaceful stream…
A plump, sway backed horse. And my favorite…
Photo of donkey at the Open Air Museum of Germany's Black Forest taken by photographer, Curt Mekemson.
This donkey, which I will use to wrap up our trip on the Rhine River. Next Monday, it’s back to the small town of Custer, South Dakota and its fun and fascinating collection of colorful buffalo sculptures.

What’s a Naked Lady Doing up on a Bull? Breisach, Germany…

Peggy and I are coming to the end of the blogs on our Rhine River cruise. Today, we will take you to Breisach, Germany. Our final Rhine River post will be on the Black Forest. After that, it will be off to the Nile! All photos in this post were taken by either Peggy or me unless otherwise noted.

Photo of roof tops in Breisach, Germany by photographer Peggy Mekemson.
Breisach was the final town we visited on our trip up the Rhine. It had everything we had come to expect: Color, history, and a great cathedral. I’ll get to the naked lady and the bull soon. And no, it wasn’t a new take on Lady Godiva. But I will give a hint: Naked ladies on bulls are a European kind of thing.

The history of Breisach follows the history of the other towns we have visited along the Rhine, dating back to ancient Celtic times, becoming part of the Roman Empire, and then part of the Holy Roman Empire with several countries laying claim since. The city saw extensive damage in World War II as the Allies invaded it from across the Rhine.

A photo from Wikimedia Commons of Breisach being attacked by Allied forces in 1942. St. Stephen’s Cathedral is burning at the top right side of the picture. 85% of the town was destroyed by Allied artillery.
Photo of St. Stephan's Cathedral in Breisach, Germany by photographer Peggy Mekemson.
Peggy and I went for a walk into Breisach to visit St. Stephen’s Cathedral. This is a view looking up from the town. Obviously, the cathedral, like the town, has been rebuilt since WW II.
Photo of Outsell Gate in Breisach Germany by Photographer Peggy Mekemson.
Our trip up to the Cathedral took us through Gutgesell Gate. Built in 1402, it was destroyed in WW II and has since been rebuilt. A sign on the side noted that Pope Johannes was arrested here in 1415. It was a time when three people were claiming to be Pope. The ‘official’ church position out of Rome was that Johannes was an antipope. It’s bad for business to have more than one Pope. It tends to confuse the flock and worse— split the donations.
Photo of street up to St. Stephan's Cathedral in Breisach, Germany by photographer Curt Mekemson.
The steep walk up to the Cathedral past brightly painted houses was worth it on its own.
Photo of flower box in Breisach, Germany taken by Peggy Mekemson
Flower boxes added to the color.
Toward the top, the road narrowed to a walking path. I found this old doorway and couldn’t help but wonder what treasures (or ghosts) might be found behind it.
An intriguing coat of arms was found above the doorway.
Photo of St. Stephan's Church in Breisach by Curt Mekemson
The view of St. Stephen’s that greeted us as we finished our hike up the path. Construction of the church started in the early 12th Century.
Side view of St. Steven's Cathedral in Breisach, Germany by photographer Curt Mekemson.
We walked around the church admiring it from various perspectives.
These pockmarks on the side of the Cathedral caught our attention. I wondered if they had been left from the artillery attack during WW II. Turns out that they were from an earlier bombardment from 1870. Apparently the church has a problem with avoiding the line of fire.
This chamber challenged our imagination. First there was the fence with what looked like a cat sitting on top, which I found amusing. Then there was the strange sculpture inside…
The stone mason makes sense. St. Stephans was the patron saint of stone masons. But what about the strange figure on the right? The dark side of medieval Christianity was, uh, dark.
For example, the door to the Cathedral featured St. Stephens being stoned.
Photo looking down on Breisach, Germany by Curt Mekemson.
The hill on which the church sits, gave us great views down into Breisach, as was shown in the first photo and this one.
Photo of bull at Breisach Cathedral by Peggy Mekemson.
And then there was the bull emerging from the bricks…
Photo of Europa and the Bull at Breisach by photographer Peggy Mekemson.
…with a naked lady standing on top.

Of course there is a story. Similar sculptures and other representations of the bull and woman are found throughout Europe. An ancient Greek myth is to blame. The bull happens to be Zeus. And the naked lady? She’s Europa, a Phoenician princess who Zeus seduced. Zeus seducing a princess isn’t news. He had a thing for maidens. His challenge was that his wife (and sister) Hera, the goddess of women, marriage and childbirth, disapproved of such behavior. Zeus went to great lengths to hide his activities from her, one of which was to transform himself into various animals for his seductions. Perhaps you’ve heard the story of Leda and the swan, where Zeus became a swan and seduced Leda. One version of the myth is that she laid two eggs, one of whom hatched into the beautiful Helen of Troy. With Europa, Zeus became a beautiful white bull who met the maiden while she was innocently picking flowers. Naturally, she had to pet his gorgeous white flanks and climb up on top of him (what maiden wouldn’t), whereupon Zeus charged off to the Mediterranean Sea, jumped in, and swam to Crete, where he had his way, so to speak. Minos, the King of Crete, was one of three sons born of the union.

The founding of the European Union led to renewed interest in Europa, given that the ancient Greeks named significant portions of Europe after her and the Europeans could claim that a 2500 year old myth provided some justification for the union.

