Zion Canyon National Park

September 1st, 2nd and 3rd

Leaving Bryce, we cross the Sevier River again, which means we are briefly back in the Great Basin. The upper reaches of the Sevier Valley and are high and green. Soon, though, we descend via the Zion-Mt. Carmel Highway and Tunnel into the Virgin River Canyon and are thus in the Colorado River Basin again.

The word “zion”, we are told here, is a Hebrew word meaning a place of peace and refuge.  Thus, the Mormon pioneers named this canyon Zion. Then again, the Mormons called all of Utah “zion”.

After the pleasant tempertures of Capitol Reef and the high-altitude chill of Bryce, Zion is sweltering.

Zion Canyon!  Now this is a “canyon”:

1a_Zion, now this is a canyon

And like both Capitol Reef and Bryce, it has been carved out of the Colorado River red sandstone plateau by a usually peaceful river, The Virgin…

3_that looks rather peaceful here, but...

…whose flash floods have left behind remarkable rock formations:

1c_on and on

You can take a shuttle towards the top of the canyon and then follow a beatiful trail…

4_you can take a shuttle to the top...

5_and then walk...

…that is an easy and pleasant walk, in spite of the heat…

6_and walk... 6b_a pleasant place to rest along the way

…often shaded and with pleasant places to rest.  And when the trail ends you continue in the river bed:

7_and walk, when there's no more trail

I didn’t go very far.

Zion Park is made for hiking, both easy walking like this and much more strenuous hiking. For a succinct description of the park’s history and geology you can read the Wikipedia article about Zion Park here, or see the National Park Service’s Zion website here.


The plant life in the canyon’s upper areas is luxurious. This is called a hanging garden:

8c_this is called a hanging garden

I don’t believe I’ve seen one of these before; I’ve been told that it’s an orchid:

8b_and plant life to charm us


That evening, back at the campground, I take advantage of the evening light to take some pictures of the nearby rock formations:

13_and another

10_I take a few photos of the local sights

11_in the evening light

12_another sight...

There’s just no end:

13b_there's just no end


I take a few pictures of the plant life too:

14_the plant life makes a good subject too 14b_good subject

These appear wilted or closed up at this time of day, but the next morning they’re wide open…

17_these flowers are open now... 17b_open

…and occupied…

17c_open and occupied

I see these prickly pears too:

18c_prickly pears

18c_prickly pears bis

I didn’t see them before Zion, though I did see some red ones yesterday afternoon:

18cbis_sometimes they're red


I’m up this early so as to catch the morning light…

16_the next morning

…and to take an early shuttle up the canyon again to get some shots that wouldn’t have been good yesterday afternoon.

This group is called The Court of the Patriarchs:

21_the Court of the Patriarchs


22_patriarch no. 1


23_patriarch no. 2

…and Jacob:

24_patriarch no. 3, hidden by...

What we see of Jacob, though, is only that small sunlit portion on the top right. Jacob is mostly hidden by this still shadowed mass called Mt. Moroni (yes, him again).

Further up the canyon, though, we get a good view of Jacob:

25_further up the canyon, no. 3

This series is called Temples and Towers:

26_temples and towers

The formation on the left is called the West Temple and on the right is the Altar of Sacrifice. The formation just left of center is called the Sundial, while in full center we have the Tower of the Virgin.

Here, if you lean forward and look in the lower right-hand corner, you can see that I’m not the only one out early trying to get some good pictures:

27_I'm not the only one out...


In the afternoon I take a long bike ride up the Par’Us Trail…

28_that afternoon I take a long bike ride...

…following the river as far as Canyon Junction.

Wild asters abound:

29c_more asters

And so do these guys:

30_and these guys again 30b_these guys


On the way back down the canyon I look for a some places to swim.  You’ll understand that since California I haven’t found any swimming holes. The Virgin is not a very welcoming river. The rocks and sandbars don’t make swimming easy, and the water is sandy (though clean). But I find one place where the water was deep enough and calm enough.

31_on the way back...swimming

But in this heat it’s enough just to lie down in the refreshing water.


Back at the campsite I indulge some more Wasatch Breweries beer, Evolution Amber Ale this time:

32_another cold beer

32b_sense of humor, but

They do indeed have a sense of humor at Wasatch.

