A Big Bosomed Bee, Curious Cats, and Other Whimsical Art of Burning Man

I came across these cats a few years back way out on the Playa, about as far as you can get from Black Rock City and still be in the area fenced off for Burning Man. They definitely meet my description for whimsical.

 

It’s photo Friday for me where I put out a blog that is long on photography and short (or at least shorter) on words. I’ve been concentrating on Burning Man the past several weeks and will continue for a few more. I have my ticket for 2017 so I am excited. Hopefully next week, we will get a ticket for Peggy as well.

 

It isn’t just anywhere you would expect to find a big bosomed bee. But then again, you never know what to expect at Burning Man. Someone must have had a lot of fun crocheting the bra.

 

Having tackled the giant women of Burning Man, I’ve been thinking about what to feature next on Burning Man sculptures. Like mutant vehicles, there are so many it is difficult to choose and even harder to organize. I started by going through my photo library and picking out a few I thought might be of interest. That got me down to 1500. I think you can see my problem. “Okay, Curt, focus!” I admonished as I scrolled through the 1500 photos for the third time.

There are categories, sort of. They are totally arbitrary and from my perspective. But it’s a start. So today, I am going to feature what I find humorous, whimsical and weird, recognizing that the three are often combined in my mind. There are enough here that I will be presenting more over the weekend.

Dogs aren’t allowed at Burning Man, but they made an exception for this fellow in 2006.

My friend Ken decided that the dog was large enough to ride, but was a little confused as to the direction. Meanwhile, the dog’s family looked on, including…

Mr. Big Bottom…

Miss Short Legs…

And Miss Long Legs.

Pucker up…

And meet a suave Sphinx.

Ready for a little monkey business?

Or maybe some big monkey business? All dressed up in his pink tutu, Kong is ready to go out on the town.

Do you want to dance?

The sound man is ready…

With his necklace of speakers.

The hare will fiddle… (Photo by our friend Don Green.)

And the turtle will dance with you. (Photo by Don Green.)

Tomorrow’s Blog: More humorous, whimsical, and weird Burning Man sculptures.

 

Something Fishy… The Sealife Aquarium in Charlotte, North Carolina

We met this handsome Nautilus at the Sealife Aquarium in Charlotte, N.C.

I wasn’t expecting much from the Sealife Aquarium in Charlotte, North Carolina. It wasn’t because it was in Charlotte. After all, I had already been to the city’s small but impressive aviation museum that housed the plane that Captain Sully landed on the Hudson River. No, my prejudice was based on the fact that the aquarium was located in a shopping mall. I also had a slight bit of snobbishness because my go-to place for watching sea life up-close-and-personal is the Monterey Bay Aquarium in California, recognized as one of the world’s best.

I did expect that the gift shop at the aquarium with its shopping center location would be packed with sea life made for snuggling.

Like how can you resist these eyes?

I am pretty sure that this octopus had a thing for seahorses.

None of this mattered, however. Peggy and I were on an outing with our grandkids Ethan and Cody, our daughter Tasha and her husband Clay. The aquarium was simply an excuse, something that the kids would probably get a kick out of. When I was their age, chasing crawdads in Webber Creek for our cookpot at home was about as exciting as life got. The little buggers had tiny claws that could pinch. They’d zip under rocks backwards so their weapons were facing out. I was cautious. Who knows what my reaction might have been had I come face to face with an actual shark.

Ethan and I share a moment in front of the major aquarium while a small shark and other fish swim by. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

Our daughter Tasha with Cody. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

The whole family (Cody, Peggy, Tasha, Clay and Ethan) poses in this ‘under sea’ shot.

Some Jaws music please. While Webber Creek had its share of crawdads, trout, and suckers, there were no sharks like this one at the aquarium. Had there been, I expect some of our old swimming holes wouldn’t have been old swimming holes.

So, I was surprised when we entered the museum. It wasn’t the Monterey Bay Aquarium, but it was pretty darn good. The display tanks were well done, the sea life plenteous, and the educational materials informative. I had as much fun as Ethan and Cody. I was also impressed that the aquarium had a strong conservation/environmental-action element to it. Here are a few of the sea creatures we met and enjoyed:

Peggy caught this Lionfish. It’s easy to see why it is a popular fish in home aquariums.

Here’s my shot of the lion fish. An old anchor cuts across the right of the photo.

I didn’t know that seahorses had freckles. They always look pregnant to me. The one on the lower left looks like it is puckering up for a kiss. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

I like the way seahorses are always wrapping their tails around something, including each other. Question: Are several seahorses known as a herd like horses or a school like fish?

Weird. This appears to be an octopus that Peggy photographed. Maybe it flies.

My own octopus was a little weird as well. It appears to be doing a face plant.

