Lehman Caves

0Ely, Nevada

We went for a tour of Lehman Caves in the Great Basin National Park last week.

Lehman Caves is a single cavern cave that extends a quarter-mile into the limestone and marble that flank the base of the Snake Range. American Indians knew of it long before the rancher and miner Absalom Lehman explored it in 1885. It is one of the regions most profusely decorated caves.


Hundreds of thousands of years ago, surface water, turned slightly acidic from carbon dioxide gas, mixed with water deep below the surface, dissolving the soluble rock at the horizontal water table. Eventually the water drained from the cave, leaving behind hollow rooms and sculptured walls.


In the second stage of development, water percolated down from the surface carrying small amounts of dissolved limestone (calcite). Drop by drop, over centuries, these trickles deposited and built to form the speleothems (cave formations) including stalactites, stalagmites, columns, draperies, ....

This formation is called a shield, and it is a very rare formation found in only a few other caves besides Lehman Caves.


This formation is called popcorn for obvious reasons. :-) 0329151030

The temperature in the cave is a pretty constant 50 degrees. And the humidity runs about 90 percent, dependent on the amount of snow pack 200' above us on the earth's surface.


Here are some more shields. 0329151051

As we entered into each section of the cave with our guide Ranger Dusty, he turned on lights as he turned off the lights in the section we just left.


These are called draperies and sometimes they have lighter/darker bands of color called bacon because that's exactly what they look like. 0329151050a

This photo reminds me of a Halloween jack-o-lantern. 0329151041

Many holes were in the walls and ceiling leading to parts unknown.  0329151040It felt like we were in a Disney World exhibit--complete with musty smells, damp air, and strategically placed lighting. 

Our group of ten plus the ranger were in the cave for 90 minutes. It was interesting to listen to others' questions. Two young men were obviously geologists in training and put the ranger to the test with the complexity of their questions. 0329151100

This is a portion of what's on much of the cave walls and floor. It's layer upon layer of deposits made over eons...

0329151124At the start of the tour, Ranger Dusty turned off all lights for about five minutes. We literally couldn't see a thing.

I didn't realize until then how seldom, if ever, I'm in complete darkness. It was totally black and I couldn't see my hand two inches in front of my face. Surreal and weird. Just like the cavern formations...0329151029

The Cowboys

Baker, Nevada

While driving around the Panguitch area the other day, we ran into a cattle drive. A real cattle drive with real cowboys and cowgirls…

My count estimated about 100 cows and 14 cowboys and cowgirls.

The road we were on is well traveled to a unique geological site, so the cowboys had to deal with lots of cars.

The couple in the car coming towards us through the herd had huge grins on their faces. They were from California, and I doubt they’ve witnessed a cattle drive before let alone drove through one. 🙂


We were really lucky and ran into the drive both ways.

Cows are much easier to drive through if you are hitting them head on. They easily veer to the side of the road to get out of the way.


But if you are driving the same way they are walking, they are content just to meander slowly along their way.




This cow was one of five that wore a bell. Within a herd a small number of cows wear bells for several reasons:

  • to help ward off predators because of the constant clanging,
  • to help other cows stay near because they know where the rest of the herd is,
  • and to help the cowboys locate cows when it’s roundup time.


Take a really close look at the cowboys in this picture.

0327151459cYep, they really are cowBOYS! The boys are off on spring break and they are helping with the drive. They were so incredibly cute. They were fully outfitted from spurs to chaps to hats. Their hats were nearly as big as they were. 
0327151548 And their grins were even bigger! 🙂

Scenic Byway Highway 12

Baker, Nevada

Late last week we traveled along Utah’s Scenic Byway from near Bryce Canyon to Boulder, Utah. What an amazing road!


Scenic Byway 12 takes you to the heart of the American West. This exceptional 124-mile route negotiates an isolated landscape of canyons, plateaus, and valleys ranging from 4,000 to 9,000 feet above sea level. You’ll encounter archaeological, cultural, historical, natural, recreational, and scenic qualities while driving this exhilarating byway.

Our journey was about 75 miles of the 124 miles total on the road which has been designated as one of America’s 150 Byways.

First up? Red Canyon. A beautiful canyon that has a paved bike and walking trail. Note to self: Carve time to ride or jog this next time we’re here. Oh, and don’t forget to wash the windows in the Jeep if you’re going to take pictures while driving… 🙂

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Loved this old gasoline pump and the signage that read, “Too Pooped to Pump”!
0327151611This is Grosvenor Arch, a unique sandstone double arch that is located within the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. It is named to honor a former president of the National Geographic Society.  The arch is over 150′ tall.

