Friday, April 28, 2017

Leisurely Drive Through the Indian Creek Valley.

Scenic Highway 211 is the access road to Canyonlands National Park - The Needles District.  Those in a rush to see the park, and only that, miss out on the breathtaking landscape along the roadway.  I wonder sometimes, do they purposely put on blinders; is the idea of not sticking to a strict travel schedule that frightening???

To those of you who wander the roads looking for everything and anything; you'll appreciate the photos I'll share in this posting.  To those who raced to the National Park, now you can see some sites you missed out on; and have a great excuse to come back.

Driving forward on a roadway, don't you ever wonder what it looks like behind you?  We often like to stop, get out, turn around and see; depending on the lighting, it won't be the same in the morning as it is in the evening.

Those are the La Sal Mountains north of Monticello, Utah with Lisbon Valley in the foreground.  Can you really say this sight doesn't take your breathe away?  Imagine if you were personally standing there and taking it all in!?!

The sun was beginning to travel westward by the time we drove past Newspaper Rock and stopped at the trailhead for Shay Canyon (1.8 miles west of Newspaper Rock).  Definitely on our to-do list to take that hike, even if just to the opening of the canyon, and getting up close and personal to that jug handle arch.  Warm weather had come, snow melting, and water flowing through the Indian Creek (see video).

Trail downward.

Pretty soon the narrow walls of the Newspaper Rock area open up into a grand vista of the #1 crack climbing walls in the world; beyond you can begin to see Bridger Jack Mesa and the North and South Six Shooters.

The Dugout Ranch (owned by the Redd Family) is along Highway 211; if you drive the road to Beef Basin/Elk Mountain, you can truly see the vastness of this ranch.  There are petroglyphs and ruins located on the ranch, and I hope to get an invite to visit out there one of these days...yes Redd family, that is a huge hint!!!

Now did we go into the park, why yes we did!  We spent three hours hiking around and enjoying the solitude; the Needles District is never as packed as the parks located up in the Moab area.  This, of course, will be a separate write up on this travel blog, so hope you have patience.  We left the park as sunset was approaching, so now you get to see many of the same places I've just shown you, but in that different lighting I mentioned.

Now a real treat, a herd of horses heading on home for the evening; definitely one of those sights that promotes the spirit of the Old West.

Well I've either brought back some fond memories for you; or you're kicking yourselves in the butt for not taking the time to slow down and look around.  Remember, life is short, so don't go through it with your senses closed down and in a rush to get nowhere.

Mary Cokenour

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

The Charm of a Barn.

If a barn could speak, what secrets and stories would it reveal?  Surely it would tell of the birthing of a calf or foal; the death of a long milked cow or well ridden mare.  Amongst the hay bales the trails of rodents hunted by cats; or lovers having a roll around.  Musings of a daydreamer, perhaps, but there is something about a barn that has rustic charm and brings about wonder.

The basic definition ( of a barn is, “A large building for sheltering livestock, storing hay or other agricultural products, or housing equipment used for operating a farm. 2. A large shed for the housing of vehicles, such as railroad cars.”  Actually there are various sites giving either less or more of a definition, but to store or shelter is the main focus of a barn’s existence.  While some think, “this is nothing more than a utility building”, for others, like the Amish and Old Order Mennonite, the barn is not just an important feature of farming, but of overall life on the farm.  A “barn raising” is a huge deal in the community; families come by horse and buggy; the men to build the structure while the women prepare the feast to be enjoyed later on, and a bit of gossiping too.  It is the “community center” for parties, dances, wedding receptions, basically all social gatherings.


Back in 1997, the Smithsonian Institute developed a nationwide tour, “Barn Again! Celebrating an American Icon”; visiting four rural sites in designated states, one of which was Utah; Wellsville, Heber City, Monticello (July/August 1998) and Ephraim.  The focus: who, what, where, why, where and how of an American icon…The Barn.  Featured in the Monticello site was the early 1900s built barn which became the Frontier Museum.  Originally a storage facility for the L.H. Redd Hardware/Mercantile, it was moved to its present location on Main Street (purchased by the City of Monticello) due to the tireless effort of the Monticello Foundation, headed by San Juan Record’s Bill Boyle.

Main Street between 200 and 300 South - given to Ginger Tracy by Joyce Martin; San Juan County Historical Commission.

Barn seen to the left of the Post Office.

Missy Votel of Durango’s Cross Currants wrote, “First order of business was to move the barn….back corner of lot, away from street, to front and center…put on rollers and moved approximately 60 yards.” The barn was of simple design, one entry way, one window, nothing to truly write home and brag about; but it was historic and needed to be preserved.  Temporary shingles were put on to keep out the elements; built on were an entry way and small storage room; eye pleasing features of faux barn doors and hayloft pulley were added.  Inside electricity and plumbing needed to be installed; the second floor (hayloft) could only be accessed via ladder (donations and grants needed to install an elevator, and not achieved as yet). 