I was really impressed with the colorful, ocean-like setting of the aquarium. An angel fish, fins aflutter, checks me out.

This spiny lobster did not meet my definition of what lobsters should look like. Where are the big, edible claws? When I looked this up, I also learned that our crawdads were in the lobster family! No wonder their tiny tails tasted so sweet.

This common sea-snail also goes by the name of marine gastropod. I wonder if it prefers the fancier name? Anybody who has played in tide pools knows that hermit crabs love to borrow these shells for their homes, preferably once the snail has vacated the premises.

A stingray with its potent, poisonous tail. The general rule is that if you leave them alone, they are happy to leave you alone. You don’t want to step on one however.

Nor do you want to mess with this fellow, a moray eel. Divers feed them on occasion. Not smart. They also lose their fingers on occasion. It’s like feeding a hotdog to a bear. Also not smart. Where does the hotdog end and the fingers begin?

Many aquariums have learned the magic of adding jellyfish tanks and adding colored lights for effects.

As beautiful as they are, they also pack quite a wallop if you manage to come in contact, a lesson I sadly learned when I was swimming in the Indian Ocean off the coast of East Africa.

I’ll conclude our visit to the Sealife Aquarium in Charlotte with these beauties.

 

NEXT BLOG: The next to the last installment of my Sierra Trek Series. As we enter the foothills on our backpack trip across the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range, temperatures climb above 100 and one of my participants decides to go shoplifting in the foothill town of Foresthill. Hello Sheriff!

 

Colossal Women… The Sculptures of Burning Man

Sculpture Truth is Beauty by Marco Cochrane at Burning Man 2013

Truth Is Beauty is one of three colossal sculptures created for Burning Man by the Bay Area artist Marco Cochrane. Each of these sculptures captures the beauty of the female form but goes further. Marco’s works are designed to help us see women as total human beings instead of objects. Not to detract from Cochrane’s message, but I decided to kick off today’s post with this photo because I spotted a bit of green along with the truth. Happy St. Pat’s Day.

 

Now that I have finished my series on Burning Man’s creative and sometimes wacky mutant vehicles, I am ready to take on another aspect of the art that seems to bloom and thrive in the Black Rock Desert, sculpture. I am going to start with something big, really big— colossal women. We are talking 40 to 60-foot-tall sculptures here! Three artists have been responsible for creating the giant women of Black Rock City, Marco Cochrane, Karen Cusolito and Dan Das Mann.

Das Mann and Cusolito, working as a team, produced a series of works at Burning Man between 2005 and 2007. Mann’s interest in monumental art started with a degree in Landscape Architecture from Rutgers University. Cusolito’s introduction to the art world followed a more formal path with studying at the Rhode Island School of Design and Massachusetts College of Art.

These photos are from Mann and Cusolito’s 2006 and 2007 art at Burning Man.

My introduction to the art of Karen Cusolito and Dan Das Mann was this tall woman with her arms reaching toward the sky. She was located in front of the Center Camp Cafe which is considered a position of honor for art at Burning Man.

She was accompanied by this woman kneeling in supplication.

Another photo of the two with the Black Rock Desert for background.

This one shows the art’s location in relation to Burning Man’s Center Camp Cafe.

Close up of the ‘skin.’

For 2007, Cusolito and Das Mann created Crude Awakening.

This sculpture caught my attention. Fire shoots out from the hands.

Check out the chain hair.

Marco Cochrane was born in Italy to American parents in 1962 and raised in the Bay Area. According to his website, “he identified with the female struggle with oppression and saw feminine energy and power as critical to the world’s balance.” His art reflects this belief. In 2007 he attended Burning Man and would have seen the sculptures by Das Mann and Cusolito. Eventually, he returned to Burning Man in 2010 with the first of his own colossal sculptures, Bliss Dance. In 2013 he brought Truth Is Beauty to Burning Man and in 2015, R-Evolution. I’ve blogged about each of these creations in the past. Following are a few of our photos.

 

Cochrane’s first work, Bliss Dance, was my favorite. She now resides in Las Vegas just off of the Strip.

I like the playful nature of Bliss Dance.

Marco Cochrane's Bliss Dance at Burning Man.

A close up.

I introduced this post with a night photo of Truth Is Beauty. The sculpture shares this picture with other Burning Man art.

This photo provides a side view. The people give perspective.

A back view. Each of Cochrane’s works are powerful from any angle.

R-Evolution is the third and final of Cochrane’s sculptures at Burning Man. I like how R-Evolution fits in with the mountains here. (Photo by our friend Don Green.)

A night-time view of R-Evolution’s back.

And a front view to complete this post.

NEXT BLOGS

Something Fishy.

