Sunday, January 7, 2018

A Perfect Place for Thought and Reflection - Harts Point Road.

It had been over a year since the last time we had explored Harts Point Road, so it was high time to go back.  San Juan County is chock full of places that one can go to that is peaceful and beautiful; perfect places to clear the mind and soul; leave the real world behind for just a little while.  In case you don't want to click on the link in the first sentence, let me remind you how to get there.

First choice, travel over the one paved mountain road from Monticello where you'll eventually travel down a section called Harts Draw Road.  As soon as you reach Scenic Highway 211 (road to Newspaper Rock and Canyonlands National Park - The Needles District), make a left turn and then a quick right turn onto a dirt road (sign will say Indian Creek Recreation Area).  This is also known as San Juan County Road 137, Jackson Spring and Harts Point Road.  Why all the names?  I don't truly know, but I'm telling you all the names depending on which map you use, and what map site you use on the internet.  By the way, warning you now, do NOT depend on technology out here; no cell service, no GPS, no wifi; make sure to have paper maps and written out directions.

Second choice if you do not drive over the paved (seems I have to repeat this minor detail many times) mountain road, then drive directly to Scenic Highway 211, go 9.6 miles and you will come to Harts Point Road on the right side (you just passed Harts Draw Road on your left a couple of seconds ago). Warning, you will definitely need 4 wheel drive for this sandy, sometimes rocky, sometimes driving over slickrock, road.  So now you have directions and a couple of warnings, time to see why this area is so wonderful and shouldn't be missed.  Hiking is definitely a plus, and while camping is allowed, clean up and take your trash with you!

All along this road are visible 4 wheel drive trails, no, we haven't done all of them, but the ones we have done either dead end at a camping area, and then hiking to the ledges is involved; or they just just end in the middle of nowhere (no camping area, no close hiking to viewpoints).  You'll never know until you try!  The left side of the road leads to fantastical views of the Indian Creek Valley; the surface of the ledges is slickrock full of potholes, trees and plants growing up through cracks and a few surprises.  Harts Point Road puts you at a higher elevation than Indian Creek, so you will be overlooking the #1 crack climbing walls in the world, and sites like Bridger Jack Mesa and the North and South Six can even see into the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park!!!

Indian Creek Crack Climbing Walls.
Since we were on a journey of "just enjoying the ride", I won't be giving out details of how to find the locations of the photos as I didn't bother to make notes.  Like I stated before, there are many trails to try out, so just do it!

So, lets take a gander at the Six Shooters and you can make out some of Canyonlands beyond.  We found a lovely surprise that someone had left on the ledge, a sculpture which enhanced our viewing experience. 

At another trail, we were able to get a view of Bridger Jack Mesa.

Breathless views, right?

How about the North and South Six Shooters up close.

North Six Shooter.

South Six Shooter.
...and suddenly you're overlooking the Needles.

When it comes to my photography, I'm all about the landscapes, plant life and wildlife.

Now this little guy was sitting on the fence post over at Marie's Place aka Home of Truth, while I've seen squirrels up in the forest, this was a first time for a desert dweller.

...and then there are the turkey vultures.  Seems lately, every time we go driving and hiking into desert areas, we find ourselves being circled by these guys up above.  Oh, we already know what they're thinking, "just wait awhile boys, lunch will be served soon".

Alright, now a few locals told me the name of this plant was "spiny globe yucca", but when I tried verifying this detail within my southwestern plant books, and online, nada, nope, nyet, nein, nothing.  Took me about a half hour of perusing photos online, but finally found one that had been taken inside Canyonlands, and the name is:Yucca nana (Y. harrimaniae)  Frankly, I refer to it as "spiny globe yucca" simply because that is what it looks like!

If you're going to visit this area, make sure to pack lots of water to drink and a picnic; there's nothing like sitting out on one of those ledges, the world opened up before you, and silence...and don't forget to take your trash out with you!

Mary Cokenour

Monday, January 1, 2018

Overlooking Bulldog Canyon and Recapture Reservoir.

Happy New Year 2018!

This is my first travel post of the new year; many may be wondering why I haven't been writing about my travels throughout the 4 Corners area lately.  Several reasons kept us home most of the time, but we did get to venture to a few places throughout the summer and fall.  Writing though, writing for me seemed to be lacking, mostly, inspiration.  I made the decision yesterday to work on a file of photos and have them ready to begin the new year, so here it goes...

First off, when I give directions and mileage readings, I mainly use some type of landmark; this time I used the Monticello Post Office located on Main Street, corner of 200 South.  Heading south out of town and 15 miles along Highway 191, right hand side, there is, well it starts out as gravel, crosses over a cattle guard and then becomes part of an old paved road; you can still make out a double yellow line going down the center of it.  It ends in 5/10s of a mile to become a horribly ruted dirt trail which eventually will get you into Bulldog Canyon, that is if you hike or ATV the trail.