We found several other things of interest on the hill:

This scupture had me scratching my head, but I figured it would make an excellent home for a bird, or possibly a raccoon.
Remember Mad Magazine and Alfred E. Neumann, the guy who always graced its covers? Now check out the dude on the bottom of the sculpture. I’m betting that the artist had a sense of humor.
This impressive sculpture of a water wheel/clock represents what is inside of the building it is attached to…
Photos of Water Wheel Building in Breisach, Germany by Curt Mekemson.
This is what the outside of the Water Wheel building looks like.
We found this fellow outside of the building. He seemed to be having a bad day. Possibly he had been a bad boy and was contemplating his fate inside…
A mural showed a prisoner being taken to the Water Wheel Building. It was used as both a prison and a torture chamber. Or, a prisoner might be assigned to operate the dreaded water wheel. Note the people screaming at the prisoner while others danced in the streets. It spoke to the times.
The huge water wheel located inside the building. The stools and the person sitting on the other side of wheel provide perspective. I’m not sure how the wheel was operated but human hamsters come to mind. The well is located beneath the wheel.
Photo of windowsill flower garden by Curt Mekemson.
But enough on dark images and thoughts, I conclude today’s post with another windowsill flower garden in Breisach, and…
Photo of Uniword Boutique river boat, the River Empress by Curt Mekemson.
Our riverboat, the River Empress, that was docked on the Rhine in Breisach. Next Monday, Peggy and I will return to our fall trip around the US. This time we will be in Custer State Park in South Dakota where the buffalo block traffic and the donkeys are bandits.

The Grand Tetons… Mountains Close to Perfection

Photo of Gran Tetons by photographer Curtis Mekemson
If I were in charge of making mountains, I would use the Grand Tetons as a model. A blogging friend of mine told me that the first time she saw them, she started crying. They inspire that kind of awe.

Just before we reached Yellowstone NP on our four month trip around the US last fall, we drove through Grand Tetons National Park. I’ll be featuring photos Peggy and I took of the Grand Tetons and the Absaroka Range today.

As Peggy and I drove across the 9,658 feet (2,943 m) Togwotee Pass, we were excited. We were in the Rocky Mountains and had just crossed over the Continental Divide. We were back in the West! Rivers would now be flowing into the Pacific Ocean. Soon we would get our first views of the Grand Tetons— not that there was anything shabby about the scenery on pass. 

Photo of Togwotee Pass by Peggy Mekemson.
As we passed over the Continental Divide at Togwotee Pass, our excitement grew. This area receives over 25 feet of snow a year, a figure that can climb as high as 50, which I suspect it has this year.
Photo of Aspens near Togwotee Pass by Curt Mekemson.
It was in October and the aspens near the pass were displaying their fall colors.
Photo of The Absaroka Range and aspens taken by Peggy Mekemson.
The Absaroka Range, which can be seen from the pass, provided a backdrop for this grove. The range serves as the eastern boundary to Yellowstone NP.
Photo of The Absaroka Range by Curt Mekemson.
My father once painted a picture of the Absaroka Range.
Photo of Herb Mekemson by Glen Fishback
Professional photographer Glen Fishback took this photo of my dad painting the Absaroka Range in the 1980s. Pop, as we knew him, had wandered around the country with his sister, Eleanor, a few years earlier. I took this photo through glass so I couldn’t capture it as well as I would have liked to. Glen used my dad as a model and this photo ended up in a national photography magazine.
Photo by Peggy Mekemson.
A final Highway 26 road shot of the Absaroka Range. The Grand Tetons were waiting.

The Grand Tetons are a baby range, relatively speaking, less than 10 million years old. Compare that with the Rockies at 50-80 million years or the Appalachians at over 300 million. That’s what gives them their rugged, good looks. Erosion hasn’t had time to wear away their jagged peaks. Earthquakes along the Teton fault on the east side of the range are responsible for their height. Plate tectonic movement, which is stretching the region in an east west direction, is responsible for the earthquakes. When the tension becomes too great, an earthquake takes place, usually of 7 to 7.5 magnitude, i.e. big. Seesaw-like, the mountains rise and the valley next to it falls along the 40 mile fault, with each earthquake averaging around 10 feet of up and down movement. It is estimated that the mountain range has risen some 26,000 feet with 6,000 feet showing above the floor and 20,000 buried under it. Geologists estimate that the last major quakes were about 5,900, 8,000, and 10,000 years ago.

Photo of Tetons by Photographer Curt Mekemson
The Tetons were looming above a dark conifer forest in our first views with a hint of the colors to come.
Photo of Grand Tetons by Peggy Mekemson.
Aspens were soon adding larger splashes of color. The high peak in the center is Grand Teton, after which the range is named. It has an elevation of 13, 775 feet.
Photo of Mt. Moran by photographer Curt Mekemson
Mt. Moran dominates the northern section of the Tetons and rises 12,605 feet above sea level. The orange colored leaves are from cottonwoods.
Photo of Jenny Lake and Grand Tetons by photographer Peggy Mekemson
Our road ran next to Jenny Lake and provided some great views of the Tetons.
Ducks were busily eating on the lake.
Photo of Grand Teton National Park by Peggy Mekemson.
The only photo we took of the park that didn’t feature the mountains.
Photo of Mt. Moran by photographer Curt Mekemson.
A final photo of Mt. Moran from Jenny Lake. Next Monday’s post will be on the German town of Breisach along the Rhine River.