Saturday, July 8, 2017

Let Me Guide You Through Canyonlands Needles..

So here is my part two of visiting Canyonlands  - Needles District in the winter; still saying "that's crazy!?!"  During the day, dependent on the month, the temperatures are 50s to 70s; at night is when the cold seriously creeps in with the night sky.  If staying in the nearest town, Monticello, there are several hotels and motels to hide in at night; RV campgrounds with full hookups too.  Then there is Canyonlands Lodging which does offer the use of their beautiful cabins year round; or the Runnin' Iron Inn and Line Camp Steakhouse.  Still confused on what to do; check out Tripadvisor: for reviews that will help you make your best decisions.

Enough with advertising (and I don't even get paid for doing it!!!), after that short hike at the Roadside Ruin ( ), the very next pull-in was to view Woodenshoe Arch.  Put the imagination cap on and yes, it does look like one of those wooden shoes associated with Holland.  This is also where you'll get your first viewing of the Needles themselves.  Hint, you have to be in the park between 8am to 11am to get the best lighting for viewing and photographing the Needles.  After 11am, the sun begins traveling overhead and west, so the Needles become covered in haze.

Haze over the Needles.

Here is where I'm going to be really nice to all my readers...a map of Canyonlands - Needles; in winter, the visitor center inside the park is closed, so you can't get a map.  See the red line on the map, that indicates the paved section of roadway through the park.  If you still think you need help, or are lost, stop at the Canyon Country Discovery Center at the northern end of Monticello (just before you enter the City limits on Highway 191) for more information.

By the way, the National Parks (Canyonlands, Arches) do not have stores, so make sure, before beginning the journey, fill up the gas tank, have plenty of water (3-4 quarts per person; double that if long hikes are planned for), healthy protein snacks and ALWAYS take a picnic!   If traveling with person(s) that have walking restrictions, Route 211 has loads he/she/they can see along the way; and Needles will offer them some great sightseeing too!  Now you can understand why I worked for over four years at the Monticello Welcome Center; I know this stuff and made sure visitors were aware!

We continued on the paved roadway towards Big Spring Canyon Overlook, but first stopped at the pull-in area for the Slickrock Foot Trail.  We didn't walk that trail as we were too interested in what we spied on the other side of the roadway.  That shouldn't mean that you don't do the trail; Roy and I just happen to enjoy doing "Oooo, bunny" stuff; you know, "Oooo, what's over there?" or "Oooo, where does that road go?"

Across from the Slickrock Foot Trail

Looking upwards, I spotted an opening and thought it was either a cave, or an arch; inside though, looks like there's a ruin there (ancient or modern I don't know).

One thing I always enjoy is photographing plant life, wild life and desert's like being on another world!.

...and for some reason, Roy enjoys photographing me, photographing.

Back to sightseeing...

Looking across, you can make out Big Spring Canyon Overlook.

Just a short drive down to the next pull-in area, welcome to Big Spring Canyon!

,,,and Roy taking my photo, so I took his too.

Next stop, Elephant Hill Road; the Needles can be seen here too (one mile along road - graded to make passenger car accessible), but, again, the haze makes it difficult to see the layers of coloring.

Reaching the parking area, there are actually two trails; 4 Wheel Drive is rated one of the most extreme in Utah, and the hiking trail.  We didn't drive the 4WD trail, but walked the first 1/4 of a mile and even that was a bit on the nerve wracking side; had to pay attention to avoid a fall, spraining or even breaking something.  It starts out easy on dirt, and then quickly switches to uneven rock!

Wait till you see the views from the point we stopped walking.

It's around 4:30pm and time to head on back to Monticello, as the sunset will begin soon enough (remember, this was February 2017). Time enough to take a quick photo of the hiking trail before we go.

Hope you enjoyed our winter journey through Canyonlands - The Needles District.  See, there's lots to do in the desert winter!

Mary Cokenour

Friday, June 30, 2017

The Good is Done, the Best is to Come.

As of Monday, June 26th, I no longer work at the Monticello Welcome Center.  My vision of growth and development for, not just Monticello, but of San Juan County simply didn't mesh with the administration's vision.  I was there guiding and advising visitors for over 4 years; it was a good run, but now it's done.

The only mourning I will do is for my beautiful and beloved Doberman, Jenna who passed away that same day.  She was my traveling and adventure companion; we would drive and hike throughout San Juan County's canyons.  Jenna was not just a dog, a family pet; she was my child, my friend; I will miss her everyday...her physical presence that is, but in my heart, mind and soul she will remain forever.

I will continue to travel around the 4 Corners region of Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Utah; not working at a welcome center would not stop that, as I was doing it even before I was working there.  I will continue to photograph, write about, and share with you, my readers; my fellow adventurers, explorers, curiosity seekers, hikers, lovers of nature, landscape and the outdoors.

