Utah 2023: Day 9

On the road to Canyonlands National Park, our final destination.

The usual diary of our planet’s checkered past…

The La Sal Mountains being a bit ominous.

The drive into the park only hinted at the nature of the place.

Across the street from the visitors center, large expanses of bare rock…

huge tracts of land. Note the humans for scale.

And then you’re at the rim.


You will have noticed the segment of road on the right. Most of the park is inaccessible to mortals without 4-wheel drive or who are not dedicated hikers. In fact, several of the regions aren’t even accessible from the main entrance. You have to go all the way back to Moab and start over in a different direction to reach the southern regions. Welcome to Canyonlands.

Driving out to the first viewpoint. You’re on a plateau, and it all looks normal.

On the path out to the viewpoint. Aren’t these lovely?

A close-up. I have no idea what they are, but if I lived out here they’d be in my front yard.

And there it is.


We have our very own Half Dome here. And see that big boulder in the lower left? Remember: It was not always there.


On the way to the next viewpoint. The cloudage was doing its thing, this time with downpours in the distance.

Just when you think you’ve seen all the erosion…


This here is what we call a “vista.”

You could clamber down some stairs and stroll along the rim for a bit. I opted not to…

… but my Lovely First Wife took the chance.

I think the thing that amazes me about this landscape is that it’s like recursive canyons. You’re standing at the rim of a 1,000-foot drop, looking down at another rim of another canyon.

This park was created in the 1960s. Part of the Johnson administration was thinking about damming the Colorado here, but wiser minds claimed it as a national park. (You can see bits of the Colorado, but these photos aren’t that detailed.)

I try to remember to look close by as well. The infinite forms erosion gives us is mindbending.

Piñon, I think?

Another conifer, not a bristlecone, but isn’t it lovely?

Finally, we hit the road to St. George, a five-hour drive. Cloudage was magnificent…

… or weird…

… or adorable.

We dined at the Spotted Pony, which is located in this really cool complex of shops and restaurants. Newnan City Council, this is what the Brown Steel property should be. I know you want a convention center, but how about something that we citizens can use on a regular basis?

In that same complex was Spiritual, a craft cocktail bar recommended to me by Goat, a dear burner friend. And when I say “craft,” I mean craft cocktails. It was late, so I had only one (a cedar-smoked Old-Fashioned). Pity.


Utah 2023: Day 8

I took nearly 100 photos in Arches National Park.  I shall not post all of them.

Also, I’m almost out of words.

Arches is such a popular destination that they now impose timed entries. Our entry time was 1:00, so we were going to be traipsing about during the hottest part of the day.

Everything has names. This is the Courthouse. No, I don’t know either.

The Three Gossips.

Park Avenue. We named one formation the Donald J. Trump Hand of Destiny. See if you can find it.

A pretty little yellow thistle.

La Sal Mountains + cloudage.

A particularly egregious hoodoo.

This is Balancing Rock. It’s not really balanced, of course; it’s all one piece, although eventually the limestone layer beneath the top will erode and it will collapse (as did its MiniMe a couple of decades ago).


An arch in formation. There are thousands of arches in this park, ranging from little “windows” to the most famous, Delicate Arch. Hold that thought.

I liked the way this piñon trunk became a barrier for the dirt.

The South Window arch. No one else seemed to be concerned that this massive arch of stone seemed to be resting on a layer of crumbling rock.

The view on the other side of the South Window.


As we started walking around to the North Window, I happened to notice this bit just kind of wedged up there in the South Window.

The walk around to the North Window, with cloudage. The cloudage was particularly ebullient today.

North Window.

The Turret Arch, which is right there with the South and North Windows.


Cloudage, dumping rain on the La Sal Mountains.

This one is hard to make sense of, but it’s the view of the descent from Turret Arch, with the South Window across the way. That’s my shadow at the bottom of the photo, and the shadow of the arch midway. It’s harder going down than up.

The cloudage just keep getting bigger and bigger.

Meanwhile, on the other horizon…

I have to correct an erroneous guess I made yesterday in the Valley of the Goblins. I had posited that the greenish surface on one outcropping was a copper deposit, but that is incorrect. It is actually a layer of volcanic ash that was laid down on a salt bed hundreds of millions of years ago. Chemical reactions turned it greenish.

And finally, the approach to Delicate Arch! The most iconic image of Arches National Park, indeed, of Utah itself.

We had some choices. If we turned into the first parking area, it was about an hour’s walk up to the arch itself. If we went to the second parking area, there was a thirty minute walk up to a viewing area some distance from the arch. And there was a second path from the parking area, a mere five minute walk to a viewing area.

Since it was the end of a very long, very hot day, we opted for the five minute walk.

Are you ready?

Prepare yourself.

It’s iconic.








We collapsed in helpless giggles. Here we were at one of the most famous locations in the U.S., and there was no way we were going to get any closer to it. Marc referenced Spinal Tap‘s Stonehenge screwup, and it was even funnier.

So here, have a closer look at Delicate Arch.

This inspired a couple more Bad National Park Reviews:

  • “They need to build a road up to that Delicate Arch.” — me
  • “You should move Delicate Arch closer to the entrance so that we can see it first.”  — my Lovely First Wife

Moving on.

I am — as you have already surmised — fascinated by the cloudage, especially when it is as magnificent as it was today.

Believe it or not, there was more to see (available by car). Here is the Fiery Furnace.

Somebody lives here.

At that point we called a halt, opting to return to Moab, shower, and head for dinner at the Sunset Grill, which is atop a mountain there in Moab. Here’s the view of the sunset while we waiting for our table.

