The Arches of Arches…. Arches National Park: Part 3

Photo of Double Arch at Arches national Park by Curt and Peggy Mekemson.

I can pretty well guarantee that you will see Double Arch on any trip to Arches National Park. It’s just off the road… and impressive.


“Wilderness is not a luxury but a necessity of the human spirit, and as vital to our lives as water and good bread. A civilization which destroys what little remains of the wild, the spare, the original, is cutting itself off from its origins and betraying the principle of civilization itself.” Edward Abby from his book about Arches NP, “Desert Solitaire.”


Arches is renowned for its arches, as it should be, given its name. They come in all shapes and sizes ranging from three feet across to 306 feet. I noted in my first post that there are some 2,000 of them at the park. Forces of erosion, including water, ice and wind, break out chunks of rocks from softer sandstone beneath harder layers above and eventually work through fins.  New arches are constantly being created while older ones fall.

Arch in progress at Arches NP

A new arch in the process of being born at Arches National Park.

Several arches are located along the road and are easily reached by short hikes. Others require longer hikes and more work. When Peggy and I were at Arches last time, we were rushing through on our way to our Grand Canyon raft trip. We could hardly begin to do the arches justice, but we did photograph three that I will share with you today: Delicate Arch, Skyline Arch, and Double Arch.

Delicate Arch, Arches National Park

While Peggy and I didn’t have time to visit Delicate Arch, we were able to snap its photo from a distance. It is the most famous arch in the park and possibly in the world.

Skyline Arch in Arches National Park

Skyline Arch is also easily seen from the road.

Skyline Arch and tree at Arches NP

Here it is with a tree to help set it off.

Skyline Arch close up at Arches NP

A close up of the arch.

Double Arch at Arches National Park. Photo by Curt and Peggy Mekemson.

People in the lower right hand corner provide perspective on the size of Double Arch.

Double Arches and green brush

Double Arch seen from a distance.

Double Arches up close, Arches NP

One of the arches of Double Arch up close.

Arch in Double Arch, Arches NP

And closer.

Curt Mekemson at Arches NP

I was up climbing around on the Double Arch to get photos when Peggy snapped my picture, which will serve as the last of this post.


NEXT POST:  We will explore the surrounding country, petroglyphs and settler history.







But Are You Balanced… Arches NP: Part 2

Balanced Rock, Arches National Park

Balanced Rock is one of the best known rock sculptures in Arches National Park. The cracked mudstone underneath it makes me wonder about how long it will last.


Ever have that feeling that you are teetering on the edge? What if you weighed 3,600 tons and stood 128 feet up in the air while you teetered? That’s the case of Balanced Rock, one of the most iconic rock sculptures of Arches National Park in Utah. Actually, the rock owes more to the super-glue mudstone that attaches the sculpture to its base than any super-power balancing capabilities. Someday, it will come crashing down, but until then, it is there to admire and astound.

Balanced Rock scene, Arches NP

A more balanced Balance Rock?

Balanced Rock in Arches NP

And a closer look.

Sliding off pedestal, Arches, NP

In terms of balance, I found this rock more talented. It lacks the glue-like mudstone and appears to be sliding off of its pedestal.

As the buried layers of salt that I mentioned in my last post work upward, it leads to parallel cracks in the sandstone above that eventually erode away leaving long fins, from which arches, balanced rocks and other rock formations of Arches National Park are created. The most impressive fin to me, Park Avenue, greets visitors on their way into the park. If you’ve ever walked down Park Avenue in New York City, you know it is lined by sky scrapers. That’s what folks had in mind when they named this impressive formation.

Park Avenue in Arches National Park 3_edited-1

Park Avenue with its sky-scraper like rocks.

Park Avenue at Arches NP

Another perspective.

Fin 2 Arches NP

This fin shows the beginning of the erosion process.

Creation of fins, Arches NP

And here, a number of fins reflect the parallel cracking of the sandstone.

My favorite!

Still a fin but with a different erosion look caused by thinner layers of sandstone..

And to conclude, here’s some more eye-candy from Arches National Park.

Courthouse Towers, Arches NP

Standing rock, Arches National Park

Sentinental 2

Climbers in Arches NP


Courthouse rock, Arches NP

And a final view for this post.


Note: All photos are taken by Curtis and Peggy Mekemson.

NEXT POST: The arches of arches.








There’s More to Arches National Park than Arches…. Arches NP: Part 1


Photos of Arches National Park by Curt and Peggy Mekemson.

The red rock sculptures of the Southwest US are both beautiful and strange, firing our imagination while calming our souls. Few areas capture this paradox as well as Arches National Park. It is one of our favorite places.