Bryce Canyon National Park

August 30th & 31st

Leaving Capitol Reef, the open road follows a long ridge:

1_the open road towards Bryce...

If you look off one side of the road you see this:

2_on one side of the road...

And off the other side of the road you see this:

3_and on the other...

The road goes on towards Bryce Canyon National Park…

4_you can see where the road goes

…and the white rock begins to turn red.


Along the way, this vintage model Ford turns up…

5_along came this vintage model car

…with some jovial passengers…


5b_with some jovial passengers

…who happily allow me to take their picture.

5c_who pulled over to...

I believe they’re on their way to a gathering of vintage car owners that is to take place in Zion National Park. Several days later I see a large number of such cars arrive in Springdale, Utah one morning, heading into Zion Park, but I didn’t manage to take any pictures.


I arrive in Bryce Canyon rather late and set up camp:

6_I made it to Bryce rather late


The next day I take a long hike along the Rim Trail and the scenery of Bryce reveals itself…

7_and the next day, a wonderful scenery...


8_was revealed

…and again…

9_that just wouldn't stop


If Martians had cities…

10_if Martians had cities...

… I think they might look like this:

10b_I think they'd look like this


Small side canyons nearly reach the canyon rim:

11_somtimes narrow side canyons...


Southern Utah is beautiful:

12_southern Utah is so beautiful


Capitol Reef National Park

August 28th, 29th & 30th

As I drive out of Richfield in the morning I stop to take a picture of this imposing mountain in the morning light:

1_leaving Richfield

It was much more beautiful yesterday, in the evening light, but I didn’t have my camera with me when I was out and about. Live and learn.


We go east over the mountains and are no longer in the Great Basin. Here is another green farming valley near the town of Loa…

2_green valley of Loa

…when suddenly, near the town of Torrey, this red rock formation appears:

3_when suddenly

And closer up:

4_up close


We’re now in the Fremont River Canyon:

6_Fremont River canyon 6b_Fremont

We arrive from the west, but the next day I take a drive from east to west…

7_canyon opens up 8_farmlands and fruit orchards

…the canyon widens and we find fruit orchards planted by the Mormon pioneers.

More orchards and Mormon irrigation ingenuity:

9_more orchards 9b_Mormon irrigation ingenuity

We can pick and eat as much fruit as we want, but if we take any away we’re asked to pay a modest price.  Peaches are in season so I get about 5 pounds.

Up and down the canyon there is no lack of impressive rock formations…

11_and all around...

12_fantastic rock formations

12b_no lack of impressive formations

From my campsite the rock formations are also striking:

14_from my campsite 15_also from my campsite


Near the orchards there are these petroglyphs carved by the Fremont People who once inhabited this canyon:

26_...as are the petroglyphs

26b_petroglyphs2 26c_petroglyphs3

But you can see much better photos of these petroglyphs here. More on the Fremont People in a later post.


Later in the day I take a long hike up this canyon known as the Grand Wash.  Signs indicate that flash flood risk is at a very low level today:

22_earlier that day...Grand Wash

There has nevertheless been some rain recently and some strange specimen has left a print in the mud:

23_some strange local speicment left...


In the late afternoon I take another hike, further up the canyon, and we get a good view of what was once the Mormon pioneer settlement called Fruita:

10_took a hike one afternoon

The last private residents of Fruita left the area in 1968. Today only national park employees live here.

Fruita’s schoolhouse:

27_the local schoolhouse from Mormon... 27b_schoolhouse bis

The last remaining house and barn…

28_barn from pioneer times 29_last remaining home, now a store...

…the house is now a museum and store where they sell homemade pastries, jams, jellies and salsas.


Back at my campsite, after a hard day of tourism, I treat myself to a nice cold local Utah beer:

16c_a nice cold beer bis

Take a look at the caption on the six-pack carrier:

16b_why have just one

And I kid you not, in the Richfield supermarket where I bought it, there was a little sign that said Take some home to the wives. This beer, and others, are made by Wasatch Breweries located in Park City (of Sundance fame), Utah. You can read more about Wasatch Breweries here. Their beer is only 4%, but that’s better than the 3.2% beers you find in most Utah grocery stores. And at least the name shows a sense of humor about polygamy. Yet, as we’ll see in an upcoming post, in Utah today this subject is no laughing matter.


