The Incredible Red Rock Country of Sedona— and a Chapel… Part 1

Sedona west

The town of Sedona (center photo) is surrounded by striking scenery. I took this picture from near the airport looking west.


It’s time again for the Wednesday Photo Essay. Today and next Wednesday, I will be featuring Sedona, Arizona.


I still remember the first time I followed Oak Creek Canyon down from Flagstaff, Arizona to Sedona. I had been up backpacking down in the Grand Canyon in 1986 and the side trip was something of an afterthought. I’d seen photos of the area’s striking red rocks and knew of the town’s New Age reputation. There were supposedly vortexes found there, psychic hot-spots that UFOs liked to visit. How could I resist? On the other hand, how could it possibly match my experience in the Canyon? Would I be disappointed?

The answer is a firm no; the detour was different— but very worthwhile.

I’ve been back several times since. The beauty of the red rocks calls to me and I find the New Age character of its inhabitants both interesting and amusing. I read recently that there are 176 New Age-oriented businesses in Sedona. I doubt that any other community in the world can claim such a concentration. The Age of Aquarius is alive and well!

Sitting on a vortex in Sedona, Arizona

Ommm. Here I am, sitting on a red rock vortex point below the Sedona airport practicing my meditation technique and waiting for a UFO. A heretofore unnoticed aura is wrapped around my head. Grin. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

My last visit was three years ago when Peggy and I visited for a week in November along with our friends Ken and Leslie Lake. The pictures from this and next week’s Wednesday photo essays are from that trip. Today’s will be mainly from the east side of town. Next week I will post photos from the west side including a hike up Boynton Canyon. Enjoy.

Chapel of the Holy Cross

One of Sedona’s most famous sites is the Chapel of the Holy Cross. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

Chapel of the Holy Cross in Sedona

I decided that the chapel and its surroundings would do well as a black and white photo.

Chapel of Holy Cross in Sedona, Arizona photo taken by Curtis Mekemson

Another perspective.

Twin rocks in Sedona, Arizona

These striking rocks are located east of the chapel. We took several photos. This one was by Peggy. I think this pair is known as the Two Nuns.

Twin rocks in Sedona, AZ

I added a tree for contrast.

Sedona Cactus

Peggy caught this cactus just down from the chapel.

Cactus and twin rocks in Sedona

And I took a photo of its companion with the Nuns!

Twin rocks in Sedona

Several other towers were located above the Nuns…

Sedona red rock column

Including this beauty. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

Sedona, Arizona

The view south wasn’t bad either!

Sedona Arizona rock

Bell Rock in Sedona

Most of the prominent rock formations around Sedona have been named. I’ll close today with Bell Rock. Be sure to check in next Wednesday for more of the red rocks of Sedona as we journey east of the town to the area featured at the top of this post.


FRIDAY’S POST: My sister Nancy Jo is attacked by the Graveyard Ghost. A very scary tale.

MONDAY’S POST: A trip through the Grand Canyon by raft on the Colorado River.

WEDNESDAY’S POST: We return to Sedona for more gorgeous red rocks.




Ocean Shores … Final Post on the Washington Coast Series

Grays Harbor photo by Curtis Mekemson.

There is no doubt about the beauty of Ocean Shores. This photo looks out into Grays Harbor. The Pacific Ocean is off to the right.


Several years ago, Peggy owned some property in Florida down around Port Charlotte. She and her first husband had purchased two pieces as an investment in one of the huge Florida land schemes. The first parcel, located on a man-made canal, had sold easily long before I knew Peggy. The second piece, which might best be described as swamp-land, was still hanging around when we met many years later and was valued at less than the original price. With skyrocketing real estate values in the mid 2000s, we were finally able to sell the land to some questionable characters out of Miami who had dollars to burn for a small profit. We breathed a huge sigh of relief and turned the money over to our kids.

I only tell this story now because Ocean Shores on the central coast of Washington has a similar history. Developers were going crazy in the 60s and purchasing oceanfront property as cheaply and as quickly as they could put together deals. Land was then subdivided, roads put in, and prices jacked up to create substantial profits. Potential buyers were fed glowing stories about the beauty of the land, its recreational value, and the potential for future profit. It didn’t matter if the land was part of a swamp or that profits would be far into the future.

Land speculation in the US is as old as our country. George Washington may have been the “Father of the Nation” but he was also the father of rampant land speculation, a pursuit he was joined in by the likes of Ben Franklin, John Adams, and other founding fathers who invested in as much land out on the western frontier as they could lay their hands on. (It didn’t matter if the land was already occupied by Native Americans.) It can be argued that one of the reasons for the Revolution was that the British wanted to curtail such speculation.

The Ocean Shores Development Company purchased the area that would become Ocean Shores in 1960 for $1 million. Its location on a peninsula with the Pacific Ocean on one side and Grays Harbor on the other provided a lot of waterfront property to sell. The company quickly brought in a dredge to build canals to create more.  Hollywood personalities such as Pat Boone were recruited for promotion and the land boom was underway. In 2003, National Recreation Properties bought hundreds of lots in Ocean Shores and then resold them at three and four times what it paid. Eric Estrada from CHIPS was brought in for promotion purposes this time. Today, with limited oceanfront property available on the West Coast, property values continue to escalate.

Ocean Shores

Ocean Shores’ peninsula location means it has lots of waterfront property. Man-made canals built throughout the area have added even more. We were staying north of the community up toward the Highway 109 marker.

Peggy and I drove around the peninsula and checked things out. It was an attractive area and I could see why people would want to live in Ocean Shores, but I couldn’t help but think about the community’s low elevation. It would provide scant protection in a Tsunami and, barring that disaster, might be inundated by rising ocean levels. But that’s me. I am sure potential buyers and real estate agents see it differently. Following are a few photos from Ocean Shores and more from where we were staying at Copalis Beach.