The Sierra Trek: We backpack through 106 degree weather, and the Sheriff pays us a visit.

More of Burning Man sculptures.

 

“Captain Sully, May I Take Your Photo?” … A Fateful Plunge into the Hudson River

Flight 1549 Airbus 320 that landed on Hudson River.

Airbus A 320, the airplane that Sully landed on the Hudson River, is on display at Carolinas Aviation Museum in Charlotte, North Carolina .

 

“You have to land poor Sully,” Peggy told me. And she was right. We had seen the plane he had been flying when we were visiting with our daughter and her family in North Carolina over Christmas.  A month ago, I had promised to do a post on the ill-fated flight. I was distracted. Ever since, I’ve left Sully circling in the air over New York City. 

 

Passengers make a quick exit onto the wings, into the water, and onto a raft from US Airways Flight 1549 after its emergency landing on the Hudson River. (Photo from the Carolinas Aviation Museum.)

 

Peggy and I were visiting the Carolinas Aviation Museum in Charlotte, North Carolina to check out the Airbus A 320 that Captain Chesley Sullenberger had landed on the Hudson River when I heard, “Captain Sully, may I take your photo?” I looked around, excited that Sully was at the museum. I wanted to take his photo, too! A 30-something guy was making a beeline across the museum toward me. I glanced behind me; no one was there. By then, the man had reached me, beaming, his hand outstretched.

“It’s a privilege to meet you, Captain,” he declared while grabbing my hand.

“I am not Sully,” I laughed, “But you are welcome to take my photo.” He yanked out his iPhone and took a selfie of the two of us, which he immediately sent off to his brother in Texas. I walked over and studied a display that featured the captain. Yes, we both had white hair and a mustache.

On January 15, 2009, Sully, along with first-officer Jeffrey Skiles, left La Guardia Airport in New York on US Airways Flight 1549 on their way to Charlotte, North Carolina. Skiles was piloting the plane. One and one half minutes into the flight, a flock of Canadian Geese appeared, crashed into the airplane, and were sucked into the jet’s engines. Birds crashing into airplanes are nothing new; it’s been happening ever since man learned how to fly. In fact, the month I was born, Westinghouse engineers were firing dead chickens 200 mph at airplane windows to determine if the windows could withstand the impact. Splat!

“I could hear the thump and thud,” Sully said afterwards about the geese.

The impact was fatal for the geese. The ones sucked into the engines immediately became cooked geese, minced and over-done— airplane food, you might say. It could have been fatal for Sully and the other 154 people on Board Flight 1549 as well, had it not been for the extensive experience and quick thinking of Sully. Both jet engines lost power. Zero thrust was available to fly the plane. “May Day! May Day” Sully called to La Guardia. Preparations were made for an emergency landing at La Guardia and at Teterboro, another nearby airfield in New Jersey.  Runways were cleared and fire engines revved up. Sully took over flying the plane from Skiles. Skiles jumped into reading the four pages of the emergency flight manual on how to restart stalled engines.

The flight manual for Airbus A 320.

Sully did a quick mental calculation. Could he  get back safely to La Guardia or Teterboro? Forty years of experience, 20,000 hours of flying, and his official participation in a number of airplane crashes told him no. His plane was too low and his speed was too slow. Trying to get to either of the fields would lead to the Airbus crashing into one of the most densely populated areas of North America. In addition to the 155 people on board, several hundred other lives could be lost.

“We can’t do it … We’re going to land on the Hudson,” he told Skiles and the control tower at La Guardia. “Brace for impact,” he told the flight crew and passengers. The flight crew immediately began yelling in unison, “Brace for impact, heads down, stay down!” “Brace for impact, heads down, stay down!” over and over. As passengers prayed and cried and desperately tried to make last-minute phone calls, Sully aligned the plane with the Hudson River and barely missed the George Washington Bridge. Could he avoid hitting any boats on the river? Could he land at exactly the right angle to reduce the likelihood of the Airbus being torn apart or sent cartwheeling across the Hudson?

People who happened to be looking out the windows of tall skyscrapers along the Hudson watched in heart-stopping horror as the large plane flew by and headed for its fateful plunge into the icy Hudson.

A few seconds before impact, Scully straightened out the plane and pulled back on the rudder to achieve the correct angle for a water landing. And then, 208 seconds after the engines had lost power, the plane plunged into the Hudson and shot under the water, creating total darkness— before it popped back up onto the surface.

The plane was filling with water. Fast action by the crew, with cooperation from the passengers, got everyone out of the Airbus. Sully was the last to leave, desperately trying to make sure that no one was left behind. Nearby boats on the river sped to the rescue. All 155 people were rescued with only a few minor injuries. A hero was created; a legend was born.