03271514180327151420Next up along our drive was a badlands area. Badlands are a type of dry terrain where softer rock and clay-rich soils have been extensively eroded by wind and water. The badlands were a fascinating contrast against the far away red hoodoos of Bryce Canyon.

0327151018aThe most scenic area of the drive was from just outside of Escalante to Boulder. Much of the road here was built from 1935 to 1940 by the Civilian Conservation Corps. The road was built directly on rock; miles and miles of it!


Nicknamed the Million Dollar Highway because of the back-breaking labor and tons of dynamite blasting through the slickrock terrain. This was done in the days before heavy machinery, so construction debris was removed with horse-drawn scrapers and by hand with picks and shovels. 



On some of these pictures you’ll have to look really hard to see the black asphalt ribbon of the road. That shows you the immense size of the road and the length of the road through the rock.

0327151059a0327151102It’s the most amazing road I’ve ever been on. Ever…

On another part of the road, we were literally driving up to and along the top of the mountain ridge. 0327151115a

The mountain falls off dramatically hundreds of feet on each side of this ridge. 0327151124You  never know what’s around a bend…

shooting-star-rv-resortWhat a surprise to see an RV Park that rents Airstream travel trailers and shows movies on a drive in screen!


We stopped to eat a picnic lunch and had a visitor. 🙂



Hike the Hoodoos

Panguitch, Utah

We weren’t able to do any hiking inside Bryce Canyon National Park because we had Sophie and dogs aren’t allowed on trails.

But we did find a hike on the outskirts of the park that was short. And it was cool enough that we didn’t have to worry about leaving Sophie in the Jeep.

It’s a hike to both a waterfall and a mossy cave. Cool!


It was the first time we saw the hoodoos (rock columns and towers) from below and they looked very different up close and from below. We could see more texture in the rocks and the subtlety of the color changes throughout the rocks.


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Pioneers labored for two years to complete the Tropic Ditch, an irrigation canal, to bring water to the valley below. Water has flowed along the route, except for during the severe drought of 2002, for over a century. Looking at the small snow pack and the amount of water coming down  makes me wonder if 2002 is being repeated.


At times, the water must really roar through the area as evidenced by the size of this pine tree trunk at the edge of the wash.0326151446

There’s a bridge across the Water Canyon dry wash area.  0326151445b

I was entranced by the series of small arches that peek-a-booed through the trees as we hiked.

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The mossy cave usually has ice until sometime in April, but it’s been such a warm spring that there’s only one small chunk. The moss on the cave’s roof is saturated with water from springs.


I love, love, love this quote by LBJ that I saw in Bryce Canyon:

“If future generations are to remember us more with gratitude than sorrow, we must achieve more than just the miracles of technology.

We must also leave them a glimpse of the world as it was created, not just as it looked when we got through with it.”


Whenever I see nature’s wonders, I’ll remember this quote and continue to leave no trace of my visit…

Bedazzling Bryce Canyon

Panguitch, Utah

Wow! And double WOW! We visited Bryce Canyon yesterday. It is simply amazing!

First stop? Sunrise Point at 8015′ elevation. Highest place we visited in the park? Rainbow Point at 9115′.


A little Bryce Canyon information from the park brochure, and then I’ll just let the pictures speak for themselves…

Weathering and erosion shape these statuesque rock features, but unlike many places, flowing water only plays a minor role in this story. As snow and ice melt, water seeps into fractures. As it re-freezes, it expands and cracks the rock around it. This common process of frost-wedging happens with uncommon frequency at Bryce Canyon.

About 180 days a year temperatures swing widely between freezing nights and warm afternoons. The combination of gravity and meltwater causes soil creep, moving the stone fragments downhill. Rain from summer thunderstorms further dissolves the limestone into a clay ooze and generates just enough flowing water to help remove the debris. 


These caverns are all on the same horizontal plane because the rock is the same at that level. Notice there are no caverns below that level where the rock is the same color. 03261513390326151338

The cliffs and bulbous columns are called hoodoos. Legend has it that the hoodoos are ancient people who took too much from the land who were cursed and turned to stone.

0326151336Notice the small arch in the middle of the rock. 

It’s big country…032615121803261512120326151210

This arch is called the Natural Bridge.

0326151141I like the contrast of the pine and fir trees against the canyon backdrop.