Tide coming in at Grays Harbor

Another view looking out into Grays Harbor as the tide rolls in.

Driftwood seahorse at Ocean Shores

The city of Ocean Shores has added some neat driftwood art as an attraction. This seahorse was decked out for Christmas. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

Photo of a driftwood seahorse in Ocean Shores, Washington by Peggy Mekemson.

Another perspective by Peggy.

Driftwood horse at Ocean Shores, Washington photo by Peggy Mekemson.

Having decided that she really liked the driftwood art, Peggy walked across the road and captured this skinny-legged horse.

Driftwood deer in Ocean Shores, Washington photo by Curtis Mekemson.

While I photographed a deer. I liked its antlers.

Small lake at Ocean City Washington

A small lake north of Ocean Shores caught our attention. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

Seagrass and dunes at Copalis Beach

Back at where we were staying in Copalis, we decided to celebrate our final evening by hiking out to the ocean again. It was just across the small dunes.

Copalis beach sunset in Washington

As the sun started to set, we were joined by a bald eagle.

Sunset central coast of state of Washington

Then the sun captured our attention.

Peggy Mekemson at Copalis Beach

Peggy decided to go in search of it across the long, flat beach…

Peggy Mekemson at Copalis Beach

And celebrated…

Peggy Mekemson and sunset at Copalis Beach

Before returning…

Moon over Copalis Beach

Where she was greeted by moonrise.

Sunset central coast of Washington

We stood holding hands as the sun completed its journey. And then returned to the condo. It was time to pack up and head home…


WEDNESDAY’S POST: The gorgeous red rock country of Sedona, Arizona

FRIDAY’S POST: Nancy Jo and the attack of the Graveyard Ghost




Searching for Roots… A Photo Essay on Southwestern Scotland

Scenic Scotland

Peggy and I explored the southern and southwestern part of Scotland with its rolling hills and green, green pasture lands.


Today I am returning to the Wednesday photographic essay part of my blog. This time I will feature the southwestern area of Scotland with a few photos of Edinburgh thrown in. Peggy and I shared in taking the photographs.


Peggy, Jane, Jim and I wrapped up our narrowboat tour and then hopped on a train bound for Edinburgh, Scotland where we hung out together for a few more days before parting company. Jane and Jim returned to London while Peggy and I rented a car and headed out on a quest. I was eager to see some of the areas my ancestors had come from including the grave of a long dead Presbyterian martyr, John Brown, who had been shot down in the 1600s because he refused to recognize England’s king as God’s representative on earth. The Presbyterians were stubborn that way.

Edinburgh is an impressive city that is very easy to get lost in, or at least get lost trying to get out of!

Edinburg Scotland 1

Edinburg 3

Edinburg 4

Sir Walter Scott’s Memorial.

Edinburg 2

Duke of Wellington

The Duke of Wellington.

The car rental place upgraded us to a Mercedes and wished us good luck on finding our way out of the city.

Peggy and mercedes

Is this woman determined or deranged? And is she really biting the steering wheel? I thought that she was a bit old for a teething ring.

We quickly discovered that there are a lot of sheep in Scotland— big woolly creatures. They like to stand in the middle of the road and refuse to move.

Sheep in Scotland 2

My road

“My road!” Peggy and I were on a great detour (we were lost again) when we came on this sheep blocking the road. I thought I might have to get out of our car and pull a Crocodile Dundee on it. The red marking is to show ownership.

Sheep in Scotland


Scottish sheep

Hungry. The great range wars of the Western United States between cattlemen and sheepmen in the 1800s were partially because sheep like to crop the grass so close to the ground.

Scottish cow

This steer seems to agree about sheep.

Shetland pony

And who knows what this wild Shetland was thinking?  It may have thought we were good for an apple. Or maybe it was a reincarnated ancestor of mine trying to make contact…

We checked out several graveyards. I was, after all, searching for dead people.

Scottish graveyard

These tombstones were so large they could have had books written on them. Wait, they did. Check out the light gray marker on the right.

Peggy and Scotland grave

Peggy demonstrates just how big the tombstones were.   If I am correct in reading her body language, she is saying, “And how many more graveyards are we going to visit today, Curt? Don’t you realize it is raining and cold out here?” (Actually, Peggy is a great sport about visiting graveyards and this might have been one of her ancestors.)

John Brown's grave

The lonely grave of John Brown, the Presbyterian martyr, who would have been a great, great, great, great, great, grandfather of mine, or something like that. My story of John Brown and the Presbyterian Covenanters, as they were known, can be found here.

Castles were also on our itinerary. There are bunches in Scotland. Each lord wanted one to protect himself from the English— or his neighbor. One of my fifth cousins had assured me that the Mekemson family once owned a Scottish Castle, but it was north of Edinburgh.

Scottish castle 4

Old castles are a feature of Scotland. They are well built, but a bit airy.

Scottish castle 2

Scottish castle 1


Here kitty, kitty, kitty. Wonderful whiskers. Nice bouquet.

Peggy in castle

I found a winsome wench in one. Oh wait, that was a fair maiden!

Most of our time was spent admiring the beautiful scenery and fun towns plus visiting with the warm and welcoming people of Scotland.

Scenic river in Scotland

The River Nith in Dumfries.

Scottish broom

Scotch broom

Scotch Broom was everywhere, adding its beautiful yellow to hillsides.

Scene in Scotland

I am a fan of stone walls. Fences don’t get much classier! But imagine the work…

Stone circles in Scotland

Speaking of moving rocks, these boulders were placed here several thousand years ago as part of a sacred site.

Homes in Scotland

Small towns were colorful and clean. Kirkcolm was where my great-grandmother on the Thompson side was from. It’s where we met the Shetland.

