Sunday, August 25, 2019

Nations of the Four Corners/Nations Natural Bridge/Westwater Ruins Travel Guide.

Nations of the Four Corners is a cultural center honoring those who added to the history of the area: Ute, Navajo, Hispanic, and Pioneer.

Location is within the town of Blanding; 21.1 miles south of Monticello along Hwy 191 right onto West 500 South, go 6/10ths of a mile to access parking area.

Five (5) mile loop hiking trail (maintained gravel/dirt) featuring replicas of Pioneer, Hispanic & Native American home life; an observation tower and Prayer Arch.

There is also a five (5) mile loop trail (dirt/rock) to the overlook of Westwater Ruins aka Five (5) Kiva Pueblo & to the one (1) Natural Bridge.

Open year round; open to school field trips, general public & tourists.

Admission: Free.

An across the canyon view of the Natural Bridge & Westwater Ruins is located on West 1600 South.


Address: 580 South 650 West, Blanding, UT, 84511

Phone: (435) 678-4000

Nations of the Four Corners/Nations Natural Bridge/Westwater Ruins

Location: From Nations of the Four Corners, go east on 500 South to return to Hwy. 191 (6/10ths of a mile), make right onto Hwy.191 to go south to 1600 South (USU Trucking School on corner) (1.1 mile).  Make right onto 1600 South.  The paved road dead ends at Utah Department building; continue onto dirt/gravel road to the left (CR 232 aka Ruins Rd.).

Nations Natural Bridge

Travel 1.2 miles to a pull-in for Nations Natural Bridge; there will be a sign indicating the Natural Bridge.

Westwater Ruins aka Five Kiva Ruins

Westwater Ruins aka Five Kiva Pueblo is an outstanding example of ancestral architecture of a cliff dwelling that was occupied about 750 BC to 1275 AD.  Although inhabited from Basketmaker to Pueblo III, the current set of ruins is primarily Pueblo III.  The broad flat plaza of the main central area is the location of the kivas; storage and housing rooms are the room blocks seen behind.  A natural spring in the canyon would account for why the ancestral Puebloans chose this area to reside in.

Continue along road to Westwater Ruins aka Five (5) Kiva Ruins; keep an eye on the canyon walls to the right of the road as there are granaries tucked into it.  The road dead ends at an unpaved parking lot (5/10ths of a mile from the natural bridge), Westwater Ruins can be seen across the canyon, facing northward.  There is a steep, yet easy to hike, trail (dirt & rock), downward to the edge of the canyon face where an unobstructed view of the ruins can be seen.

Total mileage from Nations of the Four Corners to Westwater Ruins is 3.4 miles.

Nations of the Four Corners also has picnic areas, so pick up a meal and enjoy the scenery.

Mary Cokenour

Friday, August 16, 2019

Customer Service People Deserve Respect.

I don't know why, I don't believe I will ever understand why; but why do tourists "test" welcome center representatives.  I've lost count of how many people would ask a question and afterwards say, "I was testing you to see how smart you are?"  Excuse me, how smart I am?  Could a person get anymore insulting?  I often learned that, when someone was about to be this rude to me, they would have a certain demeanor, a certain smug expression on his or her face.  Well I was ready for it, and that's when I would snap on my little "Hello, my name is NOT Google" name tag.  The person would read it, the smug expression would drop, and then a real conversation would take place.

Good!  These representatives, depending on which center you visit, can be highly trained in information about places to see, things to do, where to stay and have a meal.  They are not there to be made fools of due to someone being bored.  They are not walking computers, and certainly not there to be insulted.  They are there to help, and visitors need to learn two special words, "Thank you".

Now there is a center or two where the representatives are there for a paycheck and nothing more.  They don't care about learning the information, being able to read maps, and give out the proper ones. They don't care if you stay in the area or are just passing through.  These types are a blot upon those who do have a passion for being a tourist guide, and for sharing the love of what they do with others.

Anyway, I put together a little San Juan County Basic Information so the need to "test" can be avoided somewhat.  Hint, if you truly need to "test", be ready to leave one hell of a huge donation or tip.  It's the polite thing to do you know.