One morning in camp, Olsen gets down to work.  I’m currently working on: Sewage sludge application in a forest plantation: effects on trace metal transfer in soil-plant-snail continuum.

17_in the morning, hard at work...

But one of the locals does not appreciate my efforts:

18_but one of the locals...

Generally the local residents here are unimpressed with our presence:

19_generally the locals... 20_...are not impressed...


The little I have shown you here does not do justice to Capitol Reef National Park.  The park gets its name from a geographical formation that the early pioneers here called a “reef”. It is some 95 miles long and extends far to the south of the campgrounds near Fruita.  I drove down the scenic canyon drive, but took no pictures.


Mystic Hot Springs, Utah

August 26th and 27th, 2014

South of Manti we meet the Sevier River again and enter the Sevier Valley to find the town of Richfield.  With its 7,500 people, Richfield is the largest town in central Utah. I stay here two days in a motel with a good internet connection in order to get caught up on some work. As mentioned earlier, as I travel I continue to work on translations and corrections of scientific articles.

Currently working on: Sewage sludge application in a forest plantation: effects on trace metal transfer in soil-plant-snail continuum

Like Manti, Richfield is a pleasant town with many nice old houses (many of them even nicer and more characteristic than in Manti), but I’ve already taken enough pictures of houses.  Richfield also has all the services you might want and so I seek some advice about my computer at Intermountain Computer Services where Noah is very helpful. I also get a very good haircut from Julie at Tangles.

One day I drive out of Richfield to the town of Monroe, about 15 minutes south, where an old hot springs resort now called Mystic Hot Springs is to be found. The proprietor, Mystic Mike, took over the resort in about 1996 and also organizes concerts and other artistic activities on the site. However, I get the impression that Mystic Mike is a bit overwhelmed by the magnitude of his undertaking. The grounds are not kept up very well, yet Mystic is still an interesting place. I cite their mission statement and disclaimer:

Mission Statement: Mystic Hot Springs creates an authentic environment which raises self-awareness by direct experience with nature, art and antiquities.”

Disclaimer: Mystic Hot Springs is a one of a kind place. You will not find it anywhere else. Some say it’s like stepping back in time to the 60’s or 70’s. Things are imperfect. We realize that there’s a lot we could do to improve it. We understand that things are always changing. We have learned to appreciate it for what it is at this moment.”

You can learn more about Mystic Hot Springs here.

What is remarkable here are the solid rock formations that have that have been created through the flow of the heavily mineralized waters:

1_Monroe_mineral formation

Hot springs parsnips perched upon a giant tomato?


With some background scenery:

5_Monroe_formation4b 6_Monroe_formation5


The waters flow from this spring…

10_the main spring1

…through a series of ditches:

12_waters flow via ditches 15_ditches4



At one point the ditches pass under these greenhouses…


…where we find these plants…

18_inside the green house


The waters soon reach the soaking tubs and pools. But first we are informed of Mystic’s policy:

7c_no nudity, etc.

No alcohol, no glass, no dogs…these are standards at any developed hot springs resort. But no nudity? I find that disappointing as it seems to me that soaking in hot springs while nude is the most natural thing in the world. Yet I understand that, in the midst of a very conservative community, Mystic Mike can’t exactly allow the locals to think that a bunch of people are running about naked just blocks from their homes.

Mystic has many individual soaking tubs that are, in fact, real bath tubs:

7b_soaking tub

One of them is being absorbed by the rock:

7_Monroe_saoking tub in rock

The main pools:

8_main pool with house 9_main pool2

9b_main pool3


The waters finally flow into these ponds:


24b_pond2 24c_pond3


Since it overlooks the Sevier Valley and the town of Monroe, Mystic is a good place to take pictures:



As you can see once again, the desert is never far.

And neither is suburbia:



On its grounds Mystic has a number of bungalows that can be rented:


This one is an old pioneer cabin that has been transported here from elsewhere. Up and down the Sevier Valley I’ve seen many old structures such as this one.

