Riprap, Slickensides, and a Thanksgiving Walkabout

I went for a walkabout yesterday, two days after eating my way into a holiday food coma. That spiral cut ham–scalloped potatoes–pecan and cranberry dressing–vegetable medley–cranberry sauce–two pieces of pie–champagne and wine Thanksgiving dinner needed to be dealt with. So after nibbling on some leftover ham and forking my way across a hefty slice of breakfast pumpkin pie, I headed over to the Santa Clara Reserve to spend a few hours with friends, hiking and socializing in the great southern Utah outdoors.

I have enjoyed hikes with these guys for several decades


Gambel’s Quail (Callipepla gambelii

How many footsteps are in a mile? If I had a nickel for every step I have taken getting into and out of the geyser basins of Yellowstone over the past four summers, I would be a wealthy individual. Include the eighteen round trip miles involved in accessing Shoshone geyser basin and I could retire comfortably right now. I would spend my golden years driving across the geology of the continent while towing the glamping camper of my dreams.

On the way to Shoshone geyser basin, hiking buddy Brian (aka “Tater”) poses and points.

The blistering heat has dissipated. The jostling summer crowds have disappeared from the trails. Shuttle buses still whoosh quietly up and down the main canyon, but only on the weekends. The sun casts its lengthening shadows on the towering cliffs of Navajo Sandstone. There is a definite chill in the air. This is Zion National Park in November, and it is a perfect time for a bicycle ride.

View from the handlebars

When I was hired as a seasonal interpretive ranger at Yellowstone back in May of 2011, I knew few details about our first national park except that most of it is in northwestern Wyoming, it encompasses a ginormously snoozing yet still active volcano, and its yearly visitation numbers average somewhere in the bazillions. Fortunately, I quickly discovered that there is much more to Yellowstone than simply geysers and tour buses. There are also mountains, and many of them were here long before the volcano showed up. Furthermore, at least one particular range happened to be in the way of at least two of Yellowstone’s ginormous explosions. This range is the Red Mountains and it has its own peculiar personality.

IMG_8123 RedMountains
View of Red Mountains across Riddle Lake, Yellowstone National Park


Katherine Hanson

Hey there, I'm Katherine Hanson, the curator of, a site dedicated to uncovering the hidden gems of the USA. With a passion for exploration and a love for discovering the beauty in every corner of this vast country, I'm on a mission to share the best cities, national parks, historic landmarks, and entertainment hotspots that the USA has to offer. From towering mountains to bustling cities, there's so much to see and experience. Join me as I embark on adventures and uncover the wonders that make America truly remarkable.
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