Friday, September 27, 2013

A Quilter Sews in Monticello, Utah.

Since moving to Monticello in 2009, one of the hobbies I have neglected is quilting.  I began quilting in 1990 when I moved to Lancaster, Pennsylvania; became a member of the Red Rose Quilters Guild and made many a creation until the move to Utah.  Today though, I may have just met the inspiration to take out my needles, quilting rack, fabrics and patterns. 

Once a month at the Welcome Center, a Cultural/Artisan Expo is held; today's demonstration was by Marie Wigginton who is a member of the Monticello Quilters Guild.  Marie was accompanied by her husband of 58 years (married in 1955), Luther; their son Tom and his wife, Linda, own Thatzza Pizza, while grandson Thomas and wife, Mandy, own San Juan Pest Management.  Originally Marie and Luther resided in Casper, Wyoming before moving to Monticello only five years ago; this family didn't sit around and wait for attention, but became busy in the community.

Marie considers herself a self taught quilter; she began quilting in the 1950s with her mother-in-law. After becoming adept in hand quilting, she ventured out into the world of machine quilting. Her prized possession is the Gammill Statler Stitcher which contains approximately 1500 patterns, and can have more easily uploaded to its memory files. Being a large piece of machinery, Marie could not bring it to demonstrate on, so the photo is one taken off the internet from Gammill's website.

Marie did bring one of her hoops in and set up a demonstration of her hand quilting techniques.

As opposed to embroidery, cross-stitching or garment sewing which use long, thick needles; an experienced quilter is proven by the smallest needle size she can use. A size 10 or 12 quilter's needle means that there should be 10 to 12 stitches per inch of quilting. While cotton threads and fabrics are the standard, technology nowadays is creating threads and fabrics that hold up to washing and normal wear and tear that a quilt would receive. A must is a thimble; it helps to push the needle easily through the fabric, not through your finger.

Here are a few samples of Marie's work; besides selling her own creations, she will do special orders, so just contact her at (435) 459-0767.  Besides quilts, she does make carry bags, baby items, doll accessories and pillow tops.

The Little Mermaid

Assorted Quilt Blocks

Quilt done in Windmill pattern

Now as I mentioned earlier, Marie Wigginton is a member of the Monticello Quilters Guild.  The Guild meets the 4th Tuesday of each month, at 6pm, at the Monticello High School's Home Economics Room; new members are always welcomed.  There is usually a "Sew and Tell" where members can show off their creations.   Quilt vendors from the Four Corners (Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Utah) are encouraged to put on a "Trunk Show"; a display of fabrics, patterns, tools and accessories for the quilter.  Occasionally a "Sew What?" is held; members bring in works in progress for tips and critiques.

Marie Wigginton with fellow quilters, Jean Robinson and Carol Brewer.

I hope to make it to their next meeting in October; all I know right now is that my quilter's box is peeking at me from out of the closet, and my fingers are itching to hold a needle again.

As for today, meeting Marie Wigginton and her husband, Luther was a very enjoyable experience.

Behind every happy quilter is a supportive, yet sleepy, husband; after spending time with this couple, I can say this is a statement of truth.

Mary Cokenour

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Winter Sports in San Juan County, Utah?

After doing yesterday's write up on Route 550 in Colorado, and seeing the snow on the Rocky Mountains, it reminded me that winter will be coming to Monticello soon. Yes, I know that the fall season has just started, but snow in this area doesn't respect the dates of the Equinoxes.  The earliest snowfall I remember in the four winters I've already experienced was on October 1st of 2009; we had just moved here in May of that year too.  It was only a dusting, but it ended up being an omen of what was to come during the winter of 2009 - 2010...six feet of snow!  That was also the day we adopted Miss Kitty; she was a stray we had been feeding and we came home that night to find her on the door step, covered in snow, waiting for us and her evening meal.  We promptly brought her into the house, dried and warmed her up, and she hasn't left since; she is definitely a pampered kitty.

Fall Season of 2009, but the Horsehead was already prominently outlined by snowfall in the Abajo Mountains.

This is a photo of my neighbor's home who was away for the winter of 2009 - 2010.  After the snow had finished falling by April 2010, very little could be seen of his home.  Like many other homes in the area, he lost that carport you can barely see in the photo.

By February 2010, the snow was halfway up the sides of our home.  Snow sliding down from the roof met the snow on the ground and created a tunnel effect.  This view was taken from my kitchen window which faces the west.

My instinct is telling me that we might have a repeat of this type of winter this year.  We started out with drought in the spring, monsoon season began in July, but changed to torrential rains and flash flooding in August, that had its last hurrah on September 22nd.  Now the temperatures have dropped to 60s during the day, 30s at night; looking very familiar to 2009.  Having a large snowfall is good for our area as the melting snow pack will fill lakes and reservoirs (much needed and used for local water).  By the way, we seem to have two types of snow fall: flakes and pellets.  Now I'm used to the typical fat flakes that fall and you try to catch with your tongue, but pellets?  The first time I experienced this, I was totally fascinated; how could snow fall in almost perfectly round balls?  I collected it, played with it and proved that being an adult was very overrated.