San Juan County Basic Information

Desert/High Desert
Open range/Brush land (mainly sage brush)

Major Industries

Farm Crops

LaSal – 6900 feet above sea level
Monticello – 7100 feet above sea level
Blanding – 6100 feet above sea level
Bluff – 4300 feet above sea level
Monument Valley – 5200 feet above sea level

The Bluffs of Bluff
Mexican Hat

Monument Valley

Does San Juan County have four seasons? 

Yes - spring, summer, fall and winter.

Does San Juan County have weather and what is it like year round?  
Yes, it has heat, rain, snow, hail, wind, thunderstorms, sun, clouds.  You know, like the rest of planet Earth.

We're going to Monument Valley, can we go inside the Indians' homes to see how they live?  
Umm, first off, they are Native Americans.  Second, please give me your names and addresses.  Why?  So I can give it out freely and tell everyone that your home is open to any and every one to visit at anytime.  

Why are there no straight roads, why are they so curvy?
The roadways were created to go around the natural landscape of the area, to avoid destroying its beauty.

....and here is a favorite story that my friends still get a laugh fest out of.  One day a woman came into a center I was working at and said, "I just drove up from Blanding and where are these mountains I was told I would see?"  (only one highway travels north from Blanding, Highway 191)

I walked her to the windows and asked, "You mean those mountains over there?" (pointing at the Abajo Mountains).

She responded with an incredulous tone of voice, "Hey, they weren't there before!"

...and my response?  "Oh, it's Wednesday.  They were sent out for cleaning, and were just put back." (mind you, there had not been any cloud cover to obscure the mountain range, it was a beautiful sunny day)

Abajo Mountains - Sunny Day

Abajo Mountains - Cloudy Day

Please take the time to engage the brain first, before opening the mouth.  Customer service people are not there to be your personal entertainment, and deserve the same respect that you expect for yourselves.  Give as good as you want to get.

Enjoy the journey!

Mary Cokenour

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Mule Canyon Roadside Ruin Travel Guide.

Mule Canyon Roadside Ruin

Mule Canyon Roadside Ruin is an open Anasazi habitation site consisting of both above-ground and below-ground dwellings. This site was initially occupied briefly about 750 AD, reaching its peak between 1000 and 1150 AD.  Pueblo ruins consists of 12 rooms, a reconstructed Kiva, and remains of a tower.

·        Location is 44.8 miles from Monticello; take Hwy 191 south into and through Blanding, 24.6 miles, until the junction of State Hwy. 95, make a right onto Hwy. 95 and travel 20.3 miles.  There will be a sign indicating the turn off into the parking area.

·         Round trip walking distance is ¼ mile along a concrete walkway; approximate visitation is 30 minutes.  Informational boards are at the Kiva site.

·         Difficulty: Easy

·         Vault toilets, parking area; but no drinking water available.

·         Admission: Free

·         Camping: Not Allowed

·         Pets: Allowed, owners are expected to clean up after pet (s).
 The concrete walkway, and short distance, makes this ruin site very accessible to those with walking disabilities or are wheelchair bound.

 Mary Cokenour

Sunday, August 11, 2019

House on Fire Travel Guide

House on Fire Ruin

House on Fire Ruin obtained its name from the swirling, striated patterns on the rock roof above the structures, during a certain time frame of daylight; making the roof look as if it is engulfed in flames.  The rooms are not living quarters, but instead are granaries used by Anasazi to store corn and other crops.

·         Location is 44.2 miles from Monticello; take Hwy. 191 south into and through Blanding, 24.6 miles, until the junction of State Hwy. 95, make a right onto Hwy. 95 and travel 19.6 miles.  Make a right onto Mule Canyon/Texas Flat Road (graded dirt road and there is a sign indicating it), go 3/10s of a mile. 

·         There are widened parking areas on both sides of the road; on left side of road, walk 25 feet & go down a very steep and sandy decline.  There is an informational board at the trailhead.
·         Best time of day to see “fire” effect is between 8am to 11am; by 12 Noon, the entire site is in shadow.  Many alcoves along the trail have the “fire” effect, but no ruins are inside them.