We sat outside on a spacious veranda overlooking Moab. The meal was delicious, especially the desserts. The waitstaff was garrulous and charming. And as we were finishing up, a moth fluttered into our space and landed on Mary Frances. Before she could react by brushing it away, we all cried out for her to freeze!

When she saw what it looked like, she was delighted to have such a gorgeous piece of living jewelry.

It stayed on her until we were ready to leave. We coaxed it off her onto the table, and it finally flittered off.

A quick search when we got back to the motel revealed that it was a sagebrush sheep moth.

Here’s the view of Moab from our dining area.

It’s not as big as it looks, though certainly larger than Torrey. For one thing, Moab has two grocery stores! Torrey has to drive 90 minutes to their closest grocery store.



Did you guess right?

Utah 2023: Day 7

Cloudage in the morning at the Rim Rock Inn, Torrey, UT.

Bad cloudage in the morning. The rain skirted us most of the day.

We had to drive through the Capitol Reef area, so we stopped at a pullover we hadn’t stopped at yesterday. As one does.

Soon the landscape changed again.

It’s awe-inspiring to remember that each of these layers represents eons of time and erosion on our planet, with each one showing drastic changes in the atmosphere.

A video.

You might think all this barren landscape would get boring, but somehow it never quite does.

Mount Boulder, we think. It is so far the only actual mountain we’ve seen.

Earth was going through some things, apparently.

We stopped in Hanksville for refreshment, and the young man checking us out was also the artist whose works were on display.

Yes, those are Lichtenberg figures, and yes, they are named after our very own Georg Christoph Lichtenberg. The young man was delighted to learn that the term had antecedents.

More magnificent cloudage.

This was supposed to be a simple travel day, from Torrey to Moab, but Ann at Etta Place recommended that we go off course to see Valley of Goblins State Park. So yay for bonus trips. Hang on.

On the road into the park, there were others.

That’s a small group of pronghorn antelopes. I had gotten out of the car to take this photo and was in the process of shooting a panoramic video (not included here), when everybody suddenly started urging me to get in the car. I turned to see…

The buck expressed his displeasure at my presence, snuffing and snorting while I stood between him and his lady friends. I retreated, sensibly, and videoed him from the safety of the back seat.

So, Valley of the Goblins. Let me say that if you’ve never thought of geological erosion as silly, then allow me to bring you some silliness.

One of the appeals of the place is, as Ann put it, “human-scaled hoodoos.” She was not wrong.

But these isolated examples cannot prepare you for the full story.

Those who are susceptible to pareidolia may now wallow in it.

This one looked unhappy for some reason.

Oh, look, a pass, I said to myself.

…so I approached, thinking to walk on through. But it wasn’t a pass.


…a whole other field of goblins.

Write your own jokes, people.

I don’t know about you, but this whole place just made me giggle.

How big are these things?

Let’s go walkabout.


At first glance, the goblins seem to be dissolving in front of our eyes, but close inspection shows they are just covered in mud from one flood or another.

A cozy nook.

A tiny lizard, about 4″ long, resting his chin on a tiny rock.

There was this huge outcropping that looked green. It was too far away to walk to (for us), but some hikers who had been that far confirmed that it was greenish. I am conjecturing that it’s a efflorescence of copper, somehow.

We named this one the Holy Family.

This was a fun grouping.

Have a video for scale.

We found someone’s home. See the little holes? No clue as to who might live there.

Remember: As macro, so micro. This little gully? It is no different than the forces that formed these canyons. This is how it started.

We clambered down the dirt path to get into the valley…

…not knowing there were actually stairs. We returned that way, needless to say. As we began to climb, I noticed a sign that said Valley 1. There are two more valleys of these things, but you have to hike to get there.

Outside the park is a canyon wall with pictographs. (Petroglyphs, like at Valley of Fire, are carved into the desert–varnish–coated rock; pictographs are painted onto rock walls using ground up rocks as pigment.) Most pictographs that we still can see are under overhangs, i.e., protected from the elements.

The site is barely two miles from the Valley of the Goblins, but the geology is completely different: rock, erosion, everything.

Here’s the site of the pictographs.

The pictographs. Notice how the rock wall continues to flake off; that whole wall was covered with pictures. The tall guy in the middle of the group holding a snake — what’s left of him is six feet tall. The full figure would probably have been eight feet. It is worth mentioning that every piece of rock art we’ve seen has been in an inaccessible spot. None of the documentation at the sites even mentioned that fact, nor how the original peoples would have gotten up there. But it seems to me that this alone indicates that these figures were not idle doodles — the creation of these images was serious business to the people who made them.


Back on the road to Moab, with the everchanging landscape.

We stopped for lunch at the Tamarisk restaurant in Green River, and then headed down to Moab, where we checked into the Apache Motel. It is a delight. Click on that link to read all about its history, which includes John Wayne.

We strolled the four blocks to downtown Moab — Moab actually has a downtown, full of shops and restaurants — and ate at Spitfire Smokehouse, a great barbecue place. There was a huge line to get in, but then we learned that if you wanted cocktails with your meal, you had to go around to the rear of the establishment where little children can not see alcohol in use. Indeed, there was a full bar in back, totally uncrowded, and we ate there. With cocktails.

Utah, man.


Utah 2023: Day 6

Dawn at the Rim Rock Inn, Torrey, UT.

We went to the local trading post/cafe/souvenir shop for things, and this was parked outside. ::sigh::  Bless their hearts.

