Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Known and Unknown Sites In and Around Monticello, Utah.

So, here I go again being a tattle tale and telling secrets about sites to see and/or visit in the Monticello, Utah area.  I've already given away the big secret about the Abajo Mountains; all those wonderful, and FREE, campsites up in the mountains: two run by the National Forestry Agency(Dalton Springs and Buckboard), around the three lakes (Loyd's, Foy and Monticello), and hidden amongst the forest down unmarked dirt roads. Now it's time to reveal more secrets, some known, but most kept quiet about and not in guidebooks or detailed on maps.

The Abajo Mountains
Abajo Peak
I'll begin with two known details about the Abajo Mountains; Abajo means "down" in Spanish, but many refer to them as the "Blue Mountains" as the greenery plus sky give the range a bluish tint.  The first known item is about Abajo Peak, height reaching to 11, 360 feet; there is a rough, dirt road which can be traveled to the very top (where the antennas are), but a smaller 4 wheel drive vehicle or ATV is huge trucks or RVs. 

The Horsehead
The second known item is called "The Horsehead", a grouping of evergreen trees surrounded by a field that resembles the head of a horse.  Look at it sideways and the nose of the horse is near the top of the mountain, then follow down to get the entire view of the head.  Now remember, there are loads of free campsites in these mountains, so take advantage of it while the weather is warm; once winter blows in, the roads basically shut down up there.  That is pretty much a shame too, as winter sports would help the city of Monticello bring in funds during that time of year.  Snowmobiling, skiing, cross-country skiing, even ice skating on the lakes would have folks looking forward to a nice hot meal and drink at any of the restaurants in town.  I'll eventually be doing a write up on winter in this region, so you'll see what I mean about snow, and how winter sports would be a big boon to the area.

Now I have mentioned in previous write ups about the Abajo Mountains that Mule Deer roam the roads quite freely.  At this time of year, the does and bucks have been bringing out their fawns; unfortunately, nearby the entrance to Loyd's Lake, some jackass hit two fawns and left them to rot on the side of the road.  Nearby to the bodies was the local cleanup crew...Turkey Vultures; incredibly ugly, and yet beautiful creatures in their own right.  Massive birds with a wingspan between 5 to 6 feet, about as wide as my car!  So, when you're up in the Abajos, you never know who or what you'll meet up with.
Is she ever going to stop taking pictures and go away!?!

We're going to leave the city of Monticello and begin traveling south on Route 191; past the entrance to Bull Hollow Raceway, down a curvy hill; about six miles down (around mile marker 65) is the "ghost town" of Verdure.

There is a plaque at this site that explains the location, but I was able to find out a few more details from a University of Utah website.  In March 1886, Francis A. Hammond, the LDS Stake President  (the leading LDS regional authority) of San Juan County, sent scouts from Bluff to find locations for settlements near the water sources of the Abajo Mountains. The scouts found the land was already being used; probably by cattleman Patrick O'Donnell (1879), the first white man known to have built a cabin in the area. The scouts first set up camp at Verdure (which refers to "lush, green vegetation") near the South Fork of Montezuma Creek on March 11, 1887.  By early July, 1887, the men had begun to plant crops, survey an irrigation ditch, and layout a town site for "North Montezuma".  Conflicts soon began with the Carlisle cowboys and Ute over water and land rights; lawyers decided that the cowboys had basically no legal claim to any of either.  The Mormons, therefore, claimed all the water from the South Fork and 3/4 of the water from the North Fork. In the spring of 1888, the Adams and Butt families remained in Verdure while the rest of the settlers moved to North Montezuma to begin construction of the town. Early names for the settlement were North Montezuma Creek, Piute Springs, and Hammond (after the LDS stake president) and Antioch, but none of those names were approved by the members of the community.  Hammond recommended Monticello, in honor of Thomas Jefferson’s estate; it was approved and accepted in the latter part of 1888.  Eventually Verdure was abandoned, and the residents all moved to Monticello. 

However, in 1903, the Utah State Agricultural College in Logan established an experimental station in Verdure where various dry-farming techniques were tested for thirteen years; that is the origin of many of the structures on the property that are there now.  Long history lesson, but the story needed to be told to understand why it was originally there, and why it was now a "ghost town".



The nearby walls do have "caves", similar in looks to possible cliff dwellings; however, all I could make out with the zoom lens were fallen stones inside the openings, no built structures.  Could these caves possibly been simply hideouts for outlaws, or look out posts for Native Americans?  Anything is possible.

Last, but not least, and still traveling south on Route 191, by mile marker 56 (on the east side of the roadway) are little known about Cliff Dwellings.  I'm giving credit to Monticello for these, as we still haven't reached Recapture Reservoir yet, not the Blanding town limits.  During the warm months, these ruins cannot be easily seen, except with a zoom camera lens or binoculars, due to the growth of vegetation.  When the vegetation is gone, there are the ruins in all their ancient glory!

By the way, four miles south of Verdure is Devil's Canyon and it has campgrounds; you'll have to check out the informational board there for size limitations, fees, rules and regulations.  It is a very beautiful and serene area, and perfect if you would prefer not to camp out in the Abajo Mountains.

There you have it, a couple of awesome sites to see that are in guidebooks or on maps, and then those little secret places that ghost town and/or ruin hunters love to look for.

Mary Cokenour

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