·         Hike is round trip two (2) miles; approximate visitation is three (3) hours.

·         Difficulty: Easy; the trail goes into and out of a dry wash in several places, a walking stick is recommended due to the sandy soil along its banks and the rocks lining the wash’s bottom.

·         Climb up onto the ruin’s ledge is very steep; there are two (2) well-worn trails upward that can be followed.

·         A Geocache is located at the site.

·         Admission: Free

·         Facilities: None

·         Camping: Only in designated BLM camping areas; see informational board at start of Mule Canyon/Texas Flat Road.

·         Pets: Allowed, must be leashed at all times; owners are expected to pick up after their pet (s).

                       This is a wonderful early to mid-morning hike!

                       Mary Cokenour

Friday, August 9, 2019

Butler Wash - West Fork - Travel Guide

Butler Wash – West Fork: Ballroom Cave, Target Ruin, Tower House

Ballroom Cave

Ballroom Cave was inhabited between A.D. 1150 and 1350; there is a main alcove plus two caves.  The climb up to the alcove and into the caves is quite steep.

 Target Ruin

The Alcove is filled with various rooms with a curtain wall fronting the alcove and rooms behind it at one end. The Target Ruin is named for a large target or bulls-eye design painted on the side of a wall inside the curtain wall.

Tower House

Tower House is a 1000 year-old cliff dwelling, also known as the "Waterfall Ruin" as during rainfall, a waterfall falls over the cave opening.

·          Location is 34.9 miles from Monticello, take Hwy. 191 south into and through Blanding, 24.6 miles, until the junction of State Hwy. 95, make a right onto Hwy. 95 and travel 10.3 miles.  There is roadside pullout on the right (northeast) side of the road near the sign for the “Butler Wash Ruins”, park in the pullout. If you reach the turnoff for the Butler Wash Ruins (Overlook) you have gone too far. Turn around and head back 3 - 10ths of a mile to the pullout.  There will be a fence to walk through with a BLM mylar marker.

  • Distance: 3.2 miles (round trip) to see three (3) Ruins along West Fork of Upper Butler Wash.
  • Elevation: 5,215-ft. at Trailhead, 5,315-ft. at West Fork of Upper Butler Wash
  • Elevation Gain: 100-ft.  
  • Difficulty: easy-moderate on well worn, dirt trail; steep climbing near ruin sites.
  • Admission: Free
  • Camping: Dispersed, no water or vault toilets.
  • Pets: Allowed, must be leashed, owners expected to clean up after pet (s).
 Bring lots of drinking water for this hike, and don't forget the picnic!

Mary Cokenour

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Travel Guide to the Four Corners Monument.

 4 Corners Monument

Four Corners Monument is the only place in the United States where four states intersect: Arizona, New Mexico, Utah and Colorado. You can stand on that spot and truly be in four states at one time. 

·         Location from Monticello is either 99.2 miles from Monticello going via Hwy 491 through Colorado; or 90.9 miles going via Hwy 191 through southern San Juan County, UT.

                               Via Hwy 491                                        


 Via Hwy 191

Hours of Operation

The Four Corners Monument Visitor Center is open year-round, playing host to a variety of Navajo cultural demonstrations, as well as vendors selling handmade Navajo jewelry, crafts and food.

Open daily. Closed Thanksgiving, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Day.

* October 1 to March 31: 8 a.m. - 4:45 p.m.
* April 1 to April 30: 8 a.m. - 5:45 p.m.
* May 1 to Thursday of Memorial Weekend: 8 a.m. - 6:45 p.m.
* Friday of Memorial Weekend to Aug 15: 8 a.m. - 7:45 p.m.
* Aug 16 to Sept 30: 8 a.m - -6:45 p.m.

Park Entrance Fees

 Pay in cash at the gate. (The nearest ATM is five miles away in Cortez, CO.)

Adults: $5/day
Children (6 and under): Free

·         Camping: Not Allowed
·         Pets: Not Allowed

For More Information

Four Corners Monument Office
PO Box 861
Teec Nos Pos, AZ 86514

Phone: (928) 206-2540

If you have not tried Navajo Fry Bread yet, this would be a great chance to do it now.  You simply cannot go home without experiencing this culinary treat of the Southwest.