We decided to see if the trail got better further on, but by a half mile in it only began getting worse; still great for hikers and ATVers though.  Don't be deceived by the photo, this was the level part of the hike.  Only went a half mile, but we saw beautiful scenery just the same

Now what's so important about Bulldog Canyon anyway?  There are a few ruin sites here and there, but it does have historical value for San Juan County besides those.  The first sawmill was sent up in Bulldog Canyon by Willard Butt and C.R. Christensen.  The logs came from the Abajo Mountains, and lumber for the first sluice gates in Bluff were cut with a rip saw by Parley R. Butt.  The saw mill is long gone, but it's a popular recreational area, especially being adjacent to Recapture Reservoir.

Back to our adventure, we turned our vehicle around, only went 2/10s of a mile before we spotted a trail going through the trees; oh what the hell and down it we went.  The trail ended, you guessed it, 2/10s of a mile inward, but we could see rocky outcroppings and a hint of Recapture Reservoir.  Now the rocky outcroppings were the same that could be seen from a dirt trail that goes around Recapture, and here we were about to hike the top of them.  There are many cracks and openings between sections of the rocks, so be careful walking on them; pay attention or falling down between huge boulders will definitely be an option you won't enjoy. 

By the way, we went to this area twice, the first time was in May 2017 and the next day was an unexpected snowstorm.  The second time was in July 2017 and the next day it poured rain as if the monsoon season wanted to get it all done in one day.  So, I guess if the area needs more moisture, we should make a trip to this overlook?

..and back to the story.

This seems to be a popular area for wood cutting and it was easy to follow short trails through the trees; at one old tree we found an unusual sort of "nest"; looks like deer enjoy resting here as well.  We found several stone rings created to hold a campfire, so campers, here's another option for you to visit.

Of course, standing on top of a huge section of boulder, looking across at Recapture; the quiet, the serenity, it was just one of those "ahhhhh" moments.

My hubby, Roy, having an "Ahhhh" moment.

As with many of my travel postings, I can't resist adding some photos of the local plant and/or wild life.

Desert Dandelion (Aster family)

Penstemon grandiflorus is a perennial plant of the genus Penstemon. Common names include large beardtongue.

As I begin writing more postings of where we went during those warmer months, I want you to think about making plans to come on into San Juan County, Utah and visiting these places as well.  Don't forget now, I'll be working at Canyon Country Discovery Center (northern end of Monticello), giving out plenty of tourist information and advice.  Come on in, buy an admission to play inside the Exhibit Hall, climb the Bouldering Wall and who knows what goodies you'll find inside the gift shop.  Think of it this way, a little playtime indoors before tackling the great outdoors!

Mary Cokenour

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Finding Your Connection in 2018.

“Mary, you are one of the most honest people I’ve ever met, and I admire that about you; but honest to a fault.  Living in San Juan County, especially Monticello, that part of your personality will earn you hardships, many you do not deserve.  However, I don’t want you to change, you are not the one that needs to change; the others need to change, start listening and doing.” This was said to me by a man who only lived in Monticello a short time, but was happy as a pig in a mud hole to move away to a more populated area of Utah.

With that I looked back at my life, not just in 2017, but in general and realized that I have changed many times, mainly to make others happy.  From an early age, I relished the thought of visiting museums, discovering the scientific worlds of archaeology, anthropology and paleontology.  In college, I took several of these courses and was at the New York Museum of Natural History (yes, the one from the Ben Stiller movies) so much, all the guards knew me by name.  However, I ended up putting these loves on the shelf, listening to advisors that said there was no money in these careers, no real future for a woman.  I dragged myself through jobs I hated, stayed in an abusive marriage as others kept telling me, “You’ll never do better.”  I figured, if everyone I knew was telling me this, then it must be true, right?

It wasn’t until I was in my 40s that I developed friendships with people who supported me mentally and emotionally.  I divorced the s.o.b., met my current husband, Roy, and even he too kept telling me, “Be who and what you want to be; don’t do things to make me, or anyone else happy.”  With our move to Utah, our adventuring around the 4 Corners region of the four states, I was able to enjoy those lost loves from my younger years.  That crazy woman jumping up and down on slickrock, off State Highway 95, near White Canyon?  Yeah, that was me as I just found dinosaur prints, put my foot next to one and imagined what creature, from millions of years ago, I was communing with.

In essence, what I am trying to communicate to everyone is, have hopes and dreams, hold onto them tightly, and get them done!  Don’t listen to naysayers and simply do as they say, put them on the spot and ask them “Why?  Why don’t you want me to pursue what will make me happy?  Why does it have to be only your way when I know you’ve never tried to do it yourself?”