Some of the bungalows seem not to have been finished yet:

28_bungalow_unfinished 28b_bungalow_strange


There are also a number of other inhabitants at Mystic:

29_menagerie1_llama 29b_menagerie2_llama

29c_menagerie3_goat 29d_menagerie4_ostrich


The day’s soaking experience is quiet and relaxing. Mission accomplished.

I’ll soon be leaving this area.  A whole series of national parks awaits me in southern Utah.



Into Utah…

August 24th and 25th, 2014

I drive down the canyon from Great Basin National Park toward the dry valley and small town of Baker below:

1_as I head down into the dry valley

The desert is never far.


On the way I see this ancient wreck in a field beside the road:

2_I come upon this 1920 Dodge and its driver

The driver doesn’t look like he’s fit to be behind the wheel of a car.  Someone has written “1920 Dodge” on the side of the car. I turn around to look at my own 2011 Dodge, some distance back:

3_and I cast a glance at my 2011 Dodge Grand Caravan

I have a decision to make. I really don’t know which way I’m going when I get down to the highway, either left to go into central Utah, or right, to southern Utah and the string of national parks that await me there. This type of dilemma will arrive more than once.

I decide that I want to see central Utah too, so I turn left and soon cross the stateline…

4_cross into Utah, yellow flower and desert grass

…where these familiar flowers greet me and the clumps of desert grass are much thicker and more widespread than in Nevada.

We continue to go up over small mountain ranges and then through low valleys, but a new feature soon appears. This is Sevier Lake, a dry or not so dry lake (you decide, based on what you see here):

5b_Sevier Lake bis

Sevier Lake, into which flows the Sevier River…

6_into which flows the Sevier River, or what's left of it

…or what’s left of it after so much of its water has been taken for irrigation.

In the town of Delta the Sevier River welcomes me with those familiar yellow flowers:

7_Delta_the Sevier River with flowers

The Sevier is to become a friend that I will meet again and again.

From here I head north and east through Millard, Juab and Sanpete counties, through irrigated farmlands and neat little towns like Nephi, Fountain Green, Moroni and Ephraim. Moroni, if you don’t know, is the name of the angel who appeared to young Joseph Smith and instructed him several times. Regardless of what anyone may think of the Mormon Church, I’m struck by Mormon efficiency and ingenuity in making this desert bloom. After the dry valleys of Nevada, the town and entire valley of Nephi is particularly impressive with its green fields. Then again, Utah seems to have water that Nevada simply does not have.

Driving down the Sanpete Valley we see the profile of the Manti Mormon temple from some distance–somewhat incongruous in this terrain, yet entirely expected. Once in town I take this close up:

8_Manti temple, on arrival


Manti, named after a city mentioned in the Book of Mormon, is a very pleasant town…

9_downtown Manti-pleasant town

…and a historic one in the framework of the Mormon migration and settlement of Utah. It was the first settlement founded outside the northern Wasatch strip (Ogden, Salt Lake, Provo) and one of the first communities to have a temple…

This statue is of the Indian chief Wakara and some Mormon immigrants. Wakara is said to have invited the Mormons to settle here  to teach his people the ways of farming:

10_a historic Mormon town

I wonder if Wakara knew what he was letting himself in for.


I take several pictures of the temple at different times of the day:

That first afternoon, on arrival…

11a_Manti temple-afternoon

…that evening…

11b_Manti temple-evening

…the following morning, the north profile…

11c_Manti temple-morning

…and the south profile:

11d_Manti temple-south profile-morning


The temple grounds are a good place from which to take pictures of the town and its surroundings:


12a_view north_green fields

…south and west:

12b_view south_green Manti 12c_view west_green fields

Notice the shadow of the temple in the foreground of the righthand picture.

I take a long bike ride around the town this morning, taking pictures of the irrigated fields west of town; everywhere, everything is green:

12d_irrigated fields west of town 12e_irrigated sheep pasture


I take pictures of many of the houses, too. Manti appears to be one of those idyllic American towns of the late 19th and early 20th centuries:

14a_Manti house 14b_Manti house

14c_Manti house 14d_Manti house

14e_Manti house 14fbis_very nice

New or old, well kept or not, they reflect a period, and an image.  Of course, there are many houses of more modest standing too and also, as all over the US, a number of mobile homes.