“The desert wears… a veil of mystery. Motionless and silent it evokes in us an elusive hint of something unknown, unknowable, about to be revealed. Since the desert does not act it seems to be waiting — but waiting for what?” – Edward Abbey, 1968 in his book Desert Solitaire where he recounts his two years, 1956-57, as a park ranger in Arches.


I have a confession to make. I suggested in my last post that I was going to feature the petroglyphs of Utah’s Arches National Park next— and there are petroglyphs there that I will include in this series. But my real reason for posting on Arches was that I wanted an excuse to revisit our last trip there and share the beauty of the area with you. Peggy and I had been on our way to a private raft trip on the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon when we stopped off at Arches. The clock was ticking. Consequently, we had been forced to rush through the park. Selecting and preparing the photos for this series on Arches allows me to relive the experience at a more leisurely pace.

Arches is known for its graceful arches: There are some 2,000 scattered throughout the park. But there is much more to Arches that arches! This beautiful red rock country also includes pinnacles, balanced rocks, spires, domes and fins— all of which I will be sharing.

Geologically speaking, we have to go back some 300 million years to discover the beginning of the forces that created Arches. The area was part of an extensive sea at the time, a sea that would retreat and refill some 29 times, leaving behind layers of salt several thousand feet thick. Eventually, the mountains and highlands that surround the region eroded away and covered the salt with multiple layers of sandstone. Since then, the salt, which is less dense than the rock, has forced the sandstone up, warping it and producing domes and mesas that have in turn been eroded away by wind, water, ice and gravity into the fantastic rock sculptures we see today.

My plan for this series is to include four posts:

  1. Look at domes, pinnacles and some rather impressive red rocks
  2. Feature balanced rocks and fins
  3. Introduce a few of the many arches
  4. Explore the surrounding country, petroglyphs and settler history

Peggy and I were sharing a camera with each of us taking shots whenever something caught our attention. We have long since lost track of who took what. So, we are sharing the photo credits.

Photos of Arches National Park by Curt and Peggy Mekemson.

These domes feature the two common sandstones found in Arches: The reddish entrada sandstone which evolved from desert sand and the more buff-colored Navajo sandstone.

Photos of Arches National Park by Curt and Peggy Mekemson.

A closer look.

Photos of Arches National Park by Curt and Peggy Mekemson.

And closer.

Photos of Arches National Park by Curt and Peggy Mekemson.

Peggy and I liked the way these pinnacles marched off into the distance.

Photos of Arches National Park by Curt and Peggy Mekemson.

And here seemed to lean on one another for support.

Photos of Arches National Park by Curt and Peggy Mekemson

In bright daylight, a family portrait.

Red rocks of Arches 2

Early morning and late afternoon adds color to the sculptures of Arches. Check out the little guy on the right with his hands in his pockets. He seems to be staring off into space. You can even see the buttons on his shirt!

Photos of Arches National Park by Curt and Peggy Mekemson.

More red, set off by the green of the plants that were capturing the sunlight.

Photos of Arches National Park by Curt and Peggy Mekemson.

Early morning light. If you make it to Arches, be sure to plan enough time there to visit during the early morning, mid-day and evening. Each will bring new treats, often giving a totally different perspective on the same rocks.

Photos of Arches National Park by Curt and Peggy Mekemson.

I’ll close today with the Three Gossips. Prominent rock sculptures at Arches National Park have all been named. To me, the rocks often seem to have an inner luminosity, glowing on their own!


NEXT POST: The balanced rocks and fins of Arches National Park.

Petroglyph Point of Lava Beds National Monument… A Very Sacred Place


Photo by Curtis Mekemson

Sheer cliffs announce Petroglyph Point. The fence here protects Native American rock art that has been carved into the light-colored tuff rock.


It is easy to understand why the Modoc Indians of the Tule Lake Basin and earlier peoples that lived in the area would have considered Petroglyph Point a holy place. High cliffs shoot up from the ground producing a mesa-like structure that once stood as an island in Tule Lake. The island-mesa was created when lava flowed into the lake from a vent beneath the surface. When the red-hot rock met the cool water, it caused a massive explosion that sent volcanic ash shooting into the sky. Returning to the surface, the ash settled into layer upon layer of tuff, a soft volcanic rock that was ideal for carving. Early natives would climb into boats made of reeds and row out to the cliffs where they would use rocks and sticks to carve their messages.

Petroglyph point

Once surrounded by water, Petroglyph Point is today surrounded by farmland. The dark shadow is caused by the cliffs where the rock art is located. (Google Map)

Setting for Petroglyph Point P

Another view of the cliffs. Other peaks are shown in the distance. This is arid land and the extensive farming depends upon irrigation. There is an ongoing battle over water rights between the farmers and the Native Americans. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

Photo by Curt Mekemson.

Looking up. Numerous birds nest in the cliffs.

Photograph of swallow nests at Petroglyph Point by Curtis Mekemson.