Herringbone Pattern in Wood Planking

In 1998, plans by the City included a Visitors Center which was built in 2008 and is attached to the museum; 2013 saw the creation of the Big 4 Tractor Building which houses, of course, the Big 4 Tractor.  The field next to this building was, more than likely, for the Community Center proposed in 1998; however, that is now located at the Hideout Golf Course.  The field is used during Pioneer Day weekend activities for the Mud Tractor Pull; a huge attraction for locals and visitors alike.


 The first curator, and largest donor, to the Frontier Museum was Nell Dalton; after her death, her daughter, Ginger Tracy, became curator.  With her help, I was able to amass photographs, newspaper articles and information about the barn.  The museum is an eclectic collection representing Monticello and San Juan County’s Native Americans, the Pioneers and their descendants.  Framed black and white photographs, historical documents, memoirs; kitchen gadgets that make many a visitor state, “I remember my grandmother using that!”  The Hyland Hotel (National Register of Historic Places – July 28, 1994) is a featured exhibit, as well as Marie Ogden’s “new age cult”, The Home of Truth which has been written about by BYU Professor, Joel Campbell, and Emma Kemp, an instructor at California Institute of the Arts and Otis College BFA Fine Art of Arts. 

At one time, the City’s “museum” was located in the San Juan County building; artifacts stored in the cellar.  This was all transferred to the Frontier Museum once it had been established.  The second floor is closed off and contains all those artifacts not designated for display…yet.  Plans are in the works for a “rotation” system, and new donations, whether monetary or artifacts, are always welcomed!

Monticello Diorama depicting 1888 to 1911

Main Street Quilt created for 100th Anniversary of Monticello's Founding.

Whether a local who walks by, or a visitor driving in for a rest stop, come on into the Frontier Museum and have a look about.  You never know what you’ll find.

Monticello Welcome Center/Frontier Museum/Big 4 Tractor Building
216 South Main Street
PO Box 182
Monticello, Utah, 84535

(435) 587-3401

Mary Cokenour

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Hospitality is Key for a Bed and Breakfast.

Valley of the Gods Bed and Breakfast

PO Box 310307
Mexican Hat, Utah, 84531

Phone: (970) 749-1164

Hospitality to travelers, strangers really, goes back to the beginning of recorded history; an extension of religious beliefs and culture.  A perfect example is Xenia, the concept of Greek hospitality where generosity and courtesy were reciprocated between host and guest.  A traveler could knock upon the door of any home, be greeted warmly, given food and a bed to rest upon.  Zeus, leader of the Grecian Pantheon, was also called Zeus Xenios, the protector of travelers; often disguising himself as a weary traveler he was able to see if humble hospitality was practiced or not. Rewards were bestowed to those who were pious to the concept (Theoxeny), punishments to those who refused to help a stranger, or even try to take advantage.

As humankind developed, travel went from walking, horse/oxen drawn carts, waterways, stagecoach, railway, automobile, airplane.  Inns with many rooms, stables for the horse and oxen, developed into hotels with the advent of indoor plumbing.  As families traveled on vacation and needed cheaper lodging, motels burst forth along highways.  Hotels provided meals through a restaurant of their own, or kitchen providing room service.  Diners became the roadside partners to the motels, and then the fast food industry came onto the scene. 

Having traveled through Europe, Russia, Canada and the United States, the concept of hospitality differs, not from country to country, or town to town.  Nowadays, what you get might just be dependent upon what you give, and that means money….or does it?

The Bed and Breakfast, or B & B for short, has never left, but is becoming a much desired staying place for people on vacation or traveling for business.   The owners of a B & B often live within the residence, or within a smaller building on the premises.  Cozy sized bedrooms with ultra-comfy beds, a small private bathroom; homemade breakfast is typically the only meal served.  Guests are treated more like family; rocking chairs on porches, taking in the night air and sky; sharing stories of the day’s sightseeing.


…and let me introduce you to the Valley of the Gods Bed and Breakfast.   The Route 261 entrance to Valley of the Gods is 6.5 miles once you have made the turn off Highway 163; on the way is the road to Goosenecks State Park.  Or, like we did, travel down the 3 miles of switchbacks known as the Moki Dugway, ready to explore the 17 mile trail of the Valley and its amazing formations.  About a half mile in is the B & B, stopping only to take some exterior shots, owner Claire Dorgan came out to ask us if we were reserved guests.  Explaining the travel blog, and wanting to do a write up of her business, she cheerfully exclaimed, “Well, come on in!”  We weren’t staying there, but already felt wanted and welcomed.

The porch is referred to as the outdoor living room, dining room and kitchen; a place to take in the beauty of the landscape, the night show of the stars, breathe deep and relax.  Inside, this home is amazing wood and stone; antiques galore; handmade quilts adorn the sink-into-glorious-sleep beds; rustic country/southwestern charm.  Breakfast is freshly prepared by Claire, unique creations keep the guests surprised and satisfied.  Her husband, Gary, proudly talks about the energy efficiency of the B & B; powered by wind and solar systems.  Looking for a little privacy, the old root cellar building has been converted into a quaint little hideaway of its own.

Lady in the Bathtub.

Valley of the Gods Bed and Breakfast is a haven in the desert; its warm arms surrounding visitors at night while the coyote howls and a tumbleweed rolls into the dark.
Mary Cokenour