Other noticeable buildings in town…

This was once a Presbyterian church, but is now home to the American Legion:

13b_old Presbyterian

The local Mormon church, with its characteristic low roof and short steeple:

15_Manti Mormon church parking lot

Not a very good angle, but it was the best I could do. This is taken on Monday morning. At 4 o’clock on Sunday afternoon this parking lot was full to overflowing.

Later this morning I go for a drive around the valley and take pictures of the countryside…

17a_green countryside around Manti

…and of the town from an overlook:

18a_view of Manti from above_west 18b_view of Manti from above_south


Manti is well known for its annual Mormon Miracle Pageant which takes place every year in the early summer. You can learn more about it here.

And you can learn more about the Manti temple here.

Great Basin National Park, below ground

August 23rd, 2014, afternoon

One of the main attractions at Great Basin National Park is the Lehman Caves.

This afternoon I spend an hour and a half underground. Our guide, Karen, takes us through this door (not the original entrance, of course)…

1_afternoon visit of Lehman Caves began here

…and into a series of galleries and passages…

3_and on we went 2_arrived in first gallery

…and broken stalactites

4a_broken stalactites 4b_broken stalactites

Legend has it that Lehman, the man who theoretically discovered the caves (I say “theoretically” because the native peoples of the region had known about them for centuries), told his visitors (who paid a price to visit the caves): “If you can break it, you can take it.”  So of course many people tried to break off a piece of stalactite, and many of them succeeded.

This formation is called cave wallpaper:

5_cave wallpaper

Karen says that this is called cave popcorn…

9_cave popcorn

…these are cave draperies…

7_cave bacon

…and cave bacon:

6_cave draperies


I call these cave parsnips:

8_cave parsnips


The passages can be very narrow:

10_the passages are sometimes very narrow


I call these guys cave gods:

11_cave gods


Obviously, the colors sometimes come from the artificial lighting:

13_the colors sometimes come from the lights


What would you call this?

14_what would you call this


Here are some more broken stalactites. If you look closely you can see how, little by little, they reconstruct:

16_more broken...notice the... 19_broken...notice the...


When a stalactite and a stalagmite join forces, they form a column:



We move into a new gallery:

17_new gallery


There are just too many formations to comment upon:

21a_too many 21c_too many

21d_to count 21b_too many


A cave organ…

25_a cave organ

…a cave grotto…

15_cave grotto

…a cave altar…

29_an altar


Stalagmites, standing in a pool of water (though the water is difficult to see):



Powdered sugar?

22_with powdered sugar





In yet another gallery, one in which the locals used to have parties, we see this writing on the ceiling:

31_the inscription room

Karen says that even if they wanted to, the cave authorities couldn’t erase these inscriptions without possibly damaging the formations. Thus, like the broken stalactites, these writings remain as reminders of what we have done in the past and to make us think about what we should or should not be doing, now and in the future.


One last photo and then it’s back to the surface:



Back in camp I make an early dinner of chicken, rice and vegetables…

34_and I made an early dinner... 36_an early dinner, before going to the astronomy evening

…before going to an astronomy evening. That turned out to be very interesting under these very dark skies of the Great Basin. But I’m here in a cool and rainy period and at this altitude it gets cold at night. I’m not dressed for it.

Tomorrow I’ll be on my way east again.


Great Basin National Park, above ground…

August 23rd, 2014, morning

After a rainy night, the view above the campground:

22_view from my camp site in the morning light, after the rain

And then a few minutes later:

23_then a few minutes later...

But it clears up again in a few minutes. It’s a beautiful day.


I have a busy day planned, but first there’s morning coffee and some organizational work to be done:

24_morning coffee, getting organized

When you move about so often, packing and unpacking, keeping track of everything is essential. Where do I keep this? Now where did I put that? More on this in a future post.


First I drive up this side of Mt. Wheeler, or Wheeler Peak (the mountain seems to go by both names)…

27_drove up Mt. Wheeler, from eastern side

…from which we see the dry valley in the distance:

28_view from above, another Nevada valley below

I take the nature walk at the Wheeler Peak parking lot and campground where we can see some interesting forest specimens. Great Basin National Park is known for its bristlcone pine trees which can live  from two to three thousand years:

30a_saw some interesting forest

I don’t think this is one of them, though. You have to walk up higher that  9,500 feet to see them and I don’t go up that high.  For some good pictures of truly ancient bristlecones, though, look here.