0326151054I don’t think I would have found the canyons nearly as stunning without the  white contrast from the snow. 
0326151104a03261511000326151059bLook really closely in the middle of this picture. You’ll see a trail that goes up through a crevice in the rocks. Just before that crevice, you can see four teeny-tiny hikers!


And we finished off the visit with a view of about a dozen mule deer does! Doesn’t get any better than that…0326151409b

A few more random shots from our visit…

There should be LOTS more snow here…


And this signage reflects much of what’s happening across the west–not enough water!


Rich’s comment about this guy? “You can’t fix stupid!” 

Snowbird Snow Shock!

Panguitch, Utah

We drove yesterday from St. George to Panguitch, Utah. It’s only a little over 100 miles, but, for snowbirds like us, the distance was more like light years because we went from early summer-like weather to SNOW in a matter of minutes!

It’s a beautiful drive. The St. George area is difficult to describe. It’s a series of valleys with small ranges in between and each valley and range is very different…



As we drove out of the area, the rocks and mountains got bigger and taller.


All of a sudden, we saw SNOW! It’s been months since we’ve seen this much snow this close! And the contrast with the red rocks makes the snow pop out even more. 0325151137 0325151135

Just as we got used to the red rocks, we were in tan rocks. 0325151128a0325151040aWe ended up in the small town of Panguitch. It’s our base point for touring in and around Bryce Canyon National Park.

Panguitch is a Native American word meaning big fish. The pioneers first settled the valley in March, 1864. The first winter was exceptionally cold and hard. Crops had failed; people were hungry. Seven men braved the elements to get flour in Parowan, 40 miles away, over what is now Highway 20. The snow was so deep that they had to abandon their oxen and wagon. They were able to reach Parowan by placing a quilt on the deep drifts, walking to the end of the quilt, and then placing another down, and retrieving the first.

This became known as the Panguitch Quilt Walk, and it is still celebrated in the town.

0325151617 0325151616 0325151616aCloseup of the quilt. Beautiful!


The town was abandoned during the Black Hawk War and resettled in 1871. A brick factory was built and people in the community worked in the factory. They weren’t paid with money; they were paid with bricks. Many of the large brick homes built are still standing today.

0325151428All of Panguitch City is listed as a historic district in the National Register of History Places. 



We drove out of Panguitch on Highway 143 to try to get to Cedar Breaks National Monument.

I’ve never seen a highway sign like this. Made me giggle… A lot of people must take the wrong turn on Highway 89 when it runs through Panguitch…

On the way up to Cedar Breaks, we passed some amazing scenery.


Including Panguitch Lake, completely frozen over.


I wish we would have counted the number of LDS churches we have seen in Utah. A few days ago we saw two on the same block. This one up in the mountains is the first one I’ve seen that has a mountain theme to it. 0325151545

Views of Cedar Breaks National Monument area. This is as close as we could get…0325151526a



…because the road into the actual monument is closed because of snow. 0325151525Sophie had a blast playing in the snow at several stops along the way!
0325151524Nothing feels as good as a roll in the snow! 🙂 

It’s a Small, Small World

St. George, Utah

I’ve been amazed several times and in several ways as we’ve been shown how small the world is.

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Here are a few examples.

Last week we were parked next to a couple from Boise while we were staying in Boulder City. Rich chatted with them a bit and found out that they travel from mid-March through through mid-October.

The next day we toured around Hoover Dam for a few hours. Then we got back on the Interstate and after a few miles, guess who passed us? Yep, the same couple driving on to their next overnight location.

Rich recognized their rig. I recognized their BSU Bronco wheel cover.

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That’s actually happened a couple of times. We’ve also run into the same RVers at parks hundreds of miles apart, in different states and arriving there by different routes.

I have also discovered that it’s a small, small pickleball world.

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We stayed at one resort in Phoenix for a month. Since then, I have run into two different players that I met and played with there: one in California as he and his wife were driving back to eastern Canada and one in Utah after returning to her summer home. What a nice surprise to reunite with them.


Then yesterday I ran into a couple I used to play with in Boise. We ended up at the same pickleball facility out of at least six here in St. George yesterday morning to play. We got there within five minutes of one another even though there is no structured time to begin play.

I found out later that they went to watch at a different park that I had played at on Monday morning, but I left just before they came. It was so very fun to see and play with them.

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It It truly is a small world and an even smaller pickleball world.

Zion, Part Two

St. George, Utah

Zion National Park is a bit unique in that there are two parts to the park.