I encourage everyone to visit San Juan County, Utah and all the beauty and adventure it has to offer. While I do give loads of detailed information, and maps, on my travel blog posts; I encourage you all to visit the Canyon Country Discovery Center, 1117 North Main (Highway 191), Monticello, UT, 84535; (435) 587- 2156; Website:  which offers information on, not just Utah, but the entire Colorado other words, the 4 Corners region of AZ, CO, NM and UT.  This is a wonderful place to spend hours of exploring within; interactive exhibits for geology, wildlife, plant life, weather, water and much more.  Perfect for families as the kids will love...LOVE..the bouldering wall.  There are hiking trails on the property, an outdoor playscape, clean restrooms, gift shop including snacks and cold drinks.

The Good is Done, the Better is to Come...never know, you just might see me around, so don't forget to say "Hi!".

Mary Cokenour

Monday, June 19, 2017

An Easy Hike in Canyonlands Needles.

Must you come during the busy, hot tourist season between May and September?  The answer is a most definite NO!!!  Canyonlands National Park is open year long, beautiful all year long and has unique sites not featured in any other park.  National Parks are not cloned!  Our visit to the Roadside Ruin was in February 2017 with a average day temperature of 75 F; there were campers at Squaw Flat campground; and yes, you can bring your dog, but it must be leashed and can only be on the paved road, or at the campground.

So now all of you who claim that winter is too cold to go adventuring into Canyonlands, let me show you how much fun we had in one day.  This is basically part one and only about the Roadside Ruin. Immediately past the Visitor Center within Canyonlands National Park - The Needles District, on the left hand side of the paved road, is a pull-in area for the Roadside Ruin.  This is a 3/10s of a mile loop walk featuring plant life, outstanding views and a Native American granary.

At the trailhead there is an informational board and a box containing a trifold pamphlet; also a sign indicating no pets on this natural trail (no, it's not paved or concreted!)  Take in the views of one of the desert towers called "The Six Shooters" and see as far as Island in the Sky and Junction Butte which is along the White Rim Trail.

Island in the Sky

Junction Butte - along the White Rim Trail

Six Shooter (right side)

Along the trail will be wooden posts with a number, the number corresponds to the description in the pamphlet.  Wondered what the Native Americans ate or processed for every day use; now you'll find out.

#1 - Indian Ricegrass - gathered, dried and ground into meal.

#2 - Peppergrass - the seeds were dried and ground; they have a hot peppery taste and were used as a spice.

#3 - Big Sagebrush - the bark was pounded and twisted to make cordage (rope); depending on the variety of sage, it was also used for seasoning, tea and medicinal purposes.

#4 - Fremont Barberry - yellow dye from the roots, the wood is hard enough for making tools and the pretty yellow flowers will ripen into edible berries.

#5 - Four Wing Saltbush - the seeds are edible; the ashes of the wood were used as a baking powder.

Now here comes #6, The Granary, which is hidden inside a small alcove which offered excellent protection from the elements and hungry wild life.  Granaries were storage bins for grains, corn, seeds and nuts; occasionally food items have been found in granaries, but most are empty.

There is a wooden fence which should not be climbed over to get to the granary; the stonework is fragile and do you really want to be known as the one who destroyed it?  Nope; and, of course, we don't want to see your name or initials scratched into the rock.  Bubble busting one cares about your name!!!  Want your name immortalized?  Write a blog!


View from the Granary.

#7 - Narrow Leaved Yucca - sharp spines of the yucca were used as needles; the fiber was made into cordage (rope), woven into sandals and mats; flowers and fruit are edible while the roots were used as a soap.

#8 - Utah Juniper - the bark is fibrous which provided diapers and cradleboard padding; the berries were brewed for a medicinal tea, or dried, strung into beads.

*9 - Pinyon Pine - the seeds can be eaten raw or roasted, using in baking and cooking; they are quite similar to Italian pignoli (pine nuts).

The trail is often marked with a cairn (small tower built of stones) to keep you from losing your way. Surprisingly, you can lose your way on trails within the park if you do not follow the cairns, or lose sight of the trail itself.  We did a bit of wandering over the slickrock, found potholes full of water with signs of living creatures that have come up from the dried soil within.  The views, however, are spectacular!

#10 - Prickly Pear Cactus - the cactus 'leaf" can be split open to use as a pad on a wound or cut; the fruit is sweet, juicy, can be eaten as is, or makes an incredible jelly!

...and then we were walking back to the pull-in and our vehicle.  We had a bit of a snack; oh, don't forget your water!  This was a short walk, but with all of Utah, you will dehydrate and not even know is occurring; always have water with you!

Now I need to work on the photos for part two of our winter day at Canyonlands - The Needles District.

Mary Cokenour