The trail twists and turns among the pines:

30d_but I don't think these are the famous bristlecones

A stand of aspens comes into view, a good sign, they say, for the evolution of the forest:

31_saw abundant aspens; good sign


Of course, I take pictures of whatever wildlife crosses my path: the ritual deer…

32_the inevitable deer

…and, will wonders never cease, a chipmunk.

33_and I even caught a chipmunk, Katie...

Katie, do you see that ? I actually got a photo of a chipmunk! My career as a wildlife photographer may yet come to be.


Before we go on, let me bring you up to date on that art car we saw at Spencer’s Hot Springs. As of this posting, September 7th, Burning Man 2014 has come and gone. But you can now see pictures and a video of that art car, The Mushroom Patch, here, and here.

And have I told you about my conversation with the bartender at The Major’s Place? It went something like this:

Bartender: You know, I’ve been in Nevada for nearly 15 years and I thought I’d heard of everything, and then this guy comes in here the other day and tells me he’s going to this thing called Burning Man. What the hell is that?

Me: It’s sort of an arts festival, but more. I went there with some friends back in 2006.

Bartender: Well, tell me about it.

Me: Well…guy named Larry Harvey…divorce…big party on beach in San Francisco…big fire to burn the old man and bring in the new…the Man…art exhibits of all sorts…got out of hand…moved to Black Rock Desert in Nevada…gift-giving economy…leave no trace… Well, maybe you should just Google it, here.


Since the title of this post is “Great Basin National Park, above ground…”, you can imagine what my next post will be.


Pott’s Ranch Hot Springs and more

August 21st and 22nd, 2014

I get up early and pack up, but try as I might it is nearly 9 a.m. before I leave the campground. This is a trend that has proven difficult for me to change.  More on it in a future post.

And I make my way down the other side of the Toquima Range into the Monitor Valley where Pott’s Ranch Hot Springs is located a short distance to the south.

Some views of the ranch as you drive up:

1_Pott's Ranch 2_house and out building


The springs are found a bit further along the road behind the house. Once again I find a primitive hot spring that has nevertheless undergone some improvements by kind souls among the hot springs aficionados who pass this way. I’m alone here and so I fill the tank and soak at my leisure:

3_I fill the tank 4_it fills up quickly and I have a soak

The view, while soaking:

5_meadow from Pott's pool

Once again, Nevada, need I say more.

And in the immediate vicinity of the pool:

6_these flowers 8_spring

It’s so peaceful here that I’d like to stay longer, but I need to be on my way. Great Basin National Park is next on my agenda.

Time now for a bit of digression.

In his travel book on the US, Lost Continent, Bill Bryson begins his chapter on Nevada like this:

“Here’s a riddle for you. What is the difference between Nevada and a toilet? Answer: you can flush a toilet. Nevada has the highest crime rate of any state, the highest rape rate, the second highest violent crime rate (after New York), the highest highway fatality rate, the second highest rate of gonorrhea (Alaska is the trophy holder)… I crossed the border from Utah with a certain sense of disquiet.”

Well, I think Nevada deserves better than this shabby introduction from Bryson. Everywhere I find the people friendly and ready to help out. And I need it when Van gets a flat tire after we leave Pott’s Ranch. I’ve changed many a flat in my time, but the difficulty here is to find the spare where Dodge has so carefully hidden it.  I finally find it and manage to get it out with the advice of some Nevada hunters who stop on this desert road to help. When I get into the town of Eureka, there too people are kind and helpful in directing me to a repair shop. I finally have to go on to the next sizeable town, Ely, to get a new tire. Enough said about the tire incident, but everyone I meet along the way is great.

We get into Ely too late to have the tire fixed that day. I need a bath and a beer and so does Van, so we go to a motel.

Moving right along…

The next day, both of us washed, rested and repaired, we head east from Ely, still on Highway 50–the lonliest road. I stop forsome coffee at a place called The Major’s–a restaurant, bar and RV park–where I take this picture of Mt. Wheeler:

10_the next day, Mt. Wheeler, from Major's Place on Highway 50

Mt. Wheeler is in the national park, but the park’s entrance is on the other side of the mountain.