Great grandfather's home

And this might have been the home of her father.

Window in Scotland

A fun window with posies.

Flowers in Scotland

And a flower pot built into the front of a building to wrap up today’s post.


FRIDAY’S Blog-a-Book POST: The animal kingdom is kicked off my bed

MONDAY’S Travel Blog POST: A wrap up on the central coast of Washington

WEDNESDAY’S Photo Essay POST: The beauty of Sedona Arizona

A Think-Disaster Kind of Day… When It Comes Down to Move Your Town or Drown

Gift of salmon totem pole at Taholah, WA

The ocean has provided sustenance to the Quinault Indians for thousands of years. This totem pole that Peggy and I found in the community of Taholah represents that bounty. But now both the community and salmon fishing are threatened by global warming.

The small town of Taholah located on the edge of the mighty Pacific has a plan. It’s going to move back from the rising ocean. Global warming is a reality for the self-governing Quinault Indian Nation encompassing some 316 square miles (819 square kilometers) on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula. Storm surges in 2014 and 2015 have inundated the lower part of the town where critical police, fire, education, and governing services for the nation are located. Moving will be a challenge, but it is one that has to be faced as ocean waters rise.

One can only wonder what cities like Los Angeles, New York and other major population centers located along the world’s oceans will do as they face similar problems.

Quinault River at Taholah, WA

The Quinault River empties into the Pacific Ocean at Taholah. A low seawall protects the community from the river and ocean, but it isn’t enough.

Taholah Memorial Park

A memorial park is one of the areas threatened by the rising water.

Thunderbird in Taholah, WA

We also found Thunderbird in the park.

Beaver totem pole at Ocean Shores Interpretive Center

Beaver, on the other hand, was hanging out at the Ocean Interpretive Center in Ocean Shores.

Peggy and I drove up to Taholah and checked out the town from where we were staying at Copalis Beach.  The area is rich in natural resources from both the forests and the ocean. Taholah sits on the edge of the Quinault River, which has provided a bounty of salmon to the natives for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. (The Quinault Indians believe that they have lived in the area from the beginning when Raven upended a clam shell and found humanity lurking underneath.) But even the salmon are facing the impacts of global warming. The glaciers that provided fresh, cold water to the Quinault are melting and severely impacting the salmon population with both warmer water and extensive silt.

Since hiking is limited on tribal lands, Peggy and I returned to Copalis and headed out to Griffith-Pride State Park for a walk. It was much flatter than the area around Taholah. My thoughts turned from global warming to tsunamis. The whole area from Copalis to Ocean shores could be wiped out in a big one. I couldn’t help but be a tad nervous. It was a think-disaster kind of day.

Wet boardwalk at Griffith-Pride State Park, WA

An interesting trail leads out to the ocean over the low sand dunes at Griffith-Pride State Park.

Douglas fir at Copalis Beach

It was wet along the way!

Old road through Griffiths-Pride State Park in Washington

At one time, the trail had been a road.

Half a rainbow at Griffith-Pride State Park in Copalis Beach, Washington

A half rainbow caught our attention. Clearing skies promised sunny weather. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

Peggy on disappearing trail in Griffiths-Pride State Park

Occasionally, the trail disappeared into brush!

Connor Creek and rainbow at Griffith-Pride State Park, WA

Eventually we came on to Connor Creek and found the other half of the rainbow.

Connor Creek at Surfcrest Condominiums

Connor Creek also flowed by where we were staying. More time would have found us kayaking it! (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

Looking out to sea at Copalis Beach, WA

The creek flowing into the ocean provided a perspective on just how flat Copalis Beach is. Crashing waves can be seen in the distance. It would take a lot of running to escape a Tsunami!

Sunset at the Quinault Casino

We had a tender prime rib that night at the Quinault Indian Casino in Ocean City, where we were treated to this sunset. It’s a fitting end for today’s post.


WEDNESDAY’S POST: A photographic essay from Scotland

FRIDAY’S POST: Back to blogging “MisAdventures.” The animal kingdom gets banned from my bed

MONDAY’S POST: The end of my series on the Northwest Coast of northern Oregon and central Washington



Want a Small House— Think Narrowboat… A Trip on the Trent and Mersey Canal: Part 2

Swan in black and white on Trent and Mersey Canal

Graceful swans share the Trent and Mersey Canal with narrowboats. I decided to render this fellow in black and white to emphasize its feathers and show how swans tuck their wings over their backs.


This is my second post on the Trent and Mersey Canal. My first post took us from Sawley to Burton upon Trent. In today’s post, Peggy and I, along with her sister and brother-in-law, Jane and Jim Hagedorn, visit Burton on Trent and return to Sawley. 


Josiah Wedgewood’s concern about his pottery was a driving force behind the building of the Trent and Mersey Canal in the 1770s. Too many of his fine dishes were being broken when they were transported over the bumpy, rough roads of the time. A canal would provide for smooth sailing, or, at least smooth boating, and every industrialist wanted one to connect his plant with growing markets. For a brief period of time in the early industrial revolution, canals were the in-thing. Hundreds were built throughout England and Europe— as well as in the youthful United States.

Jilly Dee Narrowboat

This painting on the Jilly-Dee narrowboat spoke of earlier times on the canals when manufactured goods were carried on barges towed by horses and mules.

The painting reminded me of Erie Canal in New York state and one of the first songs I learned in elementary school. Here it is:

I’ve got a mule and her name is Sal
Fifteen miles on the Erie Canal
She’s a good old worker and a good old pal
Fifteen miles on the Erie Canal
We hauled some barges in our day
Filled with lumber, coal and hay
We know every inch of the way
From Albany to Buffalo

Low bridge, everybody down
Low bridge, we’re coming to a town
You’ll always know your neighbor
And you’ll always know your pal
If you ever navigated on the Erie Canal.