Such as these cliff swallows.

When Peggy and I traveled to Petroglyph Point this summer as part of our visit to Lava Beds National Monument, it was no longer an island. Farmers had reclaimed the land by draining much of the lake. It was still impressive, however, as was the rock art left behind by the hundreds of generations of Native Americans who had rowed out to the island on a sacred quest. Some of the 5,000 petroglyphs may be up to 6,000 years old. Sheer numbers make this one of the most extensive collections of Native American rock art in North America. It’s definitely worth a visit. 

Rock Art of Petroglyph Point P1

This photo by Peggy gives an idea on just how many petroglyphs are located along the tuff wall. The rock art was basically as high as the Modoc Indians could reach from their boats.

Rock art of Petroglyph Point 1

A close up of the above panel.

Rock Art of Petroglyph Point

While much of the rock art features geometric forms, this is definitely an insect, complete with feelers. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

Photograph of centipede rock art at Petroglyph Point by Curtis Mekemson.

And another insect!

Rock art at Petroglyph Point photographed by Curtis Mekemson.

There are numerous examples of what appears to be counting along the wall. I assume that this had to do with keeping track of time, but who knows.

Photograph of human figure petroglyph at Petroglyph Point by Curtis Mekemson.

Several of the petroglyphs made us smile. I quickly designated this as Mr. Arrowhead.

Rock art photo in Lava Beds National Monument by Curtis Mekemson.

I also found this running fellow humorous, although it might have been two streams running into a lake, or… Interpretation is often up to the viewer.

Rock Art of Petroglyph Point 3

And what do you make of the square, bug-eyed alien? Note another bug off to the left.

Rock Art of Petroglyph Point P6

I really liked this scenic portrait of the sun and the mountains. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

Rock Art of Petroglyph Point 6

This seemed totally at odds with the other petroglyphs, leading me to wondering if it’s a modern contribution.


A Bonus: When I was going through our photos of Petroglyph Point, I came upon this photo I took of Peggy in one of the lava tube caves I featured in my last post.

Peggy Mekemson in lava tube at Lava Beds National Monument

Lava tube 1

Plus another photo from inside the lava tube. Magical.


NEXT POST: Sticking with the petroglyph theme, I will feature Native American rock art from Arches  and Canyonlands National Parks.


Living on the Edge of Crashing Tectonic Plates, and Lava Beds National Monument

Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

If you live somewhere on the Pacific Rim, you are no stranger to volcanic activity. In this photo, Peggy and I were inside a lava tube looking out at Lava Beds National Monument in northeastern California.


For those of us who call the Pacific Rim home, volcanic activity caused by plate tectonics is a part of our lives, whether we live in Oregon or Japan. Vast oceanic plates plunge under and slip along continental plates, virtually guaranteeing there will be an active or dormant volcano within a few hundred miles of where we live— and that we will feel the earth shake under us on occasion. The Pacific Ring of Fire, as it is known, contains 75% of the world’s active and dormant volcanoes and is responsible for approximately 90% of the world’s earthquakes.

Having spent most of my life in California, Oregon and Alaska, I am no stranger to these facts. I flew over Mt. St. Helens a couple of weeks after it blew its top and was stunned by the destruction. I’ve felt numerous earthquakes. Once, when I was staying in a mountain cabin in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, a minor earthquake struck 30 miles away and it sounded like a freight train was rumbling over our roof.  So far, however, I have been fortunate to only witness exploding mountains and earth-shaking quakes at a safe distance. I prefer to keep it that way.

Lately, I confess, I’ve been a bit nervous whenever I make trips to the coast. There has been a lot of discussion recently about the Cascadian Subduction Zone that exists 70-100 miles off the shore; it’s subsiding.  The oceanic Juan de Fuca Plate is moving eastward, slipping under the continental North American Plate. The next big earthquake is due, geologists claim, and it will be a doozy, a mother of all earthquakes reaching a magnitude 9 on the Richter Scale. Think of it this way, a level 6 earthquake is capable of doing considerable harm. A level 9 earthquake is one million times stronger.

Ancient spruce roots at Sunset Bay on the Oregon Coast near Coos Bay. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

I found this root system of an ancient spruce at Sunset Bay on the Oregon Coast. The roots are all that are left after the last magnitude 9 earthquake sank major portions of the coast and covered the forests with water in 1700.

A huge (100-foot-high) tsunami has been projected. So, I’m always careful to check the tsunami escape routes when I am on the coast. If I am camping in my van and I feel the big shake, I am out of there, heading for higher ground with my power cord and hose dragging along behind. “No time to say hello-goodbye, I’m late, I’m late, I’m late!”