The right side of Airbus A 320 also including the raft that passengers escaped into.

A shot of the left side of Airbus 320 showing the damaged left engine.

A close up of the engine.

A final shot of passengers and crew waiting on the wings to be rescued. (Photo from the Carolinas Aviation Museum.)

If you haven’t already seen it, I highly recommend watching the movie “Sully” starring Tom Hanks as Sully and directed by Clint Eastwood.

Next Blog: It’s back to the Sierra Trek!

Mutant Vehicles IV… The Creativity and Magic of Burning Man

The thing about mutant vehicles is you never know what people are going to come up with, like this telephone: Off ‘Da Hook! Burning Man is an “Off ‘Da Hook” kind of place.

I could go on and on with mutant vehicles. Their sheer numbers and variety speak to the creativity and magic of Burning Man. But the camps, sculptures, temples, painting, costumes, performance art, the Man, and even bicycles also speak to the creativity, so I need to move on. Mainly, up until now, I have focused on vehicles that tend to stand out and draw crowds. Nothing is better at this than El Pulpo Mecanico.  There are dozens of other vehicles that also deserve attention that I haven’t covered yet, however. (And I wasn’t around in 2016 to see the latest creations!)

One mutant vehicle I haven’t featured yet, Never Was Haul, is right up there with El Pulpo Mecanico and the Rhino Redemption from my perspective. It’s here today, but there are also dragons and bugs and ships and animals and some really weird stuff. Oh my! Enjoy. (Unless noted otherwise, all of the photos are by Peggy and me.)

I selected this photo of Never Was Haul from my longtime friend Tom Lovering because it is one of his all-time favorite mutant vehicles. I would describe it as a combination of a steam train engine and a Victorian house.

Caboose mutant vehicle at Burning Man.

Trains are one of the themes for mutant vehicles. This caboose fits right in.

Steam engine Mutant Vehicle at Burning Man.

As does this steam engine. The grill on the front of this steam engine and Never Was Haul is known as a cattle catcher, BTW. I am not sure that the cow is in any better condition after a collision with a train, but the engine is. They also work for moose and buffalo!

Dragons are also a common theme for Burning Man mutant vehicles. (Photograph by our friend Don Green.)

Scary dragon mutant vehicle at Burning Man.

This is one of the more scary dragons that roam the Playa. Most of these fellows breathe fire as an added attraction.

Green dragon mutant vehicle at Burning Man.

This dragon was ,um, green and horny. His/her dark snout came from breathing fire. It is standing next to an array of solar panels and the Black Rock Desert serves as a backdrop.

This ferocious looking dragon had chains for reins and palm trees for wings. I think it is a creation of the NOLA camp at Burning Man.

Sparkle Pony Mutant Vehicle at Burning Man.

Numerous animals wander the Playa. This is a Sparkle Pony. (Sparkle Pony is the name for Burners who show up at Burning Man and expect to be waited upon.) Our friend Leslie Lake thinks that is a great idea and has adopted Sparkle as her Playa Name.

Rabbit mutant vehicle at Burning Man.

Some of the animals are just plain friendly looking, such as this rabbit.

Dog mutant vehicle at Burning Man.

And this buck toothed dog.

Cheshire Cat mutant vehicle at Burning Man.

The Cheshire Cat is, of course, noted for its huge grin.

Giant bull mutant Vehicle at Burning Man.

My guess is a giant cow. Her eyes flash out beams at night, giving this friendly beast a more scary persona.

Steampunk mechanical horse mutant vehicle at Burning Man.

This mechanical horse with its carriage represents the heavy steampunk presence at Burning Man.

Chicken Pox mutant vehicle at Burning Man.

I finish off my animals with this humorous Chicken Pox.

Sailing ship mutant vehicle at Burning Man.

Once upon a time, this section of the Black Rock Desert was a huge inland sea. So why shouldn’t there be sailing ships at Burning Man?

The yacht Christina, a mutant vehicle at Burning Man.

And yachts. This boat is named Christina and looks quite gorgeous at night.

Crab with shell mutant vehicle at Burning Man.

As might be expected in an ancient sea there are also numerous creatures of the ocean at Burning Man, such as this crab with its colorful shell.

Articulated fish mutant vehicle at Burning Man.

And an articulated fish.

Many of the fish swimming in the Black Rock Desert feature large teeth, such as this Disco-Fish.

Fish eating fish with provocative tongue mutant vehicle at Burning Man.

Big fish trying to swallow equally big fish. What puts this mutant vehicle into my weird category is the tongue, however. Note the stirrups so a Burner can hop on for a ride.

Sea creature mutant vehicle at Burning Man.

I am not sure what this creature is, but I think it belongs in the sea. I’ll go with seahorse.