It was one of my favorite tunes, right up there with Old Dog Tray. I was particularly enamored with the idea of having a mule as a pal.

We passed under several low bridges during our trip, but none made us duck. Fortunately, our journey didn’t involve any of the long, low tunnels located on other parts of England’s canal system. I read that the earliest tunnel on the Trent and Mersey Canal was so low that the boatmen would lay down on their backs and push the boat through with their feet, using the top of the tunnel for leverage— for a mile! The mere thought of this sent claustrophobic twinges through my body!

Low Bridge on Trent and Mersey Canal

“Low bridge, everybody down!”

Railroads and modern highways made canals obsolete for transporting goods and would have spelled their doom except for the interest of historians, hobbyists, and the recreational industry starting in the 1950s. Recreation is booming today and numerous people have also discovered that narrowboats can provide the ultimate in an inexpensive, small house lifestyle for those with a gypsy nature. Sounds good to me. Most of these homes are uniquely decorated and come with interesting names like Belly Button, Idunno, and In the Mood. Others, such as Nomad Dreams, Sacagawea, and Gone Roaming, suggested the wandering nature of their owners.

Belly Button narrowboat on Trent and Mersey Canal

Narrowboats that people use for homes are often gaily painted and uniquely named!

Narrow boat dog on barrel on Trent and Mercy Canal

One of the boats had this painted barrel sitting on top…

Narrowboat dog on Trent and Mercy Canal

And then we spotted the model!

Peggy, Jim, Jane and I explored Burton upon Trent, spent the night, and then began our journey back on the Trent and Mersey Canal to the Sawley Marina. Once again, we enjoyed the challenge of piloting our 65-foot boat around obstacles and through locks, while appreciating the beauty and peace of the British countryside. Our most exciting moment was when Jim decided to park our boat up on the bank…

View near St. Pauls in Burton upon Trent

We wandered around admiring buildings in Burton.

Gargoyle on St. Paul's church in Burton on Trent

And found this gargoyle with its tongue sticking out at St. Paul’s Church.

Row houses and chimneys in Burton upon the Trent

Row houses, chimneys and threatening skies provided a photo-op…

Marston's brewery in Burton upon Trent

Marston’s original brewery is located in Burton on Trent and has been a longterm mainstay of the city’s economy. I went onto Marston’s website and found this quote: “No Marston’s, no beer, no beer, no Burton.”

Bargain booze in Burton upon Trent

Of course beer wasn’t the only alcohol available…

Carved kingfisher sculpture with fish in Burton upon Trent

Walking back to the canal, we were reminded by this carved kingfisher of the birds that make the canal their home.

Swan profile on Trent and Mersey Canal

Including swans and their Canadian Geese cousins.

Mallard moves along on Trent and Mersey Canal

A mallard moved along on some important mission…

Swans mating on Trent and Mersey Canal

While a pair of swans decided to make babies.

Baby ducks on Trent and Mersey Canal

Of which the mallards had already contributed a substantial number. There was no lack of baby ducks on our trip back…

Swan and narrowboats on Trent and Mersey Canal

Or swans.

Resting cattle along Trent and Mersey Canal

Cattle enjoyed a moment of sun…

Peggy Mekemson enjoying sunshine on Trent and Mersey Canal

As did Peggy!

Scenic view along Trent and Mersey Canal

We all continued to enjoy the scenery and serenity along the Trent and Mersey.

Buildings along Trent and Mersey Canal

Including the buildings.

Narrowboat with rain cover on Trent and Mersey Canal

And other narrowboats. This boater had created a canvas pilot house as protection from the elements. There were occasions when we were envious.

Poling narrowboat off shore on Trent and Mersey Canal

Our progress was delayed when Jim decided to park us on the bank. That’s when we really learned just how heavy our boat was.

Double-wide lock on Trent and Mersey Canal

Locks continued to slow us down as well. This was a double-wide. Just barely.

Church near Sawley Marina

When we spotted this steeple, we knew that we were close to home.

Sawley Marina

And thus we arrived.

Intrepid narrowboat crew in Burton on Trent and Mersey Canal

A final shot of Peggy, Jane, Jim and our moored boat.


SATURDAY’S POST: It’s back to blogging my book on MisAdventures. This time I hire the family pets to protect me from the dangerous ghosts that live in the graveyard next to my childhood home.

MONDAY’S POST: Peggy and I return to our before-Christmas adventure along Washington’s coast.

WEDNESDAY’S POST: A photograph essay on Scotland, which is where we went after our narrowboat trip.


Piloting a 60-foot long, 6-foot wide Narrowboat along England’s Trent and Mersey Canal: Part 1


Scenic reflection shot along Trent and Mercy Canal

Operating a narrowboat along Britain’s scenic Trent and Mersey Canal became a bucket list item for us as soon as we learned about the possibility.

To call me a boat person would be a very serious misnomer. Backpacker definitely— that’s where my true passion lies. It gets me into the wilderness. But boating, as a general rule, is something I’ve done little of. There are exceptions.

Peggy and I have boated up the Amazon, rafted down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon, and kayaked in numerous places throughout North America. I’ve canoed across the Kenai Peninsula of Alaska and down the Sacramento River of California. Peggy and I have even cruised the Mediterranean and crossed the Atlantic. And I’ve tried my hand at fishing for marlin off the coast of Mexico. Mainly, I see boats like I do bicycles, however: as a way of getting me to places I want to see. Bicycling or boating as sports in themselves have little appeal to me.

Our boat, the Amazon Clipper, docked for the evening deep in the rainforest on the Rio Negro River, Brazil.