This is the Torrey Log Church and Schoolhouse. I will now copy the historic plaque for you:

The Torrey Log Church/Schoolhouse, completed in 1898, is locally significant as the first church building and the first school building in the pioneer community of Torrey, settled in the 1890s. After a new multi-use building with classrooms was built in 1917 and a new meetinghouse was constructed in 1928, the Torrey Log Church/Schoolhouse continued to be used for various religious and social functions until the 1970s.

The building is architecturally significant as one of approximately one dozen remaining Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints meetinghouses built within the initial settlement phase. It is the only known example of a log meetinghouse still standing in the state. The building is made of sawn logs joined at the corners with carefully executed half-dovetailed notching. The building was relocated approximately 100 yards to the west to make room for the expansion of the neighboring 1928 sandstone meetinghouse. The Daughters of the Utah Pioneers have restored the building and are using it as a place to hold local meetings, continuing its traditional use for religious and social functions.

The aforementioned half-dovetailed notching. Pretty impressive.

So, Capitol Reef.

No, I hadn’t heard of it either, and the young ranger at the visitors center made light of their relative invisibility vis-a-vis Zion and Arches.

Before you even enter the park…

This is not a good photo, but I’ve always loved this grass, with its little flags of seeds.

Since it rained yesterday, several of the roads and hiking trails were closed due to the threat of flash floods. (This did not stop people from walking down closed roads — I mean, it’s clearly not raining, right? Wrong. (If you didn’t click that link yesterday, click it now. And don’t be stupid.))

It’s bizarre how different each park is. Capitol Reef is mostly sheer cliffs rising above a settlement called Fruita; the settlers grew apples, pears, etc., and those plants are still there. For a fee, you can pick your own.

There is still a settler’s home there, the Gifford House. Much renovated over the years, of course, it’s now a gift shop/museum and snack bar, while still maintaining the feel of the home it used to be.

We’re going to do a lot of geology today. Since you’re at the bottom of the canyon this time, it’s easy to see the geological layers. I’m not going to try to teach you what they are; I have barely started learning myself. But you will recall from your science classes that all these layers of sedimentary rock are exactly that: sediment from oceans long gone, as the earth formed and reformed itself over the years.

Now all those ground up rocks are themselves being ground up by wind and water.

There are important facts to remember that make your mind go sproing and you go back to marveling at it all. In this next photo, for example, remember that these cliffs were part of one continent-sized plain. As tectonic forces raised that plain up, wind and water did their thing, and after millions of years of erosion…


All these big boulders down here? They used to be up there. Each bit of debris you see was an event. As hard as it is to realize that this is not the way it always was, it’s true.

Not only that, but every force that created this landscape is still in operation. Boulders still fall. Water still freezes in cracks and splits rock.

Wind still scours holes in solid rock.

Cute plant. Not a fern, but similar.

Remember, this fell from the cliff once upon a time, and relatively recently, given the sharp edges.

This one was amazing.

A closer look.

A rock split by ice. All those forces operating on a macro scale on the cliffs are operating on each and every rock.

See the little holes?

Look at this beauty.

Now look at a close-up of it. If I hadn’t told you it was a close-up of a boulder along the path, would you not think it was a photo of an overhang on one of the cliffs?

Pop quiz: Is this from a small eroded boulder next to the path, or is it a close-up of a cliff wall?

(Answer: It’s the same boulder as above.)

Fantastical is a word we don’t get to use very often.


This was on a face next to the path. You can see the the diagonal layers on the bottom, pushed up by tectonics from its original position, eroded flat, and a whole new generation of sediment laid down horizontally on top and then compressed into rock. Millions upon millions upon millions of years.

It’s worth mentioning, of course, that all the forces that created these spectacular landscapes here in Utah did the same thing — and are doing the same thing — where you live.

We met a friend.

It’s about as big around as my finger, and about two feet long. It ignored us.

Most of these geology-focused photos are from our walk along the Great Wash. Here’s the point where we decided to turn back. Notice the humans for scale.

The streaks are from rain, with microbes and other beasties using that moisture to begin forming desert varnish.

Look at what the water in the occasional flash floods has done to this rock face.

Water finds cracks; water freezes; rock splits.

This was not always there.

Wind and water on a macro scale. If this is a reef and not a plateau, then that amphitheatre will will eventually become an arch.

Those who are susceptible to pareidolia are certain to find a lot to make them wriggle with delight.

See that light-colored boulder on the left? See where it came from? It was an event.

So far, this area has the clearest delineation of the millions of years of layers from the different climates depositing silt into the ocean.

Like an iron oxide torte. (Iron is what gives the rock its red color; the gray sandstone was from an era where there was no oxygenation in the sea.)

Another feature of Capitol Reef is the petroglyphs. They are high up a cliff face and are stunning. (See the chunk missing from the cliff on the lower left? That used to be part of the wall and had more petroglyphs on it, but it collapsed very recently, as in the past few decades. (I can’t remember the year and can’t find it online.)

The forces that formed this landscape are still in operation.


A 360° panorama of Capitol Reef.

After the park, we returned to explore tiny little Torrey. A stop at the main gift shop was productive. I’ll do my usual swag post when we get home, but you should know that we purchased “I survived Hwy 12” t-shirts.

We also discovered the Robbers Roost Distillery (!) and Etta Place Cider. The Distillery is open only Thu–Sat, so they missed out on a large sale, but Etta Place was open.

We went in and had a tasting with the very entertaining owner, Ann, who was able to elucidate some of Utah’s weird-ass liquor laws. We condoled with her, explaining that Coweta County had just repealed Prohibition last year.