Substantial destruction is anticipated inland as well. We’ve been told that the Applegate Reservoir Dam above us might go. It’s only a mile away. Even though we are a couple of hundred feet above the river, our house is predicted to be right on the edge of where the raging waters would reach. Of course, whatever happens could be 50 years into the future. The science of predicting volcanic eruptions and earthquakes is improving but it is still far from exact.

Whether we ever experience the BIG one or not, there are numerous examples of the power of plate tectonic activity in Northern California, Oregon and Washington. Lava Beds National Monument in northern California is one. Minus tsunamis, it’s a great place to explore different types of volcanic activity. Peggy and I stopped off there this summer to check out Native American rock art found in the area.

The lava beds were created by lava moving across the area from the nearby Medicine Lake shield volcano. Shield volcanos are known for their highly liquid lava that prefers flowing to exploding, and Medicine Lake Volcano has flowed a lot in the last 500,000 years— generating some 140 cubic miles of lava covering 770 square miles. Lava Beds National Monument sits on the north slope of the volcano. A number of small cinder cone volcanoes dot the region. These smallest members of the volcano family are built up by blobs of congealed lava blown out of a single vent.

Lava Beds National Monument P

Rugged lava flow at Lava Beds National Monument. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

A cinder cone stands out on the horizon at Lava Beds National Monument. The grey plants in the foreground are sagebrush, a common plant of the drier parts of the West.

Mount Shasta towers above the area in the distance. Unlike its neighboring Medicine Lake Volcano, Mt. Shasta is a composite volcano made up of more viscous lava— the type that cools more quickly, likes to erupt, and forms steep sides. It is one of the most beautiful mountains in the Cascade chain of volcanoes that extends from northern California up to Canada. I climbed to its 14,175 peak once with a 76-year-old friend of mine, Orvis Agee.  He was known fondly as ‘The Old Man of the Mountain’ since he had climbed it so many times. Climbing was tough; coming down was easier since we slid a thousand or so feet on our butts through the snow, using our ice axes as rudders and brakes.

Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

Mt. Shasta seen from the distance.

Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

A closer perspective of Mt. Shasta, one of the most striking mountains in the Cascade chain.

Lava Beds National Monument is particularly noted for its lava tubes. These cave-like structures were created by lava flows in the last 10,000-60,000 years. As the lava cooled and hardened on the top and sides, it continued to flow through tunnels underneath the surface. When the source of the lava ran out, the remaining lava flowed out of the tunnels, leaving the tubes behind, some 700 of them.

Lava Tube opening at Lava Beds National Monument P1

The mouth of a lava tube in Lava Beds National Monument. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

Lava tube opening at Lava Beds National Monument

And another. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

Photo by Peggy Mekemson.

This photo taken by Peggy provides perspective on the possible size of the lava tubes.

Collapsed Lava Tube at Lava Beds National Monument P4

Numerous collapsed lava tubes are found at the Monument. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

Peggy Mekemson at Lava Beds National Monument

Peggy taking photos at the entrance to one of the lava tubes.

Humans have occupied the area for thousands of years. Paleolithic peoples found the tubes a refuge from the weather and a site for sacred ceremonies. The Modoc Indians used them as a hideout during the Modoc War of 1872-73. The Modocs had considered the area home for generations when white settlers arrived in the area and insisted that the natives be rounded up and shipped off to reservations so they could take over their land. One of the chiefs, Keintpoos, or Captain Jack as he was known by the settlers, found reservation life intolerable and returned to his homeland and hid out among the rugged lava and caves with a small band of warriors. It took a thousand soldiers over six months at considerable expense and loss of life to dislodge the 60 warriors. Captain Jack’s Stronghold is reserved as part of the Monument.

This rugged country including large volcanic rocks enabled Captain Jack to hide out from the American soldiers and fight back for six months.

Hidden entrances to lava tubes like this would have served the Modoc warriors well.

Swallow nest at Captain Jacks Stronghold

Peggy and I found native swallows nesting near Captain Jack’s stronghold. They attacked us for disturbing their homes.

Settlers and their descendants found other uses for the lava tubes including an ice skating rink and a great place to hide out and make moonshine during the Prohibition Era. Drinking moonshine and ice skating together is not recommended. Lava Beds National Monument was established in 1925.

Today, visitors are welcome to explore the lava tubes. Many are spacious and short; others require sliding along on your bellies through tight spaces. Having a bit of claustrophobia, I avoid the latter. Since Peggy and I wanted to check out Native American Rock Art at the Monument on our visit this summer, we headed out to Symbol Bridge and Big Painted Cave, two lava tubes noted for the pictoglyphs. First we had to be screened for white-nose syndrome, however, which sounds like a rather nasty disease of people with white noses, but is actually a serious fungal disease that has been rapidly wiping out bat populations in North America and around the world. Since the lava tubes house a substantial population of bats, the park staff wanted to know if we were wearing “boots or other gear used in caves or mines outside of Lava Beds since 2006, or in caves or mines outside of the United States ever.” We hadn’t and were given a little sticker saying we passed inspection. Following are some of the pictoglyphs we found.

