Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Fool’s Gold, a Book Review

It's been a very long time since we've been able to travel anywhere, and I've not been inspired to write about past travels.  I very much enjoyed doing tourism work at two establishments.  However, due to "high school behavior" and lies told to get my job (must have been one heck of a lucrative job, right?), I had to leave those establishments.  The people who did that to me, I left them to Karma, and she has done her very best to get me justice. 

Recently though, someone involved, from one of the establishments, did verbally apologize to me, for what was said and done to me.  However, the question of, "If it was verified that I was a good employee, and vicious lies were told, why didn't I get my job back?"  Something tells me that that would then become a public apology of wrongdoing, and they just couldn't have that.

Anyway, while at home, or should I say while, "forced into early retirement", I've been doing lots of reading, and enjoying other hobbies.   Recently I read a new Old West novel by one of our resident authors, and here it is...

Opening up the cardboard packaging, sliding the hard copy book out, I am immediately sent back to my child to preteen years.  The hardcover novel is reminiscent of books, geared towards younger readers, such as Black Beauty, Gulliver’s Travels, and Call of the Wild.  Hand illustrated artwork, upon the cover, draws the reader’s eye in with an enticement of what is to be discovered within the pages.

 Yet, this novel is not geared towards only the younger reader, but to the lovers of books in general.  Eric Niven, author of Fool’s Gold, has once again published a Western novel of adventure, gunslingers, greed, and good vs. evil.  His previous Western novel, The Reaper, has drama, action, humor and what is missing in many novels and movies these days of "instant gratification"...suspense!!! Several times I was on the edge of my seat wondering if, main characters, Malcolm and/or Lydia would make it out of a dire situation.

 With Fool’s Gold, action was packed in from the very beginning, and there I was again, on the edge of my seat and holding my breath till the end of the scene.  Set in the time of the Civil War era, the Confederacy is in dire need of funds to keep the war effort on target.  A detailed map, of a mine in California, must be delivered, if the South is to remain solvent.

 A stagecoach leaves Salt Lake City, Utah, in route to Carson City, Nevada, and a rail train that will take four passengers to California.  On board is Rory Sean MacTavish, a Pinkerton agent posing as a newspaper reporter; his assignment is to stop that map from reaching Confederate hands.

 Jacques Fore’, an immigrant from France, was on a journey to seek his fortune; to start a winery and make a great name for himself.  Overweight, the heat from the southwestern environment did nothing to making his journey comfortable.

Vivian Creed, a genteel young lady, from Maine, was on her way to visit her patron, and guardian.  Taking time off from finishing school, her nonstop chatter ended soon as the stagecoach bumped along.  Of course the ungentlemanly smells assailing her nostrils did not encourage opening her dainty mouth for further conversation.

The fourth passenger is Jack Thaddeus Lowe, a gunfighter and gun for hire who had decided to branch out into “security services”.  He received good money for taking on the job of getting the map to its rightful destination.  What he did not know is that another Southerner wanted that map, not for the good of the South, but the good of his own pockets.  “The Boss”, and his hired hands would do anything to get the map, find the mine, and line their pockets with gold.

Then the adventure begins when the stagecoach driver is gunned down by a sniper.  The horses are running wildly and the coach careening; will it crash and all be killed!?!  Rory climbs up top to, somehow, gain control, the coach’s wheels hit a ditch in the rough trail, and…no spoilers sweetie!

 This quote, from near the book’s end, speaks deep of life, and death, in the Old West.

“So here he was again, about to engage in a life and death struggle where men would die.  Even he might die.  He had been the means of causing death several times, but it still caught something deep inside him.  One minute a man is alive, he is a reasoning being, and the next he is useless meat.”

Oh, how I would love to tell you more, but that would ruin the entire story.  What I can say though is buy yourself a copy of this new novel, by Eric Niven.  Be prepared to have your heart racing, anxiety and anticipation build, and your fingers numb from holding the book tightly.  The ending will definitely not disappoint, as there is a plot twist no one, and their mother, would have ever seen coming.

I would like to thank Eric Niven for lending me his ARC of his novel, and having the faith, in me, for reviewing it.  Be assured that it was very difficult returning it, so now I better go buy a copy of my own, and you do the same as you will not regret it.

Fool’s Gold is currently available at: https://bhwesterns.com/book/fools-gold/ , Amazon.com, Google Books, and hopefully, soon, at San Juan Record Bookstore.