For dinner, we chose the Hunt & Gather restaurant, a “slow food” restaurant which — once again — confounded our expectations about what a town of less than 300 people can pull off. Amazing food, and of course they offered ciders and spirits from Etta Place and Robbers Roost.



Utah 2023: Day 5

Before we get started, a few amusing bits.

Early in the trip, the girls joked about starting a company to sell “organic firewood.” This was in response to all the deadwood lying around our national parks and forests. Much merriment was had. Then, after I enjoyed the desert sage which is abundant hereabouts, I contributed “sage-infused organic firewood.” The sage is — it goes without saying — “ethically harvested.” We’re now casting about for a brand name.

Second amusing bit: In the first AirBnB we stayed at in Toquerville, the young man who owns it has decorated it with those fun “bad national park review posters” which — if you haven’t seen them — are truly a hoot. After only four days on the road, I have challenged my fellow travelers to come up with our own.

  • Me, in Bryce Canyon, in the alpine forest: “These are the crummiest Christmas trees I have ever seen.”
  • The Lovely First Wife, also in Bryce Canyon: “Have y’all considered putting up a Holiday Lights drive-through exhibit like they do at Calloway Gardens in Georgia?”

Leave your own in the comments!

Okay, boys and girls, here we go: Bryce Canyon National Park.

We have found, and most park documentation backs us up on this, that the best way to deal with these huge parks which are linear, i.e., one road from entrance to an end, is to drive to the end and stop at the overlooks on the way back. For the most part, this is because the overlooks are on the left going out and on the right coming back.

Of course, if there are stops on the right going out, then by all means stop. Here we are at an overlook in the middle of some 4,000 acres burned in a wildfire several years ago. It’s striking.

Full confession: When I took the above video in landscape mode, I thought I saw that the phone was framing it in portrait mode anyway, so I did the rest of them in portrait. I won’t make that mistake going forward.

You might think, if you’re that kind of person, that you might get bored looking at endless vistas of erosion, but you’d be that kind of person, wouldn’t you? It is absolutely amazing that each and every park — even though it’s the same geological layers and the same erosion — is strikingly different. Bryce Canyon tends to the “You want hoodoos? I got yer hoodoos” style of erosion.

For example.

Some close-ups.

And then there are canyons where the forests have begun to take over. And yes, we were being chased by thunderstorms.


This was a beautiful view — notice the white spot down there?

A closeup. It’s shots like this that make me wish I had an actual digital camera with which I could really good zoom shots.

Generally the Park Service is very good with their informational plaques at each stop, but somehow no one thought to include a note telling us the name of the white outcropping. Since this was at Ponderosa Point, some of our party decided that this must be called The Ponderosa. I suggested that the overlook might be named after the ponderosa pine that clusters all around, and that we could stop at the visitors center on the way out and ask what that white castle looking thing was called, to which the ranger would in all probability say, “We call that the White Castle.”

More flora. Where’s a ranger when you need them to identify plants?

A hoodoo. Yes, the word is as funny as you’re thinking. Yes, the hoodoos themselves are as amusing as you’re thinking.

This fine fellow was greeting all the visitors at one of the overlooks. He literally strutted around the area, regarding each of us with a critical eye and showing absolutely no fear, posing willingly for the humans. He was joined by a friend/mate; both seemed unconcerned that we were near them.

The arch at one of the overlooks. Remember back at the Valley of Fire, the explanation for the circular “caves” in the rock? This is what happens when that bowl-shaped erosion breaks through a wall, and then the gully deepens it.

The eroded rock takes on an infinitude of shapes.


Remember that these vistas are all along the same road, looking in the same direction.

This is the bark of the ponderosa pine. It is not merely strikingly beautiful, it’s evolutionarily functional: The thickness of the bark protects the pine from the inevitable wildfires sparked by lightning.

And here’s a ponderosa standing grandly before us.

One of the other pines in the area is the bristlecone, the kind that can live for over a thousand years. Why are they called bristlecones?

Here’s a dried one.

And here’s a bunch of them on the ground.

You may have noticed in the photo above that I appear to be wearing gloves. You bet your sweet bippy I’m wearing gloves when it’s 50-something°, which it was, plus windchill factor — plus multiple layers and a coat.

The rain was getting closer.


You could see it coming.

More hoodoos.

A particularly fine specimen if you know what I mean and I think you do.

All this time we’re working our way back towards the entrance of the park, stopping at each overlook, while the rain got closer and closer.

Here, the bit on the right is more technically a reef rather than a hoodoo

It’s hard to tell in this photo, but those little white curly bits are fluffy seedpods.

That is not a road you see in this canyon; it is a wash, i.e., a dry riverbed waiting for some foolhardy hiker to be in it while it rains upstream and releases a flash flood on them.

These little flowers have done their thing and left only dried sepals behind.

“Vertiginous” is a word we don’t get to use often enough.

I was really grooving on the different, complex ways the landscape erodes.

At this point, I urged my fellow travelers to skip the next overlook and go straight to Sunset Point, where “Thor’s Hammer” is one of the main hoodoo attractions.

Here’s a panorama of that area. It was beginning to spit rain. Notice the really stupid tourists beginning to hike down into the canyon as it begins to rain.

More panorama of Sunset Point. You will notice the wind.

We made it back to the car just in time for it to start to rain really hard. Pity about the hikers, though. As the signs say all around the park: Your safety is your responsibility.

We hit the road for Torrey, our next lodging. It was not a straight shot in any sense of the word. We kept stopping for new landscapes.