Peggy and I enter the infamous Lava Falls on the Colorado River, a perfect ten… that’s 10 as in rapids don’t get any more serious. Shortly after that the boat, our boatman Steve, Peggy and I disappeared under the water. Happily, we resurfaced. (Photo by Don Green)

Sea Kayak Adventure kayaks roped together in small inlet on Hanson Island. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

I took this photo of our kayaks off of Vancouver Island while we were at lunch. The kayaks were roped together so they wouldn’t run away.

Given my mixed feelings about boating, I found myself surprised that I enjoyed piloting a narrow-boat along England’s Trent and Mersey Canal. There was something about making the 60-foot long, 6-foot wide boat go where it was supposed to, including into boat-wide locks, that I found both challenging and gratifying. It helped that we were only traveling 3-4 miles per hour (4.8-6.4 k)! Peggy and I had invited her sister Jane and brother-in-law Jim along with us on the 2011 adventure. While Jim and I took turns at the helm, Peggy and Jane operated the locks.

Instructions for piloting the boat and working the locks were provided when we arrived. Peggy reminded me that we had less than an hour of instruction before being turned loose with out 60-foot long, several ton vessel. I can only imagine how experienced boat people along the Trent and Mersey Canal view newbies coming out of the marina. Peggy and Jane’s lesson on operating the locks was more like 15 minutes! But we did have instruction sheets.

What it looks like from the helm of a narrowboat

This is what our boat looked like from the helm. Let’s just say that I was more than a little nervous when I took my first turn.

Jim researching our Trent and Mercey Canal trip

Jim, who never admits to being nervous about anything, studied the manual, or maybe he was reviewing our trip.

Piloting narrowboat under bridge on Trent and Mercy Canal

The challenges we would face included maneuvering our 60-foot vessel around sharp corners under low bridges…

Piloting boat into lock on Trent and Mercy Canal

And piloting the boat into narrow locks, some of which were hardly wider than the boat. In fact, the width of the locks was the reason for creating the narrowboats. It was even more challenging when you had to slip into a lock of this width with another narrowboat while pretending to know what you were doing!

Narrowboat in lock on Trent and Mercy Canal

Fortunately, being perfectly straight wasn’t necessarily required when we had the lock all to ourselves! Water flowing in will raise our boat to the level of the upstream canal.

Peggy works lock gates on Trent and Mercy Canal

While we were mastering entering and exiting the locks, Peggy and Jane were mastering opening and closing them. Fortunately, some helpful veterans were present the first time our companions were faced with the chore.

Jane Hagedorn works lock gates on Trent and Mercy Canal

Piloting around boat on Trent and Mercy Canal

Passing other boats could be challenging when the canal was particularly narrow.

Piloting past moored boats while metting another boat on Trent and Mercy Canal

Now, picture meeting another boat when both sides of the canal are filled with moored narrowboats!

Mooring narrow boat

Another skill we had to master was mooring the boats when we stopped for the night or at a local attraction— such as a pub. Camping was free along the Trent and Mersey Canal.

Peggy doing dishes in our tiny galley

We lived on the boat, which came with a small galley, sitting room, and bathroom.

Single bed on a narrowboat

While the master bedroom had a small double bed, the other beds were barely wide enough to sleep on.

The Sawley Marina is located close to Nottingham and borders on the shires of Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire and Derbyshire. (Being close to Nottingham took me back to my childhood days and tales of Robin Hood.) Our objective was to follow the Trent and Mersey Canal to Burton upon Trent and return, a short distance of 34 miles (54.7k). The literature said we could make the trip in a leisurely three days. We chose a more leisurely six. How else could we check out all of the pubs and fine English ale along the way?

Enjoying pub along Trent and Mercy Canal

Jim, Jane and I enjoy one of the several pubs along the Canal while Peggy took the photo.

In addition to piloting the boat and checking out the pubs, there was a generous dose of bucolic beauty to enjoy along the way— as one might expect in Britain’s Midlands. Graceful swans, lots of ducks, and lazy cattle provided entertainment while walks through small villages and the larger town of Burton upon Trent gave us breaks from boating.

Direction sign on Trent and Mercy Canal

A sign takes us onto the Canal proper.

Scenic flowering tree and mustard along the Trent and Mercy Canal

There was considerable beauty along the canal and traveling at three miles per hour, we had plenty of time to enjoy it.

Scenic view with flowering tree along Trent and Mercy Canal

Since it was May, everything seemed to be in bloom.

Building along Trent and Mercy Canal

Numerous buildings along the way added interest and color.

Bridge number 11 on the Trent and Mercey Canal

Bridges also provided variety. Each one seemed different. Numbers on the bridges told us where we were.

Bridge number 13 on the Trent and Mercy Canal

The bridges also added to the beauty.

Fishing on Trent and Mercy Canal

This one included guys fishing. Check out the length of the poles!

Scenic view from under bridge on Trent and Mercy Canal

Coming out from under a bridge.

Swan and reflection on Trent and Mercy Canal

Swans, ducks and other birds provided entertainment. I liked the reflection here.

Swan nesting on Trent and Mercey Canal


Swan chows down on Trent and Mercy Canal

And chowing down!

Mallard hen and chicks on Trent and Mercy Canal

I’ll conclude today with this mallard hen and her chicks.

I will be posting more photos of our narrow-boat tour on Thursday. Saturday I will return to blogging my book on MisAdventures with a story of how I hired our family pets to protect me from the fearsome ghosts that lived next to our house when I was a child.

2017 in Review… What a Year!

Heading off into the wilderness on one of my five backpacking trips in 2017.


I always approach the new year in a reflective mood that is divided between looking back and looking forward. This past year has been a tough one for the US, one of the toughest that I can remember. The turmoil has made me want to run off to the ocean, or the mountains, or the desert, or the rainforests— anywhere that the constant blare of modern media and Washington tweets is missing or limited. But then, I always want to run off to the mountains, the ocean and the desert. The wilderness serves as a second home for me— a place to think, a place to heal, and a place to play.