Need a little inspiration?  Watch the original Muppet Movie (1979), about a little frog that had big dreams and pursued them no matter what.  Listen to the words he sings in “Rainbow Connection” and realize,

“Why are there so many songs about rainbows and what's on the other side?
Rainbows are visions, but only illusions, and rainbows have nothing to hide.
So we've been told and some choose to believe it.
I know they're wrong wait and see.
Someday we'll find it, the rainbow connection.
The lovers, the dreamers and me.”

I remember when a rainbow went over a particular ridge.  I want to climb that ridge and see "what's on the other side?"  In 2018, find your rainbow connection and from the Cokenour family, Happy New Year!

Mary Cokenour

Saturday, August 26, 2017

More at Newspaper Rock Than Imagined.

After writing about the Four Corners Potato ( on my food blog; I decided to drag Roy away from his computer, and go plant hunting.  Newspaper Rock is only about 35-40 minutes away, well, except if you take the one paved road up through the Abajo Mountains and down Harts Draw Road; then it's an easy hour, hour and 15 minutes.  Armed with walking stick and several cameras, we parked in the lot at the Historical Monument; while tourists walked to the rock art wall, we went the opposite way.  There is a dirt trail that leads off from the restroom area; prickly pear cactus, claret cup cactus, sage brush, salt bush, juniper and pinon pine...but no potato plants.  Now mind you, we had no intention of digging up any plants; the thrill of actually seeing and photographing one would definitely be enough!

The trail eventually lead right back to the Route 211, so basically it dead-ended.

Looking across from parking lot at Newspaper Rock.

Trail past restroom dead ends.

Doowozhii aka 3-Wing Salt Bush or 4-Wing Salt Bush

Coming out onto Route 211, we decided to head directly across and check out a visible trail; zig-zagging through the wooded area, we ended up at Indian Creek.  It takes a bit of figuring out where to cross over, but we were able to get back and forth a few times.  Wearing waterproof hiking boots is a must for this kind of outing.  Three plants that were dominant were:

Indian Paintbrush

Canaigre Dock (Buckwheat family)
The Burdock and Canaigre Dock bloom May-June, and even the Indian Paintbrush was not as bright being near the end of August.  Monsoon season was essentially over, so that's another reason why we were hoping to see the 4 Corners Potato, since it thrives due to the moisture.

We ended back at the parking area, checked out the trail that goes down and to the right of Newspaper Rock itself, but, again, no plants we were looking for.  We checked out the small alcoves there, where we usually enjoy picnics, and found that others had definitely been there....modern graffiti of initials and names that were not there 1-2 years ago!  I find it funny that, with this Bears Ears National Monument issue; tourists cry out, "It's public land, we have the right to be on it."  Yes, it's public land, but you DON'T have the right to deface historical areas, destroy landscapes, and leave your crap lying around!!!  ...and there is my rant for this post.

Anyway, we left and drove back towards Highway 191, but only got about 500 feet where there is a pull-in area; and across is a trail (hiking/ATV) leading off to the wooded area.  As there were plants along the bottom of the rock wall, we walked and searched; went down into a small dry wash, came back up and stared at the bullet holes that ranchers had left when they first came through this area. There is one large panel of them, but we started to notice more and then it came to mind that this was often done where Native American rock art existed.  We looked, we stared and then we saw it; faint drawings and carvings, could it be true?  Using my camera's zoom lens and a pair of binoculars, it was confirmed. we had found more rock art that was approximately 550 feet before getting to Newspaper Rock itself.

View of area from across Indian Creek.

Panel riddled with bullet holes, about 200 feet up.
Hunting Scene

Big Horn Sheep Carvings
Bullet holes obscure Roger's last name & full date.

Bird figure?

Figures on this panel are very similar to the Wolfman Panel at Comb Ridge (Lower Butler Wash)

More bullet holes among the drawings.

Stick figures are questionable, but the animal figure looks authentic.

Truman Wilcox was there on July 11, 1926.

Looking across from these panels, there is a jutting point; couldn't find a name for it on any maps though.

I asked locals about the rock art, but it seemed they knew of Newspaper Rock, but not of any in the nearby area.  It was suggested I contact the BLM - Monticello Field Office; I gave the desk person information about the area and contact info.   A couple of days later I received a call back; this is, indeed, listed as a historical site, just not advertised due to Newspaper Rock being the "popular" location.  Hey, all you public lands people, look, but DON'T touch...there's a hint for you.

In conclusion, we didn't find any potato plants to photograph, but we found this wonderful rock art site we must have passed by, oh, over a hundred times, or more, by now.  Still got a thrill for the day!

Mary Cokenour