Here’s the panorama, complete with rain.

My Lovely First Wife decided that we would stop at the Escalante Grand Staircase National Monument visitor center so she could get a stamp for her passport. I got socks.

They have an honest-to-goodness dinosaur skull there.

As well as a western collared lizard.

The ranger there told us that in Escalante there was only one place to eat, but she was mistaken. There was Circle D. We pulled in.

Remember Showdowns yesterday? Circle D was the same kind of delightful surprise. Here’s the brisket sandwich with bacon, onion straws, and amber ale BBQ sauce.

It’s insane how good the food is in the middle of nowhere here.

The park ranger had also told us to continue on Hwy 12 and gave us instructions for getting off on something called Satan’s Backbone. Thank goodness we missed the turn. Hold that thought.

Look at this cut-through on the side of the highway. I got this shot because we had pulled into an overlook…

…for this view.

See that ribbon of a highway with the tiny little cars on it? That’s where we were headed. Looks fun, doesn’t it? Hold that thought.

This is where I really wanted a quality zoom on a quality camera. The sheer volume of interesting shapes and patterns cannot be captured without one.

Not that I didn’t try.

Remember how fun Hwy 12 was going to be?

But wait — there’s more. Waaaaayyyyy more.

Even worse (sound up)

Still shots for those who were too nervous to ride along.

At the first overlook, we pulled over. Have we been telling people we’ve met who were traveling in the opposite direction to take Hwy 12? Yes, yes we have.

The area was posted as “open grazing,” and there were cows.

Some lovely grasses…

…but mostly cows. Our count was three deer and one cow who just blithely trotted out into the road and stood to look at us.

We drove on to Torrey, checked into the Rim Rock Inn, and went to sleep.


Utah 2023: Day 4

Another insanely beautiful day — I am running out of superlatives.

Dawn at our AirBnB.

A friend came out to say goodbye.

(He was joined right after this photo by a larger friend, whom he promptly chased off.)

And off we went.

Our goal was Bryce Canyon, but here’s the thing about traveling like this: When you’re not being herded from one cathedral to the the next ruin, you can make decisions on the fly, and it was decided we’d stop at Kolob Canyon.

Kolob got its name from the planet closest to the planet God lives on, according to the Mormons who settled Utah. And here I was thinking it must be a Paiute word.

It’s not a long drive-through, but it is beautiful.

One curve in particular made us all gasp.

The thing is that even though the geology is the main attraction, the rest of your surroundings are equally beautiful. I found myself almost subscribing to PlantSnap just so I could name the flora I came across.

And this cloud will earn me praise in the Cloud Appreciation Society on Facebook.

The park ranger at Kolob, upon learning we were headed to Bryce Canyon, advised us to take the “back road” through Cedar Breaks National Monument rather than the quicker — but boring — interstate. He was not wrong.

Utah has thoughtfully provided pull-offs for you to stop and marvel.

Here too were beautiful plants.

At least I knew these were thistles.

Asters of some sort?

No clue. But the vista was impressive.

There is little-to-no cell reception in these places, which was not unexpected. However, I had never seen — instead of bars — an SOS mode. I didn’t try it, of course, but that was a new one on me.

Marc and I had a discussion as to whether the white-barked trees were aspens or birches. A quick search told us that aspens have oval leaves with a tapering point, while birches had heart-shaped leaves. Our specimens were inconclusive, so I went with the fun fact that aspens grow all over the continent, while birches are limited to the eastern and northern parts.

We arrived at Cedar Breaks, and it is worth the trip. Here I need to say that if you don’t have a National Parks pass, get one, especially if you’re a senior citizen. You just breeze through any gates, and the pass will pay for itself in a very short time.

My Lovely First Wife has been collecting these little badges that you put on your walking stick. I don’t have a walking stick, so I decided I’d start collecting national park socks. So far I have three pairs. Whee!

We drove through, stopping at each overlook.

Sunset Point.

More plants.

I did learn from a ranger who showed up that this is elderberry.

And this of course is yarrow.

On the other side of the road from Sunset Point is a mountain meadow, and there were sheep being herded. (The government leases land for grazing.)

Next stop was Chessmen Point

Where are the chessmen? I think these were them.

A white thistle.

The views continued to be satisfying.

We then made our way to Bryce Canyon National Park, which is celebrating its 100th birthday. (We were at Grand Canyon for its 100th in 2019.)

In keeping with our “no tour guides” mentality, we decided we would go ahead to the night’s lodging, the Bryce Pioneer Village, then return to drive through the park at night.

Hold that thought.

The view from the parking lot.

My Lovely First Wife had expressed concerns about the Pioneer Village; she didn’t know from the booking info how adequate it might be. Hold that thought.

We checked in, went to our room, and were greeted by this handsome fellow, who obligingly allowed himself to be rescued and released.

Here’s the sun setting.

And here’s the storm in the east catching the setting sun’s rays.

Okay, remember that thought you were holding about my Lovely First Wife’s qualms about Bryce Pioneer Village? It has a restaurant called Showdowns, which both billboards and LED sign proudly proclaimed had “live country music.” The building was a very barnlike structure. Got that in your head?

You’re wrong. I had the mushroom and brie bisque for supper; Marc had the rainbow trout with veggies. The cocktails were prime. The musician sang soft pop songs from the 60s–90s. It was divine.

And remember that other thought you were holding, in which we were going to go drive the park at night? Pfft. We decided very early in the evening just to enjoy our beers and cocktails, eat a leisurely dinner, then go sit by the fire pit and just chill.