Living out in the woods, as Peggy and I do, also helps!

Sunset view from Mekemson patio on Upper Applegate River

A view of the sun setting in the west from our patio reminds me of beauty in our world, but also of the million-plus acres of forest lands and wilderness that surround us.

Applegate River

The Applegate River that runs in front of our house is quiet and peaceful in the summer, but can become a raging torrent in the winter. It is beautiful in all conditions, and the sound of its flowing waters always soothes.

Madrone tree in Mekemson back yard

Nothing marks the change of time like the changing of seasons. This large madrone that lives in our backyard and provides coveted shade in the summer, shows its winter face here.

spring at home

In the spring, our world turns green. Over 100 white oaks provide homes for animals as well as shade. In fall, their acorns provide food for squirrels, deer, turkeys and bears.

Fall at home

Fall always adds its splash of color, as it does with this Big Leaf Maple.

Ground squirrel with attitude

The wildlife that considers our property home provides constant entertainment and education. This ground squirrel had just managed to steal a cheek full of sunflower seeds from the bird feeder and had zero tolerance for my lecture.

Squirrel on birdfeeder

And this grey squirrel is trying to repeat its success. “Let’s see, if I rock this thing hard enough…”

Blacktail deer in Mekemson yard on upper Applegate River

The local deer herd provides us with an inside view of their lives, from birth to death.  The herd has scattered now. Wisely so. There is a cougar hanging out on our property and in the national forest land behind us. I haven’t seen it yet, but I have seen its scat in our back yard— and it is full of deer hair!

Fawn on our property

The cougar will move on, however. The deer will return. And the does will bring their children by for visits, as they always do. Life in its endless cycles will repeat itself.

Given my desire to escape this past year, it’s not surprising that the majority of my posts have revolved around trips to the ocean, mountains and deserts. That and Burning Man, which may be the ultimate escape to an alternative universe. Here are some photos that reflect our travels in 2017.

I’ll start with the ocean which includes trips I made on my own and trips the two of us did. Altogether, we covered some 1000 miles of coast between Big Sur, California and Forks, Washington.

Big Sur Coast

In the spring I made my way down to the Big Sur/Carmel/Monterey area while Peggy was playing Grandmother. This is the Big Sur coast.

Iconic Big Sur Bridge

An iconic Big Sur Bridge.

Ocean on 17 Mile Drive

The coast along Monterey’s 17 Mile Drive.

Cypress on 17 Mile Drive

A Monterey Cypress located on one of several world-famous golf courses found along Monterey’s 17 Mile Drive.

Seal at Point Lobos

A contented seal I found at Point Lobos just south of Carmel.

Bigfoot rock at Bandon, Oregon

Peggy and I found this marvelous rock on the beach just south of Bandon, Oregon. Note the toes. They stood about as high as Peggy. I called it Bigfoot, of course.

Face Rock at bandon Beach

We were also impressed with what is known as Face Rock. You can see the chin, mouth, nose and eyes on the right.

Ocean trash fish at Bandon, Oregon

This marvelous fish sculpture in Bandon had been created out of trash collected along the local beach.

Seal Cave near Florence, Oregon

I found these seals located in Seal Cave just above Florence, Oregon.

Heceta Head Lighthouse

And the beautiful Heceta Head Lighthouse a couple of miles away.

Sea serpent at Rockaway Beach

Our trip before Christmas took us up to Rockaway Beach where we found a pair of rocks that reminded me of the Loch Ness Monster, Nessie.

Alpaca near Tillamook, Oregon

And this cutie near Tillamook.

Peggy Mekemson at Copalis Beach

We stayed at Copalis Beach in Washington where Peggy went for a walk on the beach at sunset.

The ultimate in escaping the noise and busyness of the world is backpacking. There are no phones, or TVs, or newspapers, or Internet.  Not surprising, I went out five times. Twice by myself, twice with Peggy, and once with Peggy, our daughter Tasha, and our two grandkids, Ethan and Cody. We backpacked in the Siskiyou Mountains near where we live and in the Sierra Nevada Mountains east of Sacramento, an area I have wandered in for 50 years.

Oregon stream

One of the streams we camped on in the Siskiyou Mountains.

Peggy's Lake

I found this lovely little un-named lake when I was hiking off trail in the Sierras and promptly gave it a name: Peggy’s Lake.

Black Buttes

The Black Buttes east of Interstate 80 looking golden.

Five Lakes Basin

I’ve had a number of trout dinners from this lake over the years.

Thunderheads at Glacier Lake in Five Lakes Basin

Thunderheads. Rain, hail and lightning storms added excitement to our trips.

Family backpacking

My trail companions: Peggy, Cody, Tasha and Ethan.

And of course we traveled elsewhere. Two of our trips involved returning to the desert. Peggy and I journeyed down through the Sacramento Valley and into southern Nevada where we visited the Valley of Fire State Park. I made my way back to Burning Man in the remote Black Rock Desert of Northern Nevada.

Mt. Shasta

We always travel somewhere on my birthday, usually with our friends Ken and Leslie Lake. This year took us down past Mt. Shasta still wearing its winter coat…

California's Central Valley

Through California’s Central Valley looking very spring-like.

Rock sculpture in Valley of Fire State Park

And into southern Nevada’s very dry Valley of Fire State Park…

Arch at Valley of Fire State Park

Which included this small but colorful arch.

Tony's promotion

Summer took us across the USA to Charleston, South Carolina where we celebrated our son’s promotion to Lieutenant Commander in the Coast Guard. His wife, Cammie, and boys Chris, Connor and Cooper help add his new rank.

Man at Burning Man 2017

I returned to Burning Man…

Rabid Express at Burning Man 2017

Where I found this marvellous mutant vehicle known as Rabid Transit.

