Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Mexican Hat, Monument Valley and in Between.

The most southern region of San Juan County has a few tricks up its sleeve weather wise.  After you've driven through Bluff and awed at the snow outlining the Comb Ridge; Mexican Hat is a whole other story.  Snow?  What's that, the formation is asking.  It might be cloudy, sunny or bit of both; but snow, or any trace of it, will be hard put to find.

Design in the walls, and on Navajo weavings, is called "The Great Serpent".  Legend says that he lives within the walls and protects the land of this area. 

Valley of the Gods is a wondrous place, a miniature version of Monument Valley, and the 17 miles of gravel covered, roller coaster like, road is worth the trip.  Along Route 163 though are two formations which I finally discovered the names of, "Coyote's Misstep" and "The Birthday Cake".   The "cake" is named by locals simply because it does look like a square tiered birthday cake.  However, the smaller of the formations has a legend attached to it.  Coyote one day caught his cousin, Badger, fooling around with his mate.  He chased him, up onto a ridge, but Badger was able to get away.  Coyote became so furious that he kicked at the earth below his feet so hard, he knocked a piece of the ridge miles out to what is now Route 163.

Coyote's Misstep (fore front), Birthday Cake (right corner of photo))

The open space on the ridge and the formation on the roadway looks to align almost perfectly.

 Route 261, the road to Goosenecks State Park is not much further on; once you turn onto the road, go one mile for the road to Goosenecks, then it's another 3.5 miles to the entrance.   A maintenance fee is now being charged to visit the park; $5/passenger vehicle, $2/per person for a bus tour, $10/night for camping.   Hurray for me, I finally figured out how to set the panorama function on my camera that it would get the entire three sections of the Goosenecks.  It came out so nice, I'm going to show it to you twice!  These outstanding formations were carved out by the weather and the San Juan River.

Back onto Route 163, the snow begins showing up again as we headed on down to Monument Valley.  The clouds winding throughout the formations gives the, already, mysterious region further mystery.  Rabbit and Bear chase each other through wisps of white, while the King floats upon his Throne.  Like many a person before us, we stopped at "Forrest Gump Hill"; this is the location in the movie where Forrest finally decides to stop running.  Even this movie character was blown away by the awesomeness of Monument Valley.

No matter the weather, time of day, or season; San Juan County will always keep you on your toes with surprise after surprise.  Make sure to keep all your senses open!

Mary Cokenour

Friday, February 13, 2015

John Wesley Powell River History Museum

John Wesley Powell River History Museum

1765 East Main Street (Exit 164 off I-70)
Green River, Utah, 84525

Phone: (435) 564-3427

Website:  or

Outdoor Historical Information Boards

Major John Wesley Powell was born 1834 in Mount Morris, New York (go NY!); served in the Civil War where he lost his right arm at the Battle of Shiloh; and led the first expeditions down the Green and Colorado Rivers in 1869 and 1871.  The first expedition consisted of ten men; four boats; began in Green River, Wyoming; and ended in the Grand Canyon.  Powell and his men mapped out the rivers as they ran through, then, unchartered canyons and rode rapids that would scare the bejesus out of anyone.

After a friendly greeting at the information desk and paying the entrance fee, you'll be taken to the auditorium to watch a snippet of "Journey Into the Great Unknown".  I highly recommend you purchase the full length (1 hour, 20 minutes) version which only costs $20.  This film was presented at the Houston International Film Festival; won the Special Gold Jury Award; and uses a special film technique called "ghosting".

After the film, enjoy the museum and art gallery, but don't bypass the gift shop before leaving.

River Runners Hall of Fame

History of the Ancient Peoples and John Wesley Powell

Push the red buttons and hear this explorer tell his story.

Art Gallery

Boat Room

Two of the original boats from the 1869 expedition are on display.

Dinosaur Room

The River History Museum also acts as the Visitor Center containing a multitude of pamphlets and booklets about Green River and its surrounding areas.  The gift shop is loaded with books, artwork, Native American pottery and jewelry, t-shirts, local foods such as huckleberry and prickly pear cactus syrups, jams and honey; and much more!