Mary Cokenour

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

ROAM Industry; Roam if You Want to, Roam Around the World.

Roam Industries

265 North Main Street
Monticello, UT, 84535

Phone: (435) 590-2741

Website: http://www.roamutah.com/

“I hear a wind
Whistling air
In my ear”

“Roam” by The B-52s

Surrounded by majestic Ponderosa Pine; sailing upon a one-track trail and the breeze whispers into ears a blessed silence.  Welcome to mountain biking in the Abajo Mountains with Roam Industries.  Opening its doors July 2018, owners Dustin and Natalie Randall, enjoy the great outdoors of San Juan County.  They wanted to bring mountain biking, hiking and winter sports to visitors, and locals, of this vast area. 

When it comes to mountain biking, Roam Industries became the organizers and hosts of the Abajo Enduro.  A yearly mountain biking fest which has grown to a 2-day, 3-State event, and has sold out the past two years.  What started out, as a handful of friends, to ride and have friendly competition, is now a full on event, maximum participation of 50 riders!  

“…dancing down those dirty and dusty trails
Take it hip to hip, rocket through the wilderness”

“Roam” by The B-52s

Mountain biking, as well as hiking and climbing, tours are offered during the spring to fall months.  Tours are initially 1-3 days of exploring various sections of San Juan County. Climbing is mainly in the Indian Creek Valley, or what is now part of the Bears Ears National Monument. 

Roam Industries offers the service of a mobile tiny home; sleeping 7 and room for supplies; it is camping with the comfort of home.  Currently the tiny home is up at Buckboard National Forest Campground.  Sports of shoe shoeing and cross country skiing are a major draw during the winter months.  Natalie Randall helped develop the trails that extend from the Dalton Springs and Buckboard campgrounds.  Through her grant writing, Monticello has been able to expand other trails as well for biking and walking.  A hut system, throughout San Juan County, is now in the works.

Do not think cross country skiing is your sport of choice?  Dustin Randall states, “It takes about one season to learn, and become proficient, on the skis.  After that though, you will love it!”

Another benefit of visiting Roam Industries is their self-serve snack bar and relaxed seating section.  Delicious scones of Lemon Rosemary, Pumpkin, Coconut, Ginger Apricot and more are the creations of home baker, Hannah Plemons.  Crisp around the edges, tender and fluffy inside, the fruity to savory concoctions are pleasing to the taste buds.  Along with coffees, teas, water, the scones are an indulgent start to the day’s event, or a relaxing finish.  Hannah’s scones are available Monday and Wednesday at 1pm, and they are gone in the blink of an eye!

While Roam Industries did have some success with a connection with Airbnb, it is mainly word of mouth that sustains this business.  Repeat customers and great reviews feed the trickle down effects to the City of Monticello.  Hotels, restaurants, and shops benefit from the influx of visitors, their families that come along, and the friends that decide to have their own Roam adventures.  What better way is there, for economic sustainability, and development, then to have local businesses holding hands, with each other, in camaraderie?

Current winter hours are Monday, Wednesday and Friday, 1pm-6pm.  Once spring’s warm fingers begin to caress the land, more adventurous opportunities will become available.  With the summer months, family reunions are always looking for activities; how about a group tour with Roam Industries? 

“Roam if you want to
Roam around the world
Roam if you want to”

“Roam” by The B-52s

Mary Cokenour

Saturday, October 26, 2019

The Rock Art of Hog Canyon.

Hog Canyon is located three miles west (mile marker 4 on Highway 211) from Newspaper Rock, there is a short pull-in area for parking.  The trails up to the walls (Blue Grama aka Blue Gamma – popular to crack climbers) are well worn, but the soil is loose.  Following the rock art itself entails maneuvering up and around boulders, sometimes squeezing between one that has split in two after its fall from the wall.

Trails are not marked and tend to be narrow.

Be prepared to climb over, between and around boulders.

Therefore, being 60 years old, overweight, diabetic, and arthritis in my hands, arms and shoulders means I cannot do this adventure, right?  Wrong!!!   There are people out there that are preaching that "young, fit and healthy" are 3 traits you must have to be able to adventure in the outdoors.  That is certainly the largest load of bull crap I've ever heard!  By the way, this is coming from folks who haven't even done 1/16th of the adventures that Roy and I have experienced.  What do they really know?  Obviously what some current fad is telling them to know, as they do not have a mind of their own.  No matter what your age, fitness level or health; get on out there and do something adventurous!  Life is a gift, but not guaranteed, so never say never and enjoy life!