Praying Mantis mutant vehicle at Burning man.

There are numerous insect mutant vehicles at Burning Man. My favorite is the praying mantis. So I will let it represent the bugs.

VW Bug art car/mutant vehicle at Burning Man.

Speaking of bugs, here is a VW Bug art car.

Walter the mutant vehicle at Burning Man.

And his bigger cousin (much bigger), Walter the VW Van. (Photo by Don Green.)

Mutant vehicle hot rod at Burning Man.

While I am on vehicles, I’ll include this dream of a hot rodder’s hot rod.

Pucker up mutant vehicle at Burning Man.

Often, it’s the faces on the mutant vehicles that capture my attention. Pucker up.

Joker mutant vehicle at Burning Man.

This joker has another memorable face.

I think ‘Kilroy was here’ of Kilroy fame may have been the inspiration for this face with its large tongue.

 

NEXT BLOG: I’ll finally get Sully landed on the Hudson River and off of his plane.

 

 

Let’s See: Shall We Do Las Vegas for $700, or See Red Rock Canyon for $7…

The rocks of Red Rock Canyon, come in numerous forms and colors, including red…

Las Vegas can be fun. It’s a gaudy, flashy, weird place where millions, even billions, are spent on enticing you to leave behind large chunks of change. It’s easy to spend $30 to 50 for dinner, another $30 to $50 for breakfast and lunch, and $50 to $100 for a show. And that’s on the lower side of things. Then there are the ubiquitous gambling machines, modern descendants of one-armed bandits seductively designed to promise you a fortune while robbing you blind— if you hang out long enough, or think dollars are play money. Even so-called penny slots can gobble down 9 to 100 cents (or more) per play. And forget nickel video poker, at least on the Strip. Those were the old days when less greedy gangsters instead of modern capitalists ruled the roost. Today’s entrepreneurs even charge you for parking!

Of course there are less expensive things you can do in Las Vegas. I enjoy walking down the Strip, especially at night, and visiting the pleasure palaces along the way for a clever but fake touch of Paris, or Venice, or New York, or Egypt, or some other exotic locale. Even with ‘cheap on the mind,’ however, the temptations to spend are strong. Oodles of fine restaurants beckon, top shows promise and deliver excellent entertainment, and who can resist investing $20 on a possible fortune. Not me. (My friend Ken claims he is better off walking into a casino and throwing a few $20s on the floor, just to get it over with.)

At night, Las Vegas turns into a fantasy land.

The resort-casinos along the way have spent billions building fake worlds, such as this mini-Venice, designed to lure you off the streets.

The truth about Las Vegas is that it would have been incredibly easy for Ken, Leslie, Peggy and I to spend $700 a day between us on our visit last week, not counting lodging. We didn’t. The cost of one meal ‘out’ bought groceries that allowed us to eat two of our three daily meals ‘in’ for the six days. We avoided shows this time, and did most of our limited gambling off the Strip— almost breaking even. Woohoo! The really big savings, however, came from our getting out of Vegas for two days. The first trip, which I have already described, was to the Valley of Fire State Park some 50 miles east of town.

Our second trip was to the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, which sits on the western edge of Las Vegas and is operated by the Bureau of Land Management. You can get there in 30 minutes from the Strip. It took us 15 from where we were staying. BLM charges $7 per car to explore the beautiful park. An excellent Visitors’ Center provides an introduction. A thirteen mile road with several pull-offs and hiking trails winds through the area. The following photos provide an overview of some of the sites you can expect to see.

Be sure to stop off at the excellent visitor center for an introduction to the plants, animals, original inhabitants, and geology of the Red Rock Canyon.

Tortoise sculpture at Red Rock Canyon Visitor Center next to Las Vegas, Nevada.

In addition to this realistic sculpture of a tortoise, the center also has tortoise that live on the premises. They are also found roaming free in the park. Signs along the road warn you to watch out for them. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

Road through Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area in southern Nevada.

A 13-mile road winds through the canyon providing numerous views and hiking opportunities.

Rock formation in Red Rock Canyon near Las Vegas.

This colorful rock formation is found at the beginning of the drive. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

Red and white rock formation in Red Rock Canyon on the edge of Las Vegas.

I captured this close up.

Red Rock Canyon near Las Vegas.

And Peggy managed to find another face. Edvard Munch’s Silent Scream comes to mind.

Much of Red Rock Canyon provides more distant vistas. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

Yucca and a mountain in Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area.

Yucca plants offer a touch of green to the dry desert.

Ice Box Canyon in Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area.

Ice Box Canyon provides one of many hiking trails.

Trail into Ice Box Canyon in Red Rock Canyon near Las Vegas.

The trail leading into the canyon. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

A close up along the trail taken by Peggy.

Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area from Ice Box Canyon pull off.

This rocky draw was on the mountain forming the left side of Ice Box Canyon.

A view on our way out. The sun lights up a cholla cacti.

Just for fun and to conclude this post, I found a car with this license plate in the park. I think it is the most clever way I have ever seen for warning people that they are driving too close.

NEXT BLOGS: Back on schedule. I will wrap-up my Burning Man mutant vehicle photos, get poor Sully landed, and return to the Sierra Trek.

 

 

 

Frogs or Aliens… Petroglyphs from Nevada’s Valley of Fire State Park

Petroglyphs on Atlatl Rock in Valley of Fire State Park, southern Nevada.

I was thinking frogs when I first saw this petroglyph found on Atlatl Rock in Valley of Fire State Park. Now I am thinking aliens about to be beamed up to a flying saucer… (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

The Southwestern United States provides numerous opportunities to study petroglyphs left behind by ancient peoples who occupied the region for several thousand years before the arrival of Europeans. Early natives took advantage of desert varnish, a dark film of oxides formed on rocks in areas where rain is rare. Using a stone, artists, or possibly shamans, would peck through the varnish to the lighter rock underneath, leaving behind art or messages whose meaning we can only guess. Peggy and I are fascinated by this rock art and have visited numerous sites in Nevada, Arizona and New Mexico as well as other locations (like Hawaii, for example).

The Valley of Fire State Park has several areas where petroglyphs can be found, including Atlatl Rock, which features a stair structure that allows people an opportunity to climb high up on the cliff for a closer view. While Peggy, Ken and Leslie climbed the stairs, I wandered off to find less tourist-oriented petroglyphs.  I like to think of the search for rock art as a treasure hunt.

An atlatl, BTW, is a device early people used to give a thrown spear more oomph. Plastic tennis ball throwers, designed to give Fido a workout, operate on the same principle. Modern use of atlatls has shown that speeds up to 93 miles per hour can be achieved. If you visit Atlatl Rock on March 19, 2017, you can actually watch the 25th Annual World Atlatl Competition where enthusiasts from around the world will gather to see who can toss a spear the farthest.

Viewing platform on Atlatl Rock at Valley of Fire State Rock in southern Nevada.

The petroglyph viewing platform seen here, is located high up on Atlatl Rock. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

Ken and Leslie Lake provide perspective on viewing platform on Atlatl Rock in Valley of Fire State Park.

Our friends Ken and Leslie, standing on the viewing platform, provide perspective. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

Petroglyphs on Atlatl Rock in Valley of Fire State Park near Las Vegas.

A close-up of the petroglyphs provides a view of an atlatl and an atlatl thrower. The Bighorn sheep on top may be the target. Just below is the atlatl, and below that is the feathered spear (slightly crooked). The spear thrower is just beneath that. My ‘aliens’ are on the left. A possible ladder, lighting storm, shaman and trees are also found among the petroglyphs. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

Foot petroglyph found on Atlatl Rock in Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada.

I was amused by this atlatl thrower connected by a power line with a sheep and then a foot. What the heck does this mean? (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

While Peggy, Ken and Leslie were exploring Atlatl Rock, I was off wandering around on the other side looking for petroglyphs.

Bighorn Sheep petroglyphs at Valley of Fire State Park.

I found a pair of nose to tail Bighorn Sheep… (Doggy sniff-sniff maybe?)

This whatchamacallit and a spiral… (The spiral may represent a journey from an inner world.)

Petroglyph found near Atlatl Rock in Valley of Fire State Park.

And a woman having a baby. At least that’s what my rock art symbol book tells me.

Peggy and crew joined me to check out these petroglyphs on a cliff that we had discovered on an earlier trip. Apparently the rock artists had used a crack in the rock to climb up to do their work. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

Petroglyphs carved into desert varnish on a cliff face near Atlatl Rock in Valley of Fire State Park near Las Vegas, Nevada.

A closer look…

And closer. Lots of sheep, a shaman, a fat dog, and an atlatl. The circles at the bottom may represent the sun. And can you find the coyote?

Plant in sand near Atlatl Rock in Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada.

I also found this green plant with its weird shadows that contrasted well with the golden sand. Note the animal tracks beside the plant.

And Peggy captured this colorful sandstone cliff with its erosion. No wonder natives might consider the area sacred. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

Arch Rock at Valley of Fire State Park in southern Nevada.

Just up the road from Atlatl Rock is this much photographed arch— photographed by Peggy.

Arch Rock photograph by Curtis Mekemson in Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada.

Also took my turn and will conclude this post and my series on Valley of Fire State Park with the results.