Pumpkin carving festival in Rhode Island

October found us back East again where we attended a pumpkin carving spectacular in Providence, Rhode Island.

Did I succeed in escaping the world of political turmoil? Not quite. And neither would I want to. I spent my life working as a community advocate with non-profit organizations on environmental and public health issues. Time and again, I have seen that concerned people can, and do make a positive difference.

Ultimately, I am an optimist. The majority of the people in the US believe that our nation should serve as a positive force in the world, want to breathe clean air and drink clean water, think that neither sex, age, ethnicity, religion, or sexual preference should be a limiting factor in determining what a person might become or contribute, believe that there is value in protecting the wild, beautiful and historic areas of the world, support a more equitable distribution of wealth, want to reduce violence, and believe that affordable health care and education should be available to all.

It is my hope for this country that leaders (be they Republicans, or Democrats, or Independents) will step forward with the vision to heal the nation and move it toward the point where it reflects what the majority of Americans support— and hope for. Likewise, I have a similar hope for the world. While I realize that this sounds naïve (and I’ve been around the block enough times to know), I also believe that we live in a rapidly changing world with great promise but even greater danger. If we are to achieve the promise and avoid the danger, which may include our very survival, we must learn to work together much more effectively for the good of all as opposed to the few. We all have a stake in the outcome, as do our children, grandchildren and future generations.

I have both enjoyed and learned from the people I follow on Word Press this past year as you have taken me along on your travels, adventures, and personal journeys through life. Even more, I have enjoyed the friendships we have created. My thanks to you— and to everyone who stops by to visit my blog.

Peggy and I wish each of you and your families a happy and healthy 2018.

The Beautiful Flowers of the Chatsworth House… Wednesday’s Photographic Essay

Picture of flowers at Chatsworth House by Curtis Mekemson.

The gardens at Chatsworth House are filled with beautiful flowers.


A few years ago, Peggy and I decided it would be fun to do a narrow boat tour in England and we invited her sister and brother-in-law Jane and Jim Hagedorn along. Jane has been one of my best friends forever and loves England. Even more than England, she loves English Gardens. When Jane learned we would be traveling past the Chatsworth House, she insisted that we had to stop for a visit. There were no ifs, ands or buts.

I can’t say I was ecstatic with the detour, but I was okay with it. The Chatsworth House, located in Derbyshire, is the seat of the Duke of Devonshire and wrapped in history, which always pulls me in. In the end, it wasn’t the stately home or the history that won me over, however. It was the beautiful gardens. Jane was absolutely right. I fell in love with the landscaping and even more the incredible flowers.

So, welcome to my Wednesday Photograph essay, and some beautiful flowers. Any favorites?

Flowers 17 at Chatsworth

Flowers 13 at Chatsworth

Flowers 8 at Chatsworth

Flower 18 at Chatsworth

Flowers 15 at Chatsworth

Flower 19 at Chatsworth

Flowers 16 at Chatsworth

Flowers 6 at Chatsworth

Flowers 11 at Chatsworth

Flowers 14 at Chatsworth

Flowers 9 at Chatsworth

Flower 1 at Chatsworth

Of course, Chatsworth is about much more than flowers. There is the landscape, sculptures, and the house. I spent my time in the house gaping instead of taking pictures, but here are a few of the landscape and sculptures that caught my attention or amused me. And one from inside the house.

Candles at Chatsworth

One look at this dining room convinced me that you would need one servant just to light and put out the candles!

Hare sculpture at Chatsworth

I loved this graceful, leaping hare.

Gargoyle at Chatsworth

And I have never met a gargoyle I didn’t like!

Greyhound sculpture at Chatsworth

I was amused by these realistic greyhounds. One seemed a bit dubious about the plant, while a bug, or maybe a strange smell, had caught the attention of the other two.

Dog sculpture peeing at Chatsworth House

And how much more real does it get than this? (grin)

Lion at Chatsworth

This lion seemed hyper alert. Was there a tourist on the menu? Is that drool coming out of its mouth?

Peggy and horse at Chatsworth

And this horse seemed a bit wild-eyed about Peggy snuggling up to it. Also, check out those laid back ears!

Metal sculpture at Chatsworth

Graceful nudes were cavorting in the garden.

Flower garden at Chatsworth

The flowers went on and on…

Gardens at Chatsworth

…and each turn in the path brought on a new view. The flat section stretching across the middle is a maze. “Hold your right hand on the wall and never lift it,” Peggy advised.

Tree at Chatsworth

Woven forms at Chatsworth

These unusual forms were woven from natural vines. Jane and Peggy provide perspective.

Peggy Mekemson and Jane Hagedorn at Chatsworth

I’ll conclude with Jane and Peggy relaxing on chairs made out of JFK coins. Be sure to join us on next Tuesday and Wednesday’s photographic essay as Jim and I pilot a 60 foot long, 8 foot wide narrow boat along picturesque English canals while Peggy and Jane operate the locks!


SATURDAY’S POST: A review of our 2017 travels… Happy New Year!

TUESDAY AND WEDNESDAY’S POSTS: A narrowboat tour in England: A photographic essay

FRIDAY’S POST: Back to blogging my book. I hire the family animals to protect me from ghosts.






They Had a Conference on Bigfoot and I Missed It… Darn!

Peggy Mekemson holds hands with large Sasquatch

Peggy holds hands with a very big Bigfoot/Sasquatch in Ocean City, Washington. BTW… Is that an SST being followed by a flying saucer up in the sky? (I think the SST was honking.)


