Thursday, January 28, 2016

A Winter Gallivant Along State Highway 95.

Between Dec 23, 2015, and the first week of January, 2016; San Juan County was slammed with winter storms; where I live, in Monticello, got about 4 feet.  No area was spared, not even Monument Valley which is usually much warmer than the rest of the county.  So it was no surprise that, as soon as main roadways were finally cleared and clean, Roy and I would get out of the house to go joyriding.  First we stopped in at Patio Drive-In to pick up lunch which we happily munched driving along State Highway 95.

As we turned onto the highway, we became surrounded by cloud cover; we could see easily down the pavement, but the landscape was not as discernible.  Snow and frost covered trees, bushes and tall grasses; we were traveling through a mysterious, arctic wonderland.

Between Mile Mark 116 and 117.
Traveling Westward.

Snow streaked Comb Ridge loomed starkly against the grayish-white sky; as we drove through the pass, we noticed more current rock fall.

Looking Back Eastward.
Entrance to Lower Arch Canyon.

The various canyons along the way were heavily laden with snow; icicles hanging from tree branches.

It wasn't until we'd passed Natural Bridges, Cedar Mesa/Grand Gulch, the Abajo Mountains, and hit open range again that we found ourselves surrounded by sunny, clear sky; instead of being shrouded in clouds.

Moss Back Butte in the distance (right).

Moss Back Butte

White Canyon was barely recognizable with the snow lying within it; we couldn't even make out the slickrock, embedded with crystals, we enjoy walking upon.

Looking back, Bears Ears were more discernible; it's only at certain points that their similarity to actual bear ears can be made out.

Continuing westward, The Cheesebox, Jacob's Chair and the Henry Mountains were slowly coming into viewing range.  We drove as far as Cheesebox Canyon when we noticed the gas gauge was at the halfway mark.  Decision making time; did we have enough gas to get us to Hanksville, or turn around and head back to Blanding?  As adventurous as we are with exploring, hiking and climbing; running out of gas was not on our to-do list, so back to Blanding we went.

Cheesebox, Cheesebox Canyon

Cheesebox; Lone Butte in background.

Henry Mountains.

On the way back, we saw another snow laden canyon looking so beautiful in the sunlight. 

Closer towards Blanding, Sleeping Ute Mountain appeared; the body of the Ute Chief floating upon a bed of clouds.

Even though Southeastern Utah is classified primarily as a desert area, do not be fooled; it does go through all four seasons. So, if you come out here, in the winter, expecting to traipse around in shorts, tank top and flip flops....SURPRISE!!!  Yeah, that would be a big NO!!!

Mary Cokenour

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Native Beauty of Cedar Mesa Pottery.

Cedar Mesa Pottery

333 South Main (Route 191)
Blanding, Utah, 84511

Phone: (435) 678-2241
            (800) 235-7687


Hours of Operation:  Monday thru Friday; 8am to 5pm

Joe B. Lyman, Owner

Warning!  When entering Cedar Mesa Pottery, via the gift shop, be prepared for a visual assault of the most beautiful Native American pottery collections.  Alright, now that you have been fully warned, let’s take the tour.  Cedar Mesa Pottery is located in Blanding, Utah with its beginning around 1981; owned and operated by local, Joe Lyman.  The work of his crafts people enable the factory to present to the world both Navajo and Ute artistry.  The glass and wooden display cases hold unique pieces signed by each artist; collective pieces so skillfully done that your fingers itch to touch.  Distinctive grey and black pieces containing true horse hair (a personal favorite); ceramics that resemble authentic etched wood; mesmerizing colors; striking designs based on themes.


The tour of the factory first brings you to the “closeouts and seconds” section; lovely pieces that simply did not make the cut through quality control.  Packing and Shipping comes next; aisles of plastic wrapped pottery ready to be picked, packaged and shipped to shops, trading posts, residential homes; even San Juan County’s own Welcome Centers carry Cedar Mesa Pottery.  All pieces are available at wholesale and retail pricing; opening an account is quick and easy.


Follow the Footprints.
All visitors to the factory are encouraged to take a map and descriptive guide which explains the various processes of pottery making.  Cedar Mesa uses a perfected mixture of clays from New York, California, Tennessee and Texas which is called “slip”.  The slip is poured into various molds until the correct thickness is reached; the balance is poured out and recycled.  The Kilns come next; pieces are fired within gas kilns at 2000 degrees Fahrenheit, for three to five hours.  Sealing is a cooling off period of several hours to ensure the pieces do not crack or warp.  After a twenty-four hour waiting period, the pieces have any excess clay removed carefully with sponges; the pieces are now ready to meet their individual artists.
Kilns and Sealing


Watching the artisans is fascinating; how each one can paint and/or etch each piece quickly, yet so skillfully.  Animal figures emerge: deer, elk, moose, bear, eagle, buffalo, raven and wolf (again, a personal favorite).  Themes vary from natural settings (forest, desert) to monumental locations (Monument Valley, Mount Rushmore, Devil’s Tower); petroglyphic designs; and the famous “End of the Trail” featuring the lone brave on his horse.
By the end of the tour, you will very likely have a shopping list in your mind.  Back inside the gift shop, there will be so much more to tempt you; candles, dream catchers, Kachina dolls; and the t-shirt collector has not been forgotten either.   Definitely, if visiting San Juan County, stop into Blanding, visit Cedar Mesa Pottery, and take the factory tour; you will be amazed!
Mary Cokenour