Utah 2023: Day 3

Zion National Park. OMG. You can thank me for not posting three hundred photos of this place. (Any botanical gin will do.)

The landscape en route was majestic, of course.

You will notice that Utah is a bit greener than northern Nevada.

The park itself is breathtaking. Technically it’s the Virgin River gorge, and thus fairly linear in its layout.

Pro tip: Zion is hugely popular and parking is at a premium. Get there very early, or prepare to park in Springdale and take the free shuttle in. We drove through the park, found nothing, turned back, and then zipped into the first paid parking lot outside the park. $40 to park, but worth it: we could walk across the highway into the park.

Inside the park, a shuttle will take you from the visitor center to eight other stops in the park. They arrive every five minutes, so feel free to hop off, explore a bit, then hop back on. We chose to do our hopping off on the way into the park, i.e., when it was a little cooler than the afternoon.

The first stop is at the Court of the Patriarchs, so called because one of the first settlers, Mormon of course, named the peaks after Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. (There is a fourth peak named after the Angel Moroni.)

I have decided that panoramic photos are too small to be impressive on the blog, so I’ve started taking panoramic videos instead.

You may recognize this plant from its portrait by Georgia O’Keeffe.

It is Sacred Datura. Its seeds will send you places and are used by shamans for that purpose. It littered the landscape.

One of the stops is called Angel’s Landing, so named because visitors long ago decided that it was so tall that only angels could land there. Is there a hiking trail up there? Of course. We had no intention of attempting that madness in the first place, but when we saw this poster of the trek, we all uttered a solid Roy Kent No.

There was a footbridge across the river there, so here are our first glimpses of the Virgin River.

The last stop is the beginning of the river walk, a mostly paved path that leads all the way back to The Narrows, where the geology is such that the river has not had the time yet to wear away the walls of the cliffs.

There were multiple places to get off the path and explore along the banks. We were all struck by this cliff with centuries of desert varnish.

The vista was constantly amazing.

But Dale, I hear you whining, how can this tiny little stream have gouged out this incredible landscape? Flash floods. At Grand Canyon, they warn you about the ground squirrels being the biggest threat to human life; at Zion, it’s flash floods. They even announced on the shuttle that today the risk of flash floods were nil.

There is of course wildlife. Here is a doe…

…and her fawn.

The doe created some concern as she approached the trail. She didn’t seem to be aggressive, but she stood her ground while hikers began to gather. One sensible gentleman loudly warned people to leave her alone; she wasn’t looking for a scritch. We couldn’t decide if she was preparing to protect her baby or was scoping out the snack situation. (DO NOT FEED THE ANIMALS!)

The trail is long and gorgeous.

The deeper we went, the greener it got. Here is a beautiful grotto and pool about two-thirds of the way in.

At the start of the park, the vegetation is all desert: sage, cacti, etc. Deeper in, you get sedge, moss, ferns.

Behold, the mighty ground squirrel, lord of all he surveys.

At this point, these rodents became ubiquitous, and by the time we reached the end of the trail — where all the humans were forced to congregate and take a break before heading back — they were bold as brass, shambling about under your feet and coming up to you to sniff for snacks. Very longtime readers of this blog will recall when one tried to eat my Lovely First Wife at the Canyon.

The gorge becomes narrower and narrower.

Finally you reach the end of the paved trail. The real hikers could put on their wetshoes and continue up the river for further delights.

We of course turned around and headed back.

One question that will occur to you as you gaze up at the incredible escarpments is “How do trees grow up there on the bare rock?”

Never bet against nature.

On the way back we stopped at the park Lodge, which is booked up to a year in advance. I was amused by this informational sign about native landscapes, positioned as it is next to the perfectly manicured lawn.

We had a great lunch at the grill there, then headed out.

Whenever we travel, I always check the worldwide labyrinth locator to see if there is one within reach that might be interesting. (Tidy replicas of the Chartres labyrinth don’t make the cut.) This time, there was one right outside the park in Springdale, at Flanigan’s Resort & Spa. It overlooked Zion, so heck yes we stopped.

Since it was a steep climb to the hill above the resort at the end of a long, hot day, my companions elected to let me enjoy the experience on my own.

It was hot, but it was satisfying. I would have loved to walk it at night under the stars. (At our AirBnB, the sky is no darker/clearer than it is at home. Air pollution is to blame.)

After a stop at a liquor store and a grocery store, we were ready to head back for a relaxed dinner at home. I boldly suggested that we watch The Marriage of Figaro, which had been broadcast earlier in the day from Ghent. The company was the Opera Ballet Vlaanderen, and it is both charming and gonzo in its staging. I highly recommend it. Some things to be aware of: For some reason, they cast two vaudevillians in the roles of Bartolo and Marcellina, neither of whom had operatic voices (Marcellina in particular), which necessitated dragging in two other company members one way or the other to fill out — for example — the sextet in Act III. This also necessitated cutting the duet between Susanna and Marcellina in Act I, sadly.

Still, it all worked. We enjoyed it thoroughly, although we all agreed the finale was a bit of a letdown, with the cast simply sitting on the ground, paired with their appropriate partner — no particular effusion of joy, no fireworks, very static, and given the mechanical structure of the set, somewhat offputting. But still very much worth the watch!

(It was also fun reminiscing about my Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro, my last show as artistic director of the Newnan Community Theatre Company in 2002. Translation still available.)

(operavision.eu does broadcasts every Friday, and the videos remain available for a month. Check them out.)


Utah 2023: Day 2

After a hearty breakfast at Four Queens, we hit the road to Utah.