Mary Cokenour 

Monday, August 5, 2019

Why Go the Mountain Path?

In this age of  "technology rules, brains drool", so many visitors to San Juan County don't have a clue as to why they are even in the area.  There was a time, an ancient time, when one did research on planning out a vacation.  Library for information, travel agents supplying guides, AAA for mapping out a quest.

Now it's Siri or Alexa...which is discrimination against the male sex...whatever happened to Tom-Tom!?!  Anyway, the majority are so busy asking their cellphones, tablets, IPads to plan out their lives for them; well people have stagnant water for brains now.

One question that always annoys me about visitors is, "Is it worth it to me to go (insert destination)?"
Umm, do I know you?  Do I know your likes, dislikes, passions, bucket list, fears, must-dos?"  No, no I do not.  While I can tell you how much it is worth to me, we  are NOT the same person, so stop asking this rather ridiculous question.  Oh, did I offend you?  Good!  Put the cellphone down, stop asking it what to do, open your eyes and start enjoying the vacation!!!  Go everywhere you can, see all you can see, experience wherever you go as if you're a resident.  On old phrase that used to carry a lot of weight with travelers was, "When in Rome, do as the Romans do."  In other words, live like you live there.

So, most folks I have met are dead set on going to National Parks and Monuments only; it's all they have heard about, only thing of importance within any state they visit.  Wow, why in the world do these people limit themselves so much?  Canyonlands National Park is located in San Juan County, the entrance to the southern end, Needles, is just north of Monticello on State Highway 211.  Many people go the quickest route, State Highway 191, but forego the one paved mountain road through the Abajos.  Many are thankful when told about this alternate, quite scenic route; while others are, "Why would I want to go that way, it's just mountains and a forest?"  This is another example of limiting one's self; there is so much to see along the way, but you won't know till you go.

I'm going to show you, via photographs, why it's worth it to me.  You will have to be brave, take the journey yourself, and then decide how much worth for yourself.


7 miles up the mountain road is Monticello Lake.

North Creek's rushing waters due to the spring thaw.

9 miles up, Panorama taken at an informational rest area.

 Shay Mountain in the distance; Storms are normal during July and August.

At 10 miles up the paved road, 2 choices; left is to Foy Lake which has camping, fishing, mountain biking trails and the road to Shay Ridge and Shay Mountain.

Right is Harts Draw Road which will lead directly to State Highway 211.

Indian Creek Valley; SH 211 will take you through this area.

La Sal Mountains and Dry Valley

If you don't mind a bit of detouring, a road can be taken from Monticello Lake which will lead to Spring Creek Road.  Lots of scenic views, but you'll end up coming out onto SH 191; or you can simply turn around, head back to Monticello Lake and then continue the journey along the paved mountain road.  Like I keep writing, don't limit yourselves!

Abajo Mountains seen from Spring Creek Road

Spring Creek is full during spring thaw.

Abajo Mountains and Latigo Wind Farm
There is an abundance of natural wonders to be seen: plants, trees, wildlife; I love photographing it all.  Ranchers often have cattle grazing up in the forest too.


Wild Turkeys
Mule Deer

Photoshopped to look like a walking billboard; No cattle were shaved.

Roosters are not allowed in Monticello City limits.  Someone dumped this little guy.  We
couldn't catch him and chances are he ended up a coyote's dinner.

Plant Life

Arrowleaf Balsamroot
Blooming Yucca

Colorado Aspen
Common Globemallow

Golden Pea

Due to the drought the past two years, this plant remained in hibernation.  Winter 2018 - Spring 2019 were very wet seasons, so Milk Vetch could be found in abundance.

Stinking Milk Vetch

Utah State Flower - Sego Lily

There you go, a little landscape and nature tour while traveling up into the Abajo Mountains and then down Harts Draw Road to State Highway 211.  Very worthwhile every moment to me, but for you, well only you  can make that decision.

Life is an adventure, or nothing.  Helen Keller

Mary Cokenour