Sunday, July 29, 2018

The Much Awaited Shay Ridge/Shay Mountain Trails Adventure.

Back on April 23, 2018, I gave you a teaser of this trail and several of my fans were wondering, "Why am I not writing!?!"  Real life has a habit of getting in the way of what we enjoy sometimes.  Being employed, paying those bills, medical emergencies, losing beloved pets, fighting to keep a good name when others are trying to defile it; yep, life sucks sometimes and just gets in the way.

By the way, I am dedicating this write up to a lovely family, from Michigan, that stopped in, July 25, 2018, to see me at the Canyon Country Discovery Center.  They had been using this travel blog for adventuring through San Juan County, and made sure their last stop would be to meet me, and experience the inter-active exhibit hall and climbing wall at the Center.  Thank you so much for enjoying my blog, and making my day!!!

There were others who have come in to meet me, and I need to dedicate some of my stories to them as well.  Don't worry, I have not forgotten any of you!

Today, a most welcome pajama day Sunday, I finally sat down at my computer to whittle down 128 photographs of this trip into a manageable 39.  After about 2 hours of enlarging, squinting, adjusting; the eyes were a bit on the wonky side.  A homemade lunch and watching episodes of "Relic Hunter" was a very welcome cure for the "wonkies".

Shay Ridge, Shay Mountain, Shay Canyon, who was this Shay that had three areas named after himself.  The old name standby Utah's Canyon Country Place Names, Volume 2 by Steve Allen gives us this answer on page 685, "R. McDonald in 1885: "Col. Shay, the old Indian guide has a contract from Carlisle Bros. (cattle company) for building corrals, cabins and pasture fences; also digging ...ditches and breaking land and sowing alfalfa."  The name, Shay, became a map place name by 1891.

As I explained before, the Shay Ridge Trail (FR 104) is located at Foy Lake, it's the trail to the right of the vault toilets.  A maintained (graded) dirt trail that is prone to landslides of mud when it rains heavily, so during monsoon season (usually the entire month of July) beware of the rains that come suddenly and without warning.  The landscape is beautiful, then again, when isn't the landscape stunning in the Abajo Mountains and Manti-LaSal National Forest!?!

At mile mark 3.4, a hiking/horseback riding trail is off to the left, past a large boulder; walking down the trail will reveal many more large boulders with striking shapes, native plants growing out from cracks, and one with a layer of stones as its outer covering.  There was evidence of camping in the area (stone fire rings) as well.

This tree points the way down the non-motorized trail.

The entire boulder was covered with this.

Mile 4.4, right side and looking up onto the ridge was an unusual site, a boulder was being held aloft by the roots of a fallen tree.  When I show you the wondrous Ponderosa Pines that are along this trail, you'll understand why the roots have to be so strong, they can lift up a boulder.

At mile mark 4.7 is another fallen tree whose roots look to form a sort of arch, or use the imagination and maybe you'll think it looks like an egret, heron or crane with uplifted wings.

Let's get to those wondrous Ponderosa Pine trees, they are huge, with bark resembling some sort of patchwork quilt.  Standing next to one, touching the bark; that's as close to hugging a tree as I'll ever get, thank you very much.  One of the photos has my hubby's Toyota FJ for size comparison; unfortunately, financial hard times caused him to lose that vehicle and we just couldn't get the back due monies together fast enough before it was sold off at auction.  At least we have some really great memories of places it took us that a car could never go. 

As close to being a tree hugger as I'll ever be.

Ponderosa Pine Bark

There was a nest inside this hollowed out tree.
Mile mark 5.2 is a split in the road and trail signs to tell you what's ahead on each.  Shay Mountain we did on the way back, after reading the 4 wheel drive section of the Shay Ridge road.

Bearing to the left hand trail and onward to the Shay Ridge trailhead; mile mark 5.7 though was too pretty a spot to pass up.  There are many downed trees there and it must be a popular spot for wood gathering, evidenced by the limbs that were obviously chain sawed off. 

Good thing I was watching where I walked, or I might have stepped on, and killed, a most adorable creature...a Great Horned toad aka Horny Toad, and this one was a baby!  Ok, you just said to yourself, "Adorable?  A horned toad?"  Yes, to me they are, then again, I like snakes and lizards too.

At mile mark 6.2, that is where the 4 wheel drive trail ends, and the Shay Ridge Trailhead begins; the only access is an opening in a  wooden fence large enough for an ATV, horse or hiker to go through.  I walked up the trail only about 100 feet to get a feel for it.  We still had to check out the trail to Shay Mountain and knowing a storm was coming in that day meant time could not be wasted.

Back to mile mark 5.2 and the right hand trail to Shay Mountain, 4-10ths of a mile in was trail #437 and only fit for ATVs or hiking.  8-10ths of a mile in was the actual beginning of the ATV trailhead to Shay Mountain itself..  Back in the 1930s, the leader of the Home of Truth cult, Marie Ogden would drive frequently drive, in her rather large, expensive car, to the mountain, climb to the summit and receive revelations from God.  Looking at the photo of the trail, like myself, you're wondering how did she get her car even a quarter of a mile up it.  Back then, the trails were wider and flatter, since many ranchers and locals needed to drive their own vehicles, and not all had pickup trucks.  Time, erosion from wind, rain, and the wider wheels of ATVs and larger sized 4 wheel drive vehicles, made a road into a two-track, narrow, deeply rutted trail.  Wandering around that area, there was some decent hiking and more large boulders to explore, but it was time to head home and beat the dark clouds that were coming in from the west.

There you have it, our adventure to Shay Ridge and Shay Mountain, well as far as we could get without ATVs.  Why didn't we hike it and camp out?  Yeah, I don't, just no.

Hope you enjoyed the story and remember, need a great rest stop, want to play with inter-active exhibits and maybe climb a rock wall; visit me at Canyon Country Discovery Center.  By the way, there is also information (free guides, brochures, maps) available on Utah, Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Wyoming for adventurous travelers.

Mary Cokenour