You don’t have to know much about me to know that I am a Bigfoot/Sasquatch fan. How could I not be, having the world’s only Bigfoot trap about three miles away from where Peggy and I live? People seriously thought they might catch the big fellow, or his wife, or the kids back in the 70s. They even hired an old miner to keep an eye on the trap, outfitting him with a tranquilizer gun and a very large set of handcuffs. The fact that they never caught him may be a comment on his existence— or the fact that he was a lot smarter than the people trying to catch him. Or maybe Bigfoot is a vegetarian and wanted nothing to do with the large hunk of well-aged beef they baited the trap with— unlike the bear they did catch.

The world’s only Bigfoot trap is located about three miles from where we live. The doors have long since been welded shut and local high school students have added graffiti.

When Peggy and I traveled up to the central Washington coast a few weeks ago, you can imagine my consternation when I discovered that I had just missed a conference on Sasquatch. I’ve attended lectures before, our Genealogical Society hosted one, but never a whole conference. The Washington event even included a bona fide scientist or two. Posters, signs, and a billboard announced the ‘Sasquatch Summit.’ It would have made a fun post.

Sasquatch Summit Billboard

A billboard…

Bigfoot crossing sign

One road sign announces the conference while another warns drivers to watch out for Bigfoot crossing the road.

Sasquatch Conference poster

A poster provides details.

My dismay was countered somewhat by the fact that Bigfoot was a commercial success in the area. It seemed like everyone in the communities of Ocean Shores, Ocean City and Copalis wanted in on the action. Motels, resorts and a pub used him to advertise. The area, like many along the coast from California to Washington, is also into wood carving as an occupation. For a few hundred bucks, we could have had our own Sasquatch to bring home.

Large sasquatch 1

A close up of Peggy’s friend.

Surfing Sasquatch flashes hang loose symbol

A local motel featured Bigfoot and his buddy Bigfoot running with a surfboard while flashing the ‘hang loose’ sign.

Bigfoot surfing

Buddy Bigfoot.

Sasquatch hangs out with carved heron

The Ocean City Market, which focuses on wood carving, featured Peggy’s Bigfoot as a marketing tool and had this smaller one for sale.

Fu Manchu Sasquatch

We also found this fellow sporting a Fu Manchu mustache.

This guy up the road looked a bit more primitive.

I was looking into a puddle when I caught this reflection of Bigfoot staring back at me.

Sasquatch at Green Lantern Pub in Copalis, Wa

The Sasquatch at the Green Lantern Pub was outfitted with a clam digging shovel and a green lantern.

Green Lantern Pub BLT in Corpalis, WA

The pub featured this Bigfoot sized BLT…

BLT at Green Lantern Pub, Copalis

…that I had to sample. I don’t think eating another one is included in my New Year’s resolutions for 2018!

Women's restroom at Green lantern Pub, Copalis

And the women’s restroom at the pub featured this guy, who apparently wasn’t known for his big feet. Peggy, who is infinitely curious, just had to raise the fig leaf, not knowing that a buzzer was going to go off in the pub when she did! So, assuming you didn’t know about the buzzer, how many of you are as curious as Peggy?


THURSDAY’S POST: The flowers of England’s Chatsworth House.

SATURDAY’S POST: 2017 in Review

TUESDAY’S POST: Wandering around the central coast of Washington

Santorini: A Mediterranean Jewel— Part 2… The Wednesday Photograph Series

Blue topped church and other buildings in Santorini P

For its size, Santorini has numerous churches and chapels. Many of the smaller ones were built and dedicated by families of fisherman in thanks for their loved ones return from sea. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

Today marks my second photographic essay on the beautiful Greek Island of Santorini.

Living on Santorini can be a bit hazardous to your health. It is a volcanic area prone to earthquakes and has suffered from several volcanic eruptions over time. As I mentioned in my last post, Santorini is part of an archipelago that surrounds a caldera. Calderas are created when the magna chamber under a volcano is emptied out and the volcano comes crashing down into itself. Crater Lake in Oregon is another example.

A massive volcanic explosion 3600 years ago may have been responsible for destroying the Minoan civilization on Crete. It may also have been tied to the legend of Atlantis.

Santorini photo of Greek Orthodox Church by Curtis Mekemson.

I found some leaves to frame this blue-topped Greek Orthodox Church.

Church bells against dark sky in Santorini

Peggy captured this bell tower outlined by a dark sky. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

Santorini windmill

A Santorini windmill.

Blue door on Santorini

Blue doors are common on the island.

The blue doors of Santorini

Very common! (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

Walkway in Santorini

In addition to enjoying the beauty of the buildings and the Aegean Sea on Santorini, we wandered around the town of Oia. During the summer, this walkway would have been packed with people. As usual, I was on the lookout for unusual things that might tweak my funny bone or curiosity.

Santorini restaurant

Such as this sign. Mosts tourists aren’t particularly noted for patience. Was this to forewarn them that their food would arrive when it arrived! Or that snails were on the menu? Or that the food was cooked slowly? (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

Octupus doorway on Santorini

This octopus wrapped itself around a doorway.

Sphinx on Santorini

An orangish, golden sphinx hung out on a porch.

Santorini lion

And a white-washed lion looked down on us.

Climbing a ladder in Santorini

This fellow was obviously eager to climb to the top. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

Tourist dishes on Santorini

As one would expect, there were the usual souvenirs, all with a Santorini twist.

Pottery on Santorini

I liked this vase.

Bright green plants on Santorini

And this succulent plant.

Gateway in Santorini P

A number of interesting gates beckoned.

Santorini dog

Cats and dogs wandered freely around Oia. I was curious about how many of these animals had homes. My blogging friends from Animal Couriers often transport these animals for free to loving homes throughout Europe. This guy was so well groomed I suspect he had a home, but he would have been welcomed in ours.

Final view of Santorini

A final look at Santorini.


FRIDAY’S POST: Happy holidays

TUESDAY’S POST: The folks around Copalis really like Sasquatch

THURSDAY’S POST: Photos from the gardens of Chatsworth