Most people enter the east or south entrances of the park and drive to the other…0323151156

There is a shorter in-and-out drive in the north western section of the park called The Kolob Canyon.


While not as diverse as the other side of the park, the Kolob Canyon is stunning.


It’s easy to look at the massive rocks and think they never change, but this display proves that thought wrong.


The drive is about 30 miles north from St. George, and we’re very glad we did it.


At the risk of sounding silly, I named this split rock “Plumbers Butt” because it reminded me of too many subcontractors’ behinds over 30 years of construction…


And right along the silly line, this ‘art’ sculpture in the small town of Hurricane was the subject of a local news story the same  night we first saw it.




When we drove past the statue, I commented that the bull’s genitalia seemed disproprtionally large.   Apparently that’s what many town members think, too, and they want the city to force the owner to remove the statue.

This story even made national news...

The restaurant owner, who spent $130,000 on the piece, said all those who object to the statue are “just jealous.”

Now there’s a petition to deny the owner his liquor license. So far over 500 signatures have been collected.

I love small towns so long as I don’t have to live in them! 🙂

Amazing Zion

St. George, Utah

We toured parts of Zion National Park the other day.

Wow! It’s an amazing place.

We weren’t able to do the scenic canyon tour because it’s only open for bus tours and we can’t take Sophie on it, but we still were amazed with all we saw.

First off, here are my last pictures from the park. We at our picnic lunch from under this tree with these spectacular views.



This is the road we drove up and down. In the middle of the drive is a tunnel that’s over one mile long. Thankfully, there are holes letting sunlight in periodically because the dark can get a bit overwhelming. 🙂 0320151236b

Stunning just doesn’t begin to describe the vistas…0320151236aIn addition to all the beautiful rock formations, we are back in PINE TREES–my favorite flora!

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Just a beautiful drive…0320151214a

Here are some closeups of what the wind and water have done to the sandstone. 0320151214
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Almost too much to take in at once. 0320151210

This is called the Checkerboard Mesa. The vertical lines are caused by wind etching the layers of sandstone. The horizontal lines are more rare, and they are caused by water seeping into cracks and then expanding. 0320151203

The diversity of colors is just amazing!0320151202

I think they added red dirt to the asphalt mix because the roads within the park are tinged with red. 0320151156Sophie enjoyed Zion, too!


Hoover Dam + Bypass Bridge

St. George, Utah

The other day we toured around Hoover Dam and walked across the new Hoover bypass bridge.

Hoover Dam

We actually didn’t do the tour because we had done that many years ago when our kids were younger at one of Melissa’s softball tournaments.

Hoover Dam, once known as Boulder Dam, is a concrete arch-gravity dam in the Black Canyon of the Colorado River, on the border between the U.S. states of Arizona and Nevada. It was constructed between 1931 and 1936 during the Great Depression and was dedicated on September 30, 1935, by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Its construction was the result of a massive effort involving thousands of workers, and cost over one hundred lives.


It’s mind boggling to think that it was built in five years!


The white ring is a high-water mark called a “bathtub ring” shows the original shoreline of Lake Mead. The bathtub ring is white because of the deposition of minerals on previously submerged surfaces.

Lake Mead is distressingly low. It reaches its last peak in 1998 at an elevation of 1215.76. Top capacity is 1299. Currently it is at 1,112. On July 11, 2014, it reached its lowest elevation since the dam was constructed at 1,081.77.

The contrast of the bathtub ring against the red and brown rock is stunning.


The picture below is for one of the spillways. It’s huge when compared to the fifth wheel travel trailer parked nearby.


Mike O’Callaghan–Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge

Opened in 2010, it was the key component of the Hoover Dam Bypass project, which rerouted US 93 from its previous routing along the top of Hoover Dam and removed several hairpin turns and blind curves from the route. It is jointly named for Mike O’Callaghan, Governor of Nevada from 1971–1979, and Pat Tillman, an American football player who left his career with the Arizona Cardinals to enlist in the United States Army and was later killed in Afghanistan by friendly fire.

The bridge is a stunning engineering feat. Here it is as seen from Hoover Dam.


Pedestrians can walk across the bridge. Here’s the state line dividing Nevada and Arizona.

And here is the Apex of the Arch point on the bridge. 

0318151039When we walked to the end, Rich noticed how much the bridge expands and contracts, indicated by two marks. Look at the top railing near the middle and you’ll see about a four inch black spot. That’s where it’s rubbing against itself. You can see a similar mark on the bottom joint.


It’s just a beautiful bridge!