Pictoglyphs at Lava Beds National Monument

This rock contained numerous pictoglyphs that are actually painted on the rocks. While we don’t know for sure what the rock art represents, I would guess a person, plant life, storms and vaginas.

Tree Pictoglyph at Lava Beds National Monument P

A plant, the sun and possibly some type of counting system to keep track of time. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

Rock with pictoglyphs at Lava Beds National Monument P

My last example for the day. More suns? An animal and who knows? This rock art appears to have been finger painted on to the rocks. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)


NEXT POST: While the rock art at the entrance to the lava tubes seemed limited, this wasn’t the case at nearby Petroglyph Point where over 5000 images were carved into the rock on what was once an island in Tule Lake. My next post will feature the rock art from this location that was obviously a very sacred place to the Modoc and earlier native people, possibly going back 5,000 years.




The Last Laugh… Plus Three Final Scary Stories to Wrap up Halloween!

I looked out my window and saw our two pumpkins laughing at me. They were having a last laugh…


I looked out my window and caught Bad Kitty and Fire Face laughing their heads off, so to speak.

“We fooled you,” they roared. “You thought we were scary! We were wearing costumes.”

“I am actually a very friendly kitty,” claimed Bad Kitty. “My real name is Pumpkin Kitty. My teeth were false. It was fake news. He, he.”

“And I’m known as Oak Ball because I am shaped like one,” Fire Face chortled. “My mother was a pumpkin but my father was an oak tree. Linda was right! That’s why my eyes and mouth have an oak leaf look.”

“We are on our way back to the Great Pumpkin Patch in the sky, but we’ll be back again someday,” I heard them exclaim as they rolled off down into our canyon.

And thus the tale of two wandering pumpkins draws to a close. I did promise Christie I would reference other ghostly experiences I have had and blogged about before moving on, however. Here are the links and a brief description.

The Attack of the Graveyard Ghost: My sister, Nancy, is deathly afraid of ghosts, which was a serious problem when we lived next to the Graveyard. It was made worse by the fact that her boyfriend lived next-door but she had to walk past the Graveyard to see him. She was walking home alone one night when it happened. A ghost attacked her…

The Ghosts of Fort Mifflin: Fort Mifflin, located next to Philadelphia, is supposed to be one of the most haunted sites in America. Peggy and I went there on one dark Halloween night with thoughts of reconnecting with my dead ancestors who had been killed there during the Revolutionary War. One had been cut in half by a cannon ball! We weren’t really expecting to find any ghosts, but then some weird things happened that had Peggy and I scrambling to find other people…

The Disappearing Scottish Woman: Peggy and I were off in Scotland pursuing yet another dead ancestor, this time a Scottish martyr from the 1600s. I had walked over to a woman who was standing on a porch to ask permission to cross her property and she disappeared. Things don’t get much more spooky. Read on…


Next up: The petroglyphs of Lava Beds National Monument

Bad Kitty Snuffs Out Fire Face… The Verdict Is In: Halloween 2017

Bad Kitty and Fire Face

It was a dark and spooky night, indeed! Looking out our window on Halloween, we found the spirits of Bad Kitty and Fire Face staring back at us.


The polls are closed; the ballot box stuffed; the votes counted.  Bad Kitty is the winner! “I think you knew that most of your followers were cat lovers,” Peggy sniffed. “It’s going to be Indian food,” I crowed, already tasting hot lamb curry.

But Fire Face had his fans. And lest you feel too much sympathy for my highly competitive, ever-lovely wife, let me note that she has beaten me far more frequently than I have beaten her over our years of pumpkin carving competition! She’ll be back next year and “Watch out, Curt!”

Pumpkins look in house during day

Bad Kitty and Fire Face outside on our patio table.

Here’s what some of you had to say…

Animal Couriers: “Oh, you know us, it has to be pumpkin number 2! They are both fab.”

Dave Ply: “As for my choice, both are excellent, it’s a tough call, but as I’m a cat guy I have to go with scary kitty. (I always used to have black cats)”

Linda: “Despite the fact that I live with a creature I currently refer to as the Devil Cat, I’m going to have to go with Number 1 — with this caveat. I don’t see the carving as fire, but as autumn leaves.”

Christie: “I would vote with Bad Kitty, and only because this looks like a reminiscence of Demon” 

Andrew: “My favourite pumpkin carving has to be no. 2 – but only by a whisker!”

Dave Kingsbury: “Fire Face made me feel uneasy but I was even more discomforted by Bad Kitty’s expression so the latter gets my vote. But well done both!”