The Towering White Domes of Southern Nevada’s Valley of Fire

Sun illuminates White Dome s in southern Nevada's Valley of Fire State Park

I caught the sun hanging over one of the White Domes in the Valley of Fire.

Today I will continue my exploration of the Valley of Fire State Park near Las Vegas in southern Nevada. There are three primary roads in the park. My last post followed the main road. Today I am going to focus on the route into the area known as the White Domes. The road begins at the Visitors’ Center, which is well worth a stop, and climbs up through colorful rocks known for their ‘rainbow’ colors. It ends at the towering White Domes. I’ll let our photographs ‘do the talking’ today.

Rocks near Visitor's Center at Valley of Fire State Park near Las Vegas.

Peggy discovered these rocks having a bad hair day at the Visitors’ Center. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

Rock sculpture near Visitor's Center at Valley of Fire State Park.

And I snapped a photo of this rock sculpture.

Rainbow Vista in Valley of Fire State Park.

There is a reason why this area is named Rainbow Vista. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

Rainbow Vista at Valley of Fire State Park in Nevada with mountains providing contrast.

Again, with mountains adding color to the ‘rainbow view.’

Sandstone mountain along road to White Dunes in Valley of Fire State Park.

The road to the White Domes included this impressive mountain of sandstone.

White Domes at Valley of Fire State Park in Southern Nevada.

Our first view of the White Domes. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

Squirrel at White Domes in Valley of Fire State Park near Las Vegas, Nevada.

I found this squirrel at the White Domes. We were eating lunch and he thought he should be invited.

Peggy found this lizard that was more interested in eating bugs.

 

Side of White Domes in Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada.

I like this photo because it provides a perspective on the height of the Domes. Note the person on the right. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

Photo of side of White Domes at Valley of Fire State Park.

My shot up the side of the White Dome.

Stone sculpture at White Domes in Valley of Fire State Park.

Several other stone sculptures are found near the White Domes.

White Domes at Valley of State Park in Nevada.

Another of the White Domes.

A trail leads around the White Domes. At this point, it drops into a small canyon.

Rocks along trail leading around White Domes at Valley of Fire State Park in southern Nevada.

A view of the rocks leading down into the small canyon. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

Photo of White Domes at Valley of Fire State Park by Curtis Mekemson.

I’ll conclude with this shot I took of the main White Domes sculpture.

The Valley of Fire Lights Up the Southern Nevada Desert… Views Along the Main Road

Balanced Rock at Valley of Fire State Park in Southern Nevada.

Wonderful rock sculptures created by erosion, such as this balanced rock, are found throughout the Valley of Fire State Park. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

 

I put my blog on hold this past week as Peggy and I, along with our friends Ken and Leslie Lake, visited Las Vegas to celebrate Leslie and my birthdays, which are both the first week in March. We’ve been celebrating together for 13 years and try to go somewhere different each time. I know I’ve put off a few promised blogs, but hopefully you will find the detour worthwhile!

 

The vast majority of visitors flock to Las Vegas for its renowned shows, fine dining, glitter and gambling. (Nevada prefers ‘gaming,’ but hey, if it looks like a duck, walks like a duck and quacks like a duck…) Few come to enjoy the natural beauty of the area— or are even aware of it, which is too bad. Some of the nation’s best desert scenery is within easy driving distance. A day’s trip can take you through Death Valley. A half-day will provide an overview of the Valley of Fire. And a couple of hours will introduce you to Red Rock Canyon.

Peggy and I always try to visit at least one of these areas when we are near Vegas. This time we worked in the Valley of Fire and Red Rock Canyon. In fact, Red Rock Canyon was 15 minutes away from where we were staying. I’ve blogged about these parks before, but they are always worth blogging about again. And again.

Today I will feature our visit to the Valley of Fire State Park, which is located about 50-miles northeast of Las Vegas off of Interstate 15. The park takes its name from red sandstone that can turn a fiery red in sunlight. The sandstone was laid down by sand dunes some 150 million years ago. Geological forces have turned the region into a magical kingdom of rock forms. There are also several petroglyph sites left behind by the ancient Anasazi between 300 BC and 1150 AD.

As a result of the natural beauty, interesting rock forms, and native rock art, our cameras were busy the whole trip. Following are some of the results. To allow for more photos, I am going to break this post into three parts: views along the main road, the Atlatl Rock area, and the White Domes area.

While the road into the Valley of Fire State Park provides dramatic views, it doesn't provide a clue for what you are about to see.

While the road into the Valley of Fire State Park provides dramatic views, it doesn’t provide a clue for what you are about to see. The first sight is just around the corner…

Introductory view of the Valley of Fire State Park near Las Vegas.

Your first view of the red sandstone rocks provides a preview of what is to come.

Road into Valley of Fire State Park.