Snowfall, that's the big plus; but the biggest con is that many restaurants and other local businesses close up for the winter months due to the lack of visitors to the area.  Why?  The lack of facilities to promote, organize and maintain winter sports...snowmobiling, skiing, ice skating, snowshoeing, cross country skiing.  At one time, there was a ski lift of sorts, but closed down due to the high cost of insurance; that's what I've been told by some locals who remember it.  Makes you wonder though, how do other places maintain such a small facility, like Ski Hesperus, located on Route 160 in Hesperus, Colorado?  Having winter sports in our area would bring in visitors, would bring in revenue, would allow businesses to stay open during the winter months and keep their employees in paychecks.  Novel concepts that I believe actually scare folks.
I think that for the rest of this write up, I'm going to post photos, give a brief description and entice you with the idea of coming to the Monticello, Utah area; to take advantage of this beautiful area during the winter; to take advantage of our snowfall even if no one else around here wants to promote it. Think of it this way, even if I'm wrong (what!?!) and we don't get a snowfall as we did in 2009-2010; hiking and climbing will still be an option, and the National Parks do not close...just wear warmer clothing.

 Dark clouds moving over the Abajo Mountains and eventually over the town itself?  Batten down those hatches, make sure you can reach the wood pile easily, snow be a coming.  The scent in the air begins to change also, cleaner, crisper, the ozone just a bit tangier to the nostrils.

 Crystalline tree branches from heavy frost against the stark blue sky.

The local mule deer take advantage of an open spot in the snow to feed on whatever greenery may be available. Talk about big egos; look how they pose for the camera.

Now if we had more winter sports up in the Abajo Mountains, besides employees for this genre, we would make sure the Department of Road Maintenance kept busy keeping the mountain road open, instead of laying off for the winter.  The Welcome Center would be selling maps of snowmobile trails and cross country skiing areas; snowmobile sales would be up, not just snow blowers.  Hotels/Motels booked; restaurants selling hot meals and beverages; and there I go again scaring folks with my novel ideas.

When snow falls in the desert and lies against the sandstone, the effect is amazing; talk about a wonderland!

A baby arch on Route 191, mile marker 98, near Wilson's Arch area.

So here is the gist of it, during the winter, San Juan County, especially Monticello and the Abajo Mountains, is an amazingly awesome area to visit.  It needs to be promoted, accessed and used for the utmost of pleasures in winter sporting.  Those are my opinions and thoughts, and I'm sticking by them; as to the naysayers, when you wonder why the young people want to go elsewhere because of lack of employment; when you wonder why there are little to no funds in the sales tax coffers for town expenses...?

Mary Cokenour

Monday, September 23, 2013

San Juan Skyway is Indeed a Scenic Byway.

After this write up, I'll be able to take my Colorado 2009-2010 folder of photos, copy it to a DVD and delete from my computer. My hard drive will be so happy for the extra room, but that doesn't mean I'm finished with haven't seen my adventures in Mesa Verde yet. So, you're going to be seeing photos of the Rocky Mountains going via Route 550 from Durango, through Silverton and Ouray, and how the snow fall and ice bring out the quintessential beauty of the mountains. Lovely winter scenery you'll probably be thinking...surprise!; those photos were taken in April 2010. That's right, spring time in the Rockies means say hello to snow, it's still there from the winter and will leave when it's good and ready.

Map time!  Route 550 is part of Colorado's San Juan Skyway Scenic Byway, talk about a run-on name; there is a 12 mile section between Ouray and the summit of Red Mountain Pass called "The Million Dollar Highway".  It was built due to the area being too steep for railroads, and the mines needed easy access; two legends are also associated with the naming of this highway section.  The first is that the actual cost of highway was one million dollars; the second was that one million dollars of gold ore was scattered throughout the road's building material.  

As you begin driving north out of Durango on Route 550, it will be your typical highway; scenic of course, but highway is highway, right?  Pay attention as the you begin to notice that the lanes start to narrow; the closer you get towards Silverton, the higher the surrounding mountains become.  There will be hair pin turns that will make your hair stand on end; wait until you have to pass another vehicle coming from the other about an adrenaline rush!  I did the driving on this trip and I believe this is how I finally overcame my fear of mountain roads, switchbacks, and looking down into expansive canyons and valleys.
There will be three mountain summits/passes along the way.  The first will be Coal Bend Pass at 10, 640 feet above sea level.  The roadway is still basic highway, but it will begin narrowing as you near