My hubby, Roy.

Now back to our regularly scheduled write up of the latest Cokenour adventure.

Carved onto stone, drawn into the desert varnish, there are square-bodied humanoid figures, mountain sheep, insects, long leaves resembling ferns, circles and many other shapes and figures.  There is the occasional signature of those who settled or visited in the early 20th century (1911 – Ralph Hurst and Bill Dalley).  While many modern day traveler thinks that the Indian rock art is nothing more than “ancient graffiti”, they fail to understand that it was the earliest form of the “written word” for these cultures.

1911 Signatures amongst the ancient rock art drawings.

Like Shay Canyon, Capitol Reef National Park and Nine Mile Canyon, many of the figures are identified as Fremont culture.  For those saying, "Wrong, it's Anasazi"; identified tribes we know of, such as Ute, Navajo, Hopi, Zuni and Fremont were the Anasazi.  The Anasazi didn't "disappear", they simply branched off to create singular tribes in the areas they decided to call home. 

Oh, sorry, disclaimer necessary at the moment, "Visitor/Welcome Center Managers or Tour Guides, if you have not signed an agreement with me, and/or paid a yearly fee, you do NOT have my permission to download any content from this travel blog. You certainly cannot erase my name, put a different name on it, with the intent of giving away, or selling, to the public.  That is copyright infringement!"  

Ah, back to Hog Canyon...

Why the name “Hog Canyon”?  In Utah’s Canyon Country Place Names (Steve Allen), there is a reference to “Pete Steele noted that the canyon was fenced with knit wire (sheep wire) to hold the pigs that used to pasture in the canyon.  The fence still stands.  (1821~)”.  In the December 10, 2014 issue of the San Juan Record, Albert Eugene (Pete) Steele’s obituary states, “One of his jobs growing up was punching cows for the SS Cattle Company rooted deep in San Juan County’s history. His tales of the Old West and the history of San Juan County were a treasure to anyone lucky enough to hear them.” 

Great look out spot.

Climbers love these walls.

The rock art continues along the bottom of the crack climbing walls; so if you're going to climb, be aware and do not destroy!

Of course, as you make your way up to, and along, the walls, make sure to turn around and take a good look at the surrounding landscape.

Personally, I call these "The Three Graces"

...and my write up wouldn't be complete without a bit of plant and wild life.

Claret Cup Cactus

Desert Lizard

I would say that Roy and I spent about two hours climbing up, around and down from the Hog Canyon walls. It was a great workout!

Mary Cokenour

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Hog Canyon Travel Guide.

Hog Canyon, so named for the pigs that ranchers once pastured there, is part of the Indian Creek Valley; and the northern section of the Bears Ears National Monument.  While narrow hiking trails lead up to the walls that are popular with “Crack Climbers”, ancient ancestral rock art cover the walls as well.  Carvings and drawings adorn the desert varnish with humanoid figures, animals, insects, fern leaves, circles and many other shapes.

·         Location is 29.4 miles northwest of Monticello.  Take Hwy. 191 north for 14.4 miles, make a left onto Hwy. 211 and continue for 15 miles.  Newspaper Rock is 12 miles along Hwy. 211, Hog Canyon is located 3 additional miles west and located at mile marker 4.  There will be a dirt pull-in area on the right hand side of the roadway; narrow trails up to the rock face can be seen and followed up to the rock art.

·        Difficulty: Easy to Moderate; due to the falling of rock off the walls, it will be necessary to maneuver around, or climb over, boulders.  The dirt is loose on the trails, so wear appropriate hiking shoes/boots plus carry a walking stick, if necessary, for added stability.

·        Admission: Free

·        Facilities: None at this location.  Vault toilets are located at Newspaper Rock.  Any trash should be taken out and placed in refuse bin.

·        Camping: There are five (5) BLM campgrounds located along Hwy. 211

·        Pets: Allowed, owners are expected to clean up after pet(s).  Hwy. 211 is a much used roadway which leads to Canyonlands National Park– Needles.  For the pet(s)’s safety, keep aware of their location and surroundings.

As with any site containing ancient rock art, this is a historical area, so look, but do not touch nor deface.