First, we owe Avis a bit of an apology. Not a complete apology, mind you, because the scenario at the airport was unforgivable, but because at the Four Queens, Avis has a booth, and our intrepid leader (my Lovely First Wife) went right up to Ranesha and explained that the Equinox was going to mean the total destruction of our marriage and could we trade it for something bigger? And that’s how we got switched into a Ford Edge, which is a measurable amount of more comfortable. Our marriage is saved. For now.

(Ranesha also gave us some really good pro tips, which I will share in the closing Pro Tips post next week. Stay tuned, boys and girls.)

Nevada, for the most part, looks like something very bad happened here.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s beautiful and majestic, but it is sere.

Here’s what it’s like to drive through this.

My Lovely First Wife is the mastermind behind all our travels [vid. sup.], and her birthday trip is no exception. In fact, part of my birthday present to her was to stay quiet while she dove into ALL THE RESEARCH KENNETH, producing an actual spreadsheet of all the places we were going to, could go to, eat at, stay at (and for how long).

The first thing on the list of potential visits was a Nevada state park, Valley of Fire, which was 30 minutes off I-15. Sure, we all said, let’s do it.

Oh my.

It’s Nevada’s oldest and largest state park, and it is stunning.

The red sandstone outcroppings in the middle of all the gray limestone is what gives the park its name: apparently the setting sun lights them up like they’re on fire.

It was brutally hot, of course, and there were notices everywhere that most of the hiking trails were closed, as if we were going to go hiking. But there’s plenty to see via comfortably air-conditioned vehicles, so off we went.

Petroglyphs! I am a sucker for petroglyphs, and there were petroglyphs. Here’s the ladder and platform to view one of the sites:

No, we’re not sure how the artists got up there to scratch through the “desert varnish” to create these images.

You will now have some scrolling to do,.

The “varnish” is a layer of cyanobacteria, lichens, and such, that slowly transform the surface of the rock into a dark layer that can be scratched/chipped off.

Bighorn sheep, other animals geometric patterns, evidence of atlatls, scribbles galore.

That long diagonal line impresses and amuses me: some ancient artist decided it would be a glorious thing to use the corner of the cliff as an element in their art. (I think it’s a lizard?)

Here’s the deal: No one knows why people did this. My personal theory is that it could have been bored kids, but most reasonable anthropologists assume they’re cultural or spiritual markers. But truly, it’s all guessing. In the visitor center I bought a very well written book on rock art, and right off the bat the author says they don’t know the purpose of these things.

But at base level, it’s all about Making The Thing That Is Not, right? Humans do that.

Shades of Antelope Canyon…

On the way back to the car, I came across this ring of debris, obviously left behind some pool of rainwater.

I neglected to get a closeup, but about half of the material was small animal droppings. At the visitor center, there were three adorable baby white-tailed squirrels scrounging around the bird feeder, but the only photo I got was not good enough to show how cute they were.

So here’s one I stole from the intertubes:

Now imagine this in an even cuter baby format. Squee!

One of the most curious things about the rocks in Valley of Fire are the wind-holes.

These are literally little eroded pockmarks that the wind then churns into large, nearly circular holes. Some are practically caves.

The variety of the rock is neverending.

After a stop at the visitor center, we headed on to Utah, cutting through a corner of Arizona to get there, and through the Virgin River Gorge.

This photo does not begin to capture what it’s like to drive through this man-made pass. It was awesome. Here’s a map, not that it will help:

Finally we arrived at our AirBnB in Toquerville, our basecamp for the next two days. This is the view from our back porch.

A quick run to a grocery store for provisions, a satisfying supper, and then sleep. Next: ZION NATIONAL PARK.


Utah 2023: Day 1

And we’re off![1] When my Lovely First Wife turned 60, we flew to San Francisco, rented a car, drove back across the country to New Orleans, and took Amtrak back to Atlanta. It was a very wonderful trip.

Now, ten years later — you do the math — we[2] are going to drive all over Utah to see a great many of the national parks there: Valley of Fire (state park), Zion, Bryce Canyon, Capital Reef, Arches, and Canyonland. I, who do not enjoy driving, have been assured that this will be glorious.

So we got up at 5:30 a.m., flew to Las Vegas, and here’s Day 1.

You get off the plane in Vegas and are reminded immediately what weird place this is.

I will say this for Nevada, they have a commitment to public art that is admirable. I’ll try to get some photos along the interstate of the beautiful statues and murals they have. In the meantime, have this horned toad from the airport.

The shuttle to the car rental reminded us of the Vatican.

Tons of people standing in line… But it moved quickly. In fact, it took less time to get onto the shuttle than it did to stand in line to pick up the rental car. I won’t shame the rental company for their astounding inefficiency, but they were astoundingly inefficient. (Avis — it was Avis.) We ended up with an Equinox, which is what I drive at home, and no, it is not large enough for the four of us and our accoutrements. Stay tuned for that excitement.

Our first stop was the Hoover Dam. We were there ten years ago, but Marc/MF had never been and it’s worth seeing more than once, so off we went. At that point, we grabbed lunch and I would be remiss if I didn’t post a photo of Mary Frances wrangling a 12″ hot dog — technically an entire kielbasa, you make the jokes — into her mouth.

As I said in my post at the time, the Hoover Dam is just amazing in every regard: engineering, history, aesthetic, you name it, and the dam is just incredible.

It was designed to be beautiful, an Art Deco masterpiece.