Phil: “Fire Face is very cross-quarter day, but the artistry of Bad Kitty is hard to resist.”

Rebel Girl: “Fire Face all the way!”

Alison: “With trepidation, not wanting to offend either of you, I choose Bad Kitty!”

You can see what Peggy meant by cat lovers. (grin) Take Animal Couriers, for example, they make their living by transporting cats and dogs throughout Europe!

Peggy and I thank you for your participation. We had a lot of fun with the carving and the competition. And, as part of my Halloween series, I was pleased to bring you a glimpse of the incredible Jack-o-Lantern Spectacular of Providence, Rhode Island.

Correction: One of my friends pointed out that it is Linus not Charlie Brown that believes in the Great Pumpkin, which I incorrectly stated in my last post. Thanks!

LATE BREAKING NEWS: Scary Cat Becomes Scaredy Cat; Ground Squirrel De-fangs Bad Kitty

It was inevitable, or make that, highly edible. It was simply a matter of time before the wildlife around our area decided that the scariness of our pumpkins was outweighed by their resemblance to lunch. Deer have stopped by several times to stare at the pumpkins and warily circle them. They are endlessly curious about new things and have a written in stone philosophy:  If it tastes good eat it. The fierce way the pumpkins glared at them, however, made our hoofed friends reluctant to take the first bite.

A ground squirrel had no such trepidation. It had already discovered that pumpkin was good-by meticulously picking out all of the seeds from the mishmash of pumpkin innards that Peggy had left outside for woodland creatures. It only required a leap of the imagination to hop up on our patio table and start chowing down on Bad Kitty’s teeth. I couldn’t catch the culprit in action, but when I questioned her later, she had pumpkin on her breath. There is a photo of the results below the curious deer.

Doe checks out pumpkins

All attention, a black tail doe stares at the pumpkins while trying to decide whether she will brave their stares and try a nibble, or stick with the thorny rose bushes beside her. She stuck with the rose bushes.

Toothless pumpkin

Alas, Bad Kitty, looking a bit worse for wear, has had his teeth pulled by a rapacious ground squirrel.


Where to next: Peggy and I will soon be heading for the north coast of Oregon and the south coast of Washington to celebrate our 25th Anniversary. There will be lots to share ranging from wintry ocean scenes, to colorful coastal towns, to a bridge that a young Kurt Cobain hid out under, to the land where vampires and werewolves wandered in the Twilight series. But that’s a couple of weeks off. In the meantime, I’ll slip in more of my petroglyph series, starting with Lava Beds National Monument in north-eastern California.


Happy Halloween 2017… The Jack-o-Lantern Spectacular: You Are the Judge

The Great Pumpkin arises out of his pumpkin patch and is greeted by his adoring followers at the Jack-o-Lantern Spectacular in Providence , Rhode Island. Could it be that Charlie Brown was right?


Today marks the end of my seven-day tribute to Halloween where I have featured the Jack-o-Lantern Spectacular in Providence, Rhode Island. Peggy and I have returned home to Oregon where we square off against each other in our annual pumpkin carving contest.

The day has arrived. The Great Pumpkin has risen out of his pumpkin patch and is flying across the sky, delivering candy and other goodies to girls and boys around the world. At least Charlie Brown believes he has, even if he can’t persuade his sidekicks and Snoopy that he exists. There are no lack of children out here in the real world who are willing to pay homage to the Great Pumpkin, however, especially if it involves dressing up in costumes and filling bags with candy. I remember my own childhood when my brother and I would pillage far and wide to load our gunny sacks. Then we would come home to admire our booty and stuff ourselves. On the scary side of things, we would hide out in the Graveyard next to our home and jump out to scare other children when they came knocking at doors in our neighborhood. (Little kids can really run fast.) It was all in good fun, one of the greatest days in the year— at least from our perspective.

While it was all about kids back then, adults have adopted the holiday as well today. Millions don costumes as they head off to work and to party.

Pumpkin carving has been an integral part of my Halloween since I first met up with Peggy. For many years we even had a pumpkin carving contest with other members of my family. That finally ended after a quarter of a century, but Peggy and I still look forward to out annual carving activities. And, we are pleased to note, our children and grandchildren have followed suit! Our two pumpkins from this year are displayed below. Using pumpkins from the Jack-o-Lantern Spectacular for inspiration, Peggy and I are having our own contest! And you are the judges. Please note the one you like. I’ll report on the winner  and who carved the pumpkin in my next post. Whoever wins get the dinner out of his or her choice. In other words, there is no loser.

Let the contest begin. Pumpkins have been chosen, tools gathered, and the proper Halloween setting chosen.

The Masked Carver has issued her challenge.

It is important to get in touch with your inner pumpkin before carving.


It takes guts to carve a pumpkin.