Mary Cokenour

Friday, September 13, 2019

16 Room Cliff House Travel Guide.

16 Room House, aka 15 or 17 Room House (disagreement among archaeologists on the correct number of rooms in the pueblo), is an Anasazi cliff dwelling stretching across a massive alcove.  Windows within the rooms look down upon land that may have been used for farming, and the San Juan River.  Pictographs on the walls contain a large number of hand prints.

·         Location from Monticello is 107 miles using CR 441 route, or 111.1 miles using CR 438 route. Travel 58.1 miles along Hwy 191 (make a left turn at the junction of Hwy 191/163 to continue on Hwy 191).  This area is Navajo Reservation land, please remember to stay on designated roads and do not trespass onto private lands. There are two ways to get to 16 Room House, County Road 441 (maintained dirt/gravel road) for 6.9 miles to the junction of County Road 438, then 4.8 miles along CR 438 (maintained dirt/gravel road this section only) to the ruin site.  Or continue down Hwy 191 for three (3) additional miles to County Road 438 which is paved for eight (8) miles before the junction with CR 441, then continue the 4.8 miles to the ruin site.

This altered map is from an original from gjhikes.com

·         Admission: Free

·         Difficulty: Trail up to ruin site is extremely steep and narrow before a narrow ledge to enter the various rooms along the alcove.

·         Camping: Not Allowed

·         Pets: Not Allowed

·         Facilities: None, nearest town (Bluff) is 25.1 miles.

We spent several hours exploring the ruins and taking the short trail down to the San Juan River.

Mary Cokenour 

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Monument Valley At Any Time.

Monument Valley , for the majority of residents, and visitors to the area, is an awe inspiring destination; one of those "must experience" places.  It's span is over two states: Arizona and Utah; in Utah, it is part of the largest county in the state, San Juan.

During the spring and fall equinox, the shadow of one Mitten forms atop the second Mitten.  It's a big deal and hundreds flock to the Valley to witness the event.  Yes, even Roy and I have done it; along with a couple of friends, and it's really like a party atmosphere.  Then we ride over to Goulding's Lodge, and the Stagecoach Dining Room, for a great meal.

The photos I'll be sharing were taken during the day and at sunset; sunny sky to cloudy.  One photo of Eagle Rock-Eagle Mesa even has the hint of a rainbow after a short rain storm.  While many of the monuments can be seen from Hwy. 163, I do advise to not be cheap.  Either go into the Tribal Park itself and find a tour guide; or go to Goulding's Lodge and sign up for one of their 3 hour, or all day, tours.  This way you will see monuments up close and personal that are not seen from the highway, ruins, rock art, and the way the Navajo people live in this area.

Sort of funny story time:  I was working at the local visitor center and a woman from Belgium came in.  She had visited Monument Valley and was quite disappointed.  Why, you wonder?  She had seen the Johnny Depp movie, The Lone Ranger, which had much of it filmed within Monument Valley.  Here she was, on vacation, and nowhere could she see, "Where the Indians really lived".  She complained that there were "real houses" down in the Valley, "Where were the teepees!?!"  The people wore clothing like any other person, "Why weren't they in real Indian clothes; the men wearing loin cloths!?!"

I explained that the film was geared towards the late 19th century (1880s) to early 20th century.  The Native Americans were just like anyone else...people.  They lived in houses like anyone else; wore clothing like anyone else; they were like...anyone else.  Unfortunately this didn't make her any happier as now she felt that she had watched a movie that, sort of, lied to her about the southwest.  So there you have it folks, the USA, or parts of it, is perceived dependent on the film created by Hollywood.

When you go to Monument Valley, visit the museum at the Tribal Park's visitor center to get a true history lesson.  Better yet, go on one of the tours led by residents of Monument Valley; get an up close and personal history lesson about the Navajo culture.

Oh, speaking of films, I am including a film that I took as we traveled to and through the Valley.  Originally it was 13 minutes long, but hubby, who owns Desert Stone Studio , was able to cut it down to a more manageable length of time for viewing pleasure.  Basically you'll get a gist of what you'll be seeing as you make the drive along Highway 163.

Enjoy the journey!

Mary Cokenour

Monument Valley Photographs

Eagle Rock - Eagle Mesa, rainbow after rain storm

Eagle Rock - Eagle Mesa

The Mittens and Merrick Butte - As Sunset Progresses Over a 10 Minute Span

Sentinel Mesa and Big Indian Butte
 View from Goulding's Lodge

Agathla Peak - Arizona side of Monument Valley, along Hwy. 163
Video - Monument Valley Via Hwy. 163