The main road drops quickly into the park.

Distant mountains add contrast and depth to the bright red sandstone. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

Distant mountains add contrast and depth to the bright red sandstone. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

Red sandstone rocks and mountains at Valley of Fire State Park in Southern Nevada.

Another perspective.

Red sandstone rocks at west entrance to Valley of Fire State Park.

The rocks alone.

A closer look.

A closer look.

I liked the rounded look here plus the green shrubs.

I liked the more rounded look here set off by the green vegetation. Note the hole in the sandstone.

Holes in sandstone rock at Valley of Fire State Park near Las Vegas.

Holes in sandstone are quite common. Some are large enough to crawl into.

The Beehive at the Valley of Fire State Park in Southern Nevada.

The Beehive is one of the Valley of Fire’s best known rock sculptures.

Beehive stone sculpture at Valley of Fire State Park near Las Vegas, Nevada.

Looking up at the Beehive provides a close up of the unique erosion.

Valley of Fire State Park rock sculpture.

Another favorite of mine.

Rock sculpture at Valley of Fire State Park.

A number of other rock sculptures are located near the Beehive including the balanced rock featured at the beginning of the post and this mouthy fellow.

Faces in the rocks at Valley of Fire State Park.

Peggy and I often see faces in the rocks. Does this make us strange?

Faces in rocks at Valley of Fire State Park.

This face, buried in the rock, was on the scary side. I immediately thought of ‘The Mummy Returns.’

Mountains and sandstone at Valley of Fire State Park i southern Nevada.

I’ll conclude today’s photos from our drive along the Valley of Fire’s main road with this shot that includes an impressive mountain backdrop. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

NEXT BLOG: The road to the White Domes

 

On the Road to Las Vegas… Was It Winter or Spring?

This is what Peggy and I saw what we looked out our window on Thursday morning. It was beautiful but possibly not the best conditions for a road trip.

This is what Peggy and I saw what we looked out our window on Thursday morning. It was beautiful, but possibly not the best conditions for a road trip.

We are watching the Oscars in Las Vegas, which may be the best ever, especially in recognizing what is positive (and wrong) about our nation, with humor. They just sent a tweet to Trump.

The Oscars can go on, however, so I have time to put up a blog on our trip down here. We woke up at our home in Southern Oregon on Thursday to several inches of fresh snow. It was beautiful, but I immediately begin to fret over road conditions. Would I have to put on chains to get over the Siskiyou Pass? If so, it pretty much guaranteed I would be delaying the trip for a day. I hate putting on chains.

As it turned out the road was dry, the Siskiyou Pass and Mt. Shasta were gorgeous, and the Sacramento Valley was showing signs of spring.

There was a bit of water about, however. The Yolo Causeway, which is normally farmland, looked like an ocean with overflow from the Sacramento River.

Anyway, here are some photos that Peggy and I caught along the way.

The Madrone in our backyard had a new coat of snow.

The Madrone in our backyard had a new coat of snow.

Our ceramic jay was looking cold.

Our ceramic jay was looking cold.

The sun came out, however, and the highway report told us that no chains were required over the Siskiyou Pass.

The sun came out, however, and the highway report told us that no chains were required over the Siskiyou Pass.

And Doodle, our rooster, was glad to warm up.

And Doodle, our rooster, was glad to warm up. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

I had the first shift driving, so Peggy used my camera to get these shots of the Siskiyou Pass.

I had the first shift driving, so Peggy used my camera to get these shots of the Siskiyou Pass.

Another snowy shot going up the mountain. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

Another snowy shot going up the mountain. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

It was looking more like spring along the Klamath River.

It was looking more like spring along the Klamath River.

And even flowers.

There was even a crocus blooming.

Peggy found Mt. Shasta peeking out from behind the clouds.

Peggy found Mt. Shasta peeking out from behind the clouds.

Black Butte, which hangs out next to Mt. Shasta looking small was free from clouds. (Photo by Peggy.)

Black Butte, which hangs out next to Mt. Shasta, was actually free from clouds. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

The Central Valley was showing signs of spring.

The Central Valley was showing signs of spring. The Coast Range is in the distance.

Rice paddies were covered in water with thoughts of draught far behind.

Rice paddies were covered in water with thoughts of draught far behind. The mountains show recent snow.

A reflection shot.

A reflection shot.

The Sacramento Valley was filled with blooming fruit trees.

The Sacramento Valley was filled with fruit trees in bloom.

More...

More…

And finally...

And finally…

The Yolo Bypass filled with water reflecting the extensive flooding that Northern California has experienced this winter.

I’ll conclude with this photo of the Yolo Bypass filled with water reflecting the extensive flooding that Northern California has experienced this winter. Normally, this is farmland.