The ever so spooky Fire Face: Pumpkin Number 1

And the very scary Bad Kitty: Pumpkin Number 2


Thanks for choosing! And Happy Halloween from Peggy and Curt.



On Growing Up with a Demon… The Jack-o-Lantern Spectacular in Providence, RI: Part 6

A haunted house filled with scary pumpkins was the subject of this carving at the Jack-o-Lantern Spectacular.. The guy on the lower left would make a good demon! And check out the moon!


Demons, I decided, are adequately scary for my Halloween series. Today I will write about one that lived in our house when I was growing up.  The art-carved pumpkins from the Jack-o-Lantern Spectacular in Providence, RI will feature a potpourri of cartoons, historical and Hollywood based themes.

We all have our share of demons, memories of things we didn’t do but should have and things we did but shouldn’t have. They tend to hang around and haunt us long after their significance has passed. The demon I am writing about today was of a more corporeal sort, however, and came with black fur, yellow eyes and a twitchy tail.

She was the family cat.

Demon earned her name because she was as dark as a moonless night, not because of any diabolical traits other than massaging your body with needle-sharp claws. None-the-less, she spent a lot of time in the Graveyard next to our house, catching lizards by day and mice by night. We knew of this by the half-eaten prey deposited on our doorstep. I believe that she viewed this common cat activity as her contribution to feeding the family. My mother, who had little tolerance for Demon’s food preferences, gave me the chore of tossing them back in the Graveyard. I’d sometimes tie a string around a dead mouse and charge around the yard with Demon storming along behind. We both enjoyed the game; it’s questionable as to which one of us was more demented.


Demon in an old family photo. Given the look and fur, I must have been playing with her. That poised claw is just waiting for me to get within striking distance.


Remember how I said in my last post that the Graveyard looked like a jungle in the summer. I wasn’t kidding.

Depopulating the Graveyard of varmints was not Demon’s major contribution to the community, however; it was having kittens. She had them often and everywhere, including in the Graveyard. We were in real danger of becoming known as the Cat Family of Diamond Springs. I suspect that half of the cats in El Dorado County today can trace their lineage back to her.

Demon played a more important role for me, however; she was part of a team I recruited to protect me from the ghosts that lived in the Graveyard. I moved outside at a young age and lived in the backyard during the summer. It was ideal. I would go to sleep at night under the stars listening to frogs croak, and wake up in the morning listening to birds sing. If I had to pee, there was a nearby bush; if I was thirsty, there was a convenient hose. Plus, I escaped from having to share a room with my brother.

The only thing that marred my paradise was the Graveyard. There it was, across the alley, maybe a hundred feet away, and looming— a dark presence with white tombstones.  And, it is a well-known fact that ghosts tend to hassle little people. As soon as the sun went down, they came out. So, I hired the family pets— a greyhound, a cocker spaniel, and three cats (including Demon)— to keep them away. I paid them by allowing them to sleep on my bed. It was cozy, but seemed to work. I was never bothered by a ghost.

A problem occurred as I grew older and bigger. The ghosts no longer bothered me and the limited space on my cot became smaller. There was little room for five pets and Curt. It was at this time that Pat the greyhound had a midnight encounter with a skunk and snuggled up with me to share her misery. I got a good dose of skunk smell, the bedding was trashed, and I was forced to move back inside (a fact my brother objected to strenuously since no amount of scrubbing seemed to eliminate my new perfume). When I made it out again, I put the menagerie on notice. One more skunk-like incident and they were off. All of them. I began playing San Andreas Fault, rolling over rapidly to see how many animals I could dislodge. I felt a bit guilty about this, however, Demon was pregnant again and ballooning out.

One morning I woke up and my feet were wet. “What the…” I declared, looking down the bed. Demon, who was purring loudly, calmly looked back at me. No problem there. Then I noticed little black things crawling around, little replicas of Demon. She had delivered a litter of kittens at the foot of my bed and my feet were awash in kitty after-birth! I guess I should have felt honored…

King Kong pumpkin at Jack-o-Lantern Spectacular, Providence, RI

King Kong should serve to scare you on a dark night. But where is his sweetie?

Teddy Roosevelt and Teddy Bear at Jack-o-Lantern Spectacular, Providence, RI

A number of pumpkins featured historical figures. Here we have Theodore (Teddy) Roosevelt and his namesake, Teddy Bear.

Pumpkin carving of Depression era scene at Jack-o-Lantern Spectacular, Providence, RI

I felt that this representation of a Depression era mother and her two children was the most powerful carving at the Jack-o-Lantern Spectacular.

Old West gunman faces scary water tower at Jack-o-Lantern Spectacular, Providence, RI

Fast draw gunmen were a reality of the Old West. Now, whether they faced off against water tower monsters is another question.