Mt. Wheeler and the open road…

11_Mt. Wheeler and the open road

…with some flowers along the way that I don’t think I’ve seen yet:

13_along the way, flowers not seen before 14_these flowers too


We arrive at the park and find a campsite, with a table and a fire pit…

15_arrived at GBNP and found camp site 16_with table and fire pit

…right along side this stream:

17_and a stream close by

The view above the campground:

18_the view across the valley


The altitude here is relatively high, more than 7,000 feet, and there is a lot of moisture thus the vegetation is lush, with many aspen trees and some serious webbing on some of the plants…

20_and aspen trees, not yet seen 21_some impressive web in the thick growth

…these flowers along the stream…

19_ flowers along the stream

…many wild rose bushes nearby…

21c_back on the surface and back at camp, wild rose bush

…and thick grass on the opposite bank…

21b_one last look at lush vegetation the next morning

But notice the dry hills in the background, sagebrush and stubby pines. The desert is never far.

The bar tender at The Major’s said they’d had a lot of rain lately. Sure enough it begins to thunder and lightning, and it rains off and on all evening. I don’t have time to make dinner, so it’s crackers, cheese and fruit in the back of Van. I spend the evening with a book. I’m reading–or re-reading rather–Travels With Charlie. More on that in a later post.

Spencer’s Hot Springs and the Toquima Cave

August 20th, 2014

I make my way to Spener’s Hot Springs, not far at all from Austin, in the Big Smoky Valley. But when I drive up to the springs, what do I see but this contraption:

30_young and old

And I think, aha, these people are going to Burning Man. The contraption in question is an art car. This one is disassembled, of course, to be transported to the festival in the Black Rock Desert. I chat with its owners as I, too, have been to Burning Man. That was in 2006. You can learn more about Burning Man here.


The main spring at Spencer’s looks like this:

4_main pool bis

There are other springs nearby, here and there among the sagebrush, such as this one:

11_nearby pool

With a second, and much cooler pool nearby, full of goldfish:

12_with gold fish in the runoff pool


I had a nice soak (several, in fact) and interesting conversation with the usual interesting collection of hot springs fans present, and a nice morning walk in the vicinity.

True to the spirit of the hot springs community, someone has made this maze:

6_someone has made this maze

…which leads to this offering:

7_that leads to this offering


But the best part is the tranquility of this place, and the view over Big Smoky Valley:

8_the view out across Big Smoky Valley

As I walked I took a few pictures of the local inhabitants…

10_jack rabbit, lower left, Katie...

…such as this jackrabbit that you can see on the lower left, if you look hard.

But it was soon time for me to go on to my next destination, up in the Toquima Range, in the Toiyabe National Forest, just a few miles distant:

13_on my way to my next destination

As I said, this forest demands a new definition of the word “forest”.

The road behind me and the road in front:

15_behind me 16_before me


But we soon meet the trees:



And I arrive at my destination:

19_I soon arrive at my destination

Shooting practice appears to be a big sport in these parts.

I find a campsite:

20_I find a campsite...

It’s a small, primitive campground, only four or five campsites, probably frequented mainly by hunters. I like it here, it’s so calm and peaceful.


Now I head off to the Toquima Cave and its drawings, a fifteen-minute walk away along an easy trail. As the trail progresses I like this forest more and more:

23a_as the trail progresses 23b_I like this forest more and more

We now approach the cave…

24_as I approach the cave..

… up these few steps…

25_the final steps

…we can’t go in…

26_but we can't go in

…but I can take pictures:

27_but I can still take pictures 28a_and pictures

28b_and more pictures - Copie 28c_and even more

From the information signs posted we learn that these drawings were intended to summon the spirits to bring good luck for the hunt and that no other message was intended.


28d_it is explained that...

Today this cave is a sacred site for the contemporary Shoshone people. You may want to zoom in to get a better view of these pictograms. Or look them up on Wikipedia here.


On the way back to the campground I take an interest in the trees, both young…

29_on the way back... 29b_I get interested

29c_in the different 29d_trees of this forest

…and old.

30a_young and ol 30b_as the old are sculptures

The old are like sculptures.

Back at the campground the evening is beautiful:

32b_closer up

As I said, I like it here. I have the whole place to myself.