We took the full dam tour, of course. Here’s the ventilation tunnel that peeks out of the dam. You can look out over the downstream Colorado River and risk losing your phone to the 300 foot drop to stick it out of the louvers and take a photo.

(This is actually looking back into the dam.)

One thing I really like about the Hoover Dam is that 90 years later it’s still in perfect shape, but any little glitches that come up have been resolved exactly like you and I might in our own workplaces: low-level kludges that would have you hanged and quartered at Disney. For example:

This is right there on the floor where us tourists can touch or kick it. They’ve fixed that problem by sticking a motion sensor light and camera onto the wall above it. Perfect.

You will have read about how the water level of Lake Mead is disastrously low.

As our tour guide explained, yes, the water level is low, but it’s not disastrous. The dam was never meant to be full, and all those years that it was were an anomaly. The Bureau of Reclamation (which operates the dam as a self-supporting facility) is satisfied with the current levels. (Of course, the areas that have grown up depending on that water for irrigation and living are going to be brought up short at some point.)

Done with the dam, we drove back to Vegas and checked in to the Four Queens Hotel & Casino. Here’s the view from our room.

We barely had time to freshen up before we hopped an Uber down to the Bellagio, where we had tickets to see Cirque du Soleil’s O. The title is a pun on the French for “water”: Eau, and OMG this show is literally unbelievable.

The stage is a pool of water that is sometimes 30 feet deep for high diving gymnasts, and sometimes a walkable surface. Set pieces emerge from the water, seemingly by magic. Boats and horses fly. Performers appear, sink into the water, and are never seen again. Performers emerge from the water from nowhere. The big red curtain in the photo above? When the show actually starts, those curtains collapse and swirl and billow into a vanishing point upstage in a gasp-inducing swirl of fabric and music.

After it was over, we all had the same thought: We should just turn William Blake’s Inn over to Cirque. Can you imagine what they could do with “Blake Leads a Walk on the Milky Way”?

The Bellagio, like all of Vegas, is a bit over the top. Here’s their “garden” in the lobby.

We were all starving at that point, so we Ubered to Herbs & Rye, a highly respected steakhouse and cocktail bar.

Cocktails, you say? This place has all the greats that you may have encountered from my home bar.

All the greats were there, although of course my favorites were unavailable because of the mysterious worldwide shortage of green Chartreuse.

As it happened, it was Marc’s birthday, so he got a delicious kind of brownie/bread pudding dessert. We all shared.

We headed back to the hotel and were immediately sucked into the Fremont Experience, a dazzling extravaganza that ten years ago was right outside our room.

That ceiling? It is in constant psychedelic motion.

Unbelievable. Live performers, street vendors, and of course the casinos on every side. And remember, this was a Wednesday night. (The Fremont Experience was created to attract attention back to the older north end of the Strip, and it seems to have done the trick.)

At that point, it was after midnight, which meant for us Newnanites it was 3 a.m. EDT, so we retired.

Onward to Utah!


[1] Standard disclaimer: For my readers — all three of you — who are inclined to rob us while we’re away, we have our usual security measures in place.

[2] Our intrepid fellow travelers Marc and Mary Frances are with us.

The old me

A few moments ago a burner friend posted a thing, an invitation to post a current photo of yourself, plus one from four years ago and one from eight years ago. I decided to do that thing, but here on my blog instead of out in the street where it might frighten the horses.

This required math, of course: 2023 – 4, carry the one, etc.

Let me say up front that I don’t think I have anything witty or profound to share other than the photos. We’ll see.

Eight years ago….


Here I am.

Am I a handsome so-and-so or what? And that tidy hair! (Only 213 more days until the Great Cut…)

We were at Grand Canyon, part of a wide-ranging trip across the Southwest.

We also made it up to Page, AZ, and Antelope Canyon. You think you’ve never heard of Antelope Canyon? Of course you have.

It is impossible to take a bad photo there.

In 2015, I had just started burning the fall before, so was still a noob when I attended Alchemy 2015, now known as Alchemuddy; I appeared in Born Yesterday at the Springer Opera House in Augusta and Into the Woods at NTC; I directed my Christmas Carol at NTC; and Abigail, the good & deserving Assistive Feline™, followed my Lovely First Wife and dog home one morning and stole my heart.

Moving on…


Fourth of July celebration at… Grand Canyon! This was for my 65th birthday, and it was the first time we actually stayed in Grand Canyon Village, which is how you should do it.

We also did a trip up the Maine coast that fall. Here’s the inn we stayed at on Chebeaugue Island:

And here I am at work on the placement map for Alchemy 2019 while on vacation in Maine. Am I dedicated hippie or what?

I became the Benevolent Placement Overlord™ of Alchemy in 2016 and just passed that torch last fall. Between 2016 and 2022, I designed and redesigned that burn eleven times as we moved from property to property.

In 2019, Cecil the Pest™ had joined the family, and I served for the last time as chair of the State STAR Student Selection Committee, a post I had enjoyed for around 30 years.

Which brings us to…


What a difference nose surgery and a pandemic can make, amirite? So far in 2023, we’ve traveled to San Diego, the Rhine River, and Howard Finster’s Paradise Garden, with a trip through Utah’s national parks coming up in three weeks and a tour through German’s Christmas markets at the end of the year.  I’ve been to two burns — Emergence and To The Moon — with Alchemy just 63 days away. I directed Midsummer Night’s Dream for Southern Arc Dance, and began composing again. It’s been a good year.

As I predicted, I have no grand revelations or insights, other than to say I’ve enjoyed getting older and am more grateful than might at first be apparent for the opportunities my life has afforded me.