Popeye and Betty Boop pumpkin at Jack-o-Lantern Spectacular, Providence, RI

Betty Boop admires Popeye’s spinach induced muscles. Eat your veggies, kids.

Halloween pumpkin reflections at Jack-o-Lantern Spectacular

Today’s group photo. I suspect that there are several demons here. And aren’t those eyes up above a bit spooky?

Scary and happy pumpkins at Jack-o-Lantern Spectacular, Providence, RI

More demons plus Smiley. I challenge those of you who are carving pumpkins today to match the mouth of the top pumpkin.

Demon pumpkins ay Jack-o-Lantern Spectacular, Providence, RI

And a final view of toothy pumpkins, especially the big one on the left!


NEXT POST: Tomorrow… Halloween! I’ll conclude with a few final pumpkins from the Jack-o-Lantern Spectacular in Providence, Rhode Island and Peggy and I will square off against each other in our annual pumpkin carving contest. You’ll be the judges! 🙂

A Ghostly Grave-Yard Tale… The Jack-o-Lantern Spectacular of Providence, RI: Part 5

Skeletons carved on pumpkins at Jack-o-Lantern Spectacular in Providence, RI

Skeletons were popular subjects during the Renaissance. I don’t recognize the source for this etching , but the subject seemed appropriate for a Halloween theme. Note the two on top having a chat.


Continuing my Halloween series on the Jack-o-Lantern Spectacular of Providence, Rhode Island, I will feature art-carved pumpkins with a Renaissance touch today in my photos. The written content will include another of my ghost ‘encounters’ that are always good subject matter for the season. Again, if you have been following this blog for a while, you may have heard these stories on Halloween pasts. 

I grew up next to a cemetery that was filled with weed-like Heavenly Trees. Cut them down and they grew back so thick that the tombstones disappeared, which was a good thing.

During the day, it took little imagination to change this lush growth into a jungle playground populated with ferocious tigers, bone crushing boas, and half-starved cannibals. My brother Marshall and I considered the Graveyard an extension of our backyard. Since it was within easy calling distance of the house, our parents apparently had a similar perspective. Or maybe they were just glad to get rid of us. The jury is still out.

Night was different; the Graveyard became a place of mystery and danger. Dead people abandoned their underground chambers and slithered up through the ground as ghosts. A local test of boyhood bravery was to go into the Graveyard after dark and walk over myrtle-hidden graves, taunting the inhabitants. Slight depressions announced where they lived. When I was six, Marshall, who was eight, persuaded me to accompany him there on a moonless night. I entered with foreboding: fearing the dark, fearing the tombstones and fearing the ghosts. Half way through I heard a muzzled sound. Someone, or thing, was stalking us.

“Hey Marsh, what was that?” I whispered urgently.

“Your imagination, Curt,” was the disdainful reply.

Crunch!  Something was behind a tombstone and it was not my imagination. Marshall heard it too. We went crashing out of the Graveyard with the creature of the night in swift pursuit, wagging its tail.

“I knew it was the dog all of the time,” Marsh claimed. Yeah, sure you did.

Skeleton dog

This ghostly skeleton dog we found at the Spectacular was much closer to what we thought was chasing us than the family pet.

Pumpkin Mona Lisa at Jack-o-Lantern Spectacular in Providence, RI

The only thing scary about Mona Lisa is people are always wondering what sort of mischief she might have been up to.

Laocoön pumpkin carving at Jack-o-Lantern Spectacular in Providence, RI

Laocoön and his sons being attacked by snakes for warning the Trojans was a sculpture created by the early Greeks/Romans and dug up during the Renaissance. It’s scary.

Medusa pumpkin carving at the Jack-o-Lantern Spectacular in Providence, RI

The headless Medusa having a bad hair day is even scarier.

Venus carved on a pumpkin at the Jack-o-Lantern Spectacular in Rhode Island

Venus emerging from the ocean with her oyster shell transportation. Not scary.

Sun, stars and moon pumpkin at Jack-o-Lantern Spectacular in Providence, RI

I’ve always liked this Renaissance depiction of day and night.

Treed pumpkins at the Jack-o-Lantern Spectacular in Providence, RI

Treed pumpkins.

Pumpkins on pond at Jack-o-Lantern Spectacular in Providence, RI

Pumpkins are reflected in water while a big-eyed fellow lurks behind.

Pumpkins on stumps at the Jack-o-Lantern Spectacular in Providence, RI

These fellows seem a bit confused. I think they are stumped. (grin)

Smiling pumpkin at Jack-o-Lantern Spectacular in Providence, RI

Mona Lisa’s mysterious smile has nothing on this guy. Mischief is almost guaranteed.

NEXT POST: I will tell the story about a demon that lived with us while we were growing up. It doesn’t get scary until the last sentence! Art-carved pumpkins will range from King Kong to Popeye.