I love wolves, so this is my favorite by Joseph S. Venus.  His artwork collection can be viewed at:
Instead of bypassing Green River in a rush to get to Salt Lake City, make the stop and visit the John Wesley Powell River History Museum; it's a worthwhile adventure!

Mary Cokenour

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Backway to the Bears Ears.

Finally I have the time to continue the adventure that began on South Cottonwood Road (CR 228); the green highlighted road on the map.  We already knew that going into Dry Wash via FR 095 would, more than likely, lead us into a snowy mess and along a narrow ledge road.  Using the National Geographic Map for the Manti-LaSal, we decided to follow South Elks Road (FR 092); the blue highlighted road on the map; towards the Bears Ears.  We were still in a relatively dry environment, so how bad could it be, right?  Ha!  Wait till you see what we went through, but we still had a ball doing it.

First, the map...

At mile 1.9, CR 229 leads off to the left; the scenery along FR 092 is stunning and we didn't officially enter the Manti-LaSal Forest until mile mark 3.2.  We certainly appreciated all the signs along the way that kept us informed as to where we actually were.
Black Steer Knoll, Abajo Mountains (in the distance)

Roy and Jenna
Mile mark 5.4 is the Cream Pots Trailhead leading down into Hammond Canyon; FR 399 or ATV trail 5399.  This trail can be used by hikers, mountain bikers, ATVers and high clearance 4-wheel drive vehicles.  By this time we began to see remains of snow and/or ice on the road, in the more shadier sections.  Up to then, the road (graded dirt and wide for two vehicles to pass comfortably) was dry, and the area warm enough not to need heavy outer clothing.  At 5.8 miles, we began ascending and saw to our left a beautiful sandstone ridge that resembled the spine of a dinosaur (we both have great imaginations).  This was Butts Canyon which stretches all the way into Arch Canyon.

Cream Pots and Hammond Canyon

Butts Canyon

...and then came the snow; well the snow covered road and forest off to both sides.  We stopped at mile mark 9.3 where a sign directs towards FR 0182/CR 2621 - Milk Ranch Point.  Luckily, other vehicles had been traveling along FR 092, so we just kept our wheels moving in the flattened ruts those others had left.  Along the sides though, the snow went from six inches to two feet; depending on how deep my feet and legs stepped in when taking photos outside the SUV.  Jenna loved running in the snow!  Oh, and it was definitely time to put the winter coats back on again.

We passed several trails along the way, but didn't want to deal with the snow as they obviously weren't being used.  At 10 miles is the Hammond Canyon Overlook (ATV trail 5301); 11.2 miles is FR 183 leading to Butts Point.  Now at 11.6 miles we came to a junction, FR 088, to the right, which lead to Elk Ridge, Big Notch and Gooseberry.  The road leading through Elk Ridge is a challenge in dry, warm weather; no way we were going near it in the winter and with snow on the ground.  We took FR 088/CR 228 Backway to the left and towards the Bears Ears.  13.1 miles is the Kigalia Trailhead, 13.8 is the Arch Canyon Overlook and 15.4 is CR 256, the Woodenshoe Trailhead; all were snowbound. 

At 16.5 miles we exited the dense forest; the sky behind us told of another storm moving our way; FR 184 leads off to the left, but we stayed straight with the Bears Ears (at 17.3 miles) looming before us.

Bears Ears

After the steep climb up and through the Bears Ears; a winding trail began downward to reach State Highway 95.  The views here were just as amazing as when we first began our adventure along FR 092.  We officially left the boundaries of the Manti-LaSal Forest at mile make 20.2; at 23.2 is CR 275 or the road to Natural Bridges National Monument; and at 23.9 we met up with Highway 95.

It was a thrilling adventure and thankfully we were able to complete it because of the high clearance on our SUV.  We are so looking forward to the warmer months when we can come back and do those trails that will no longer be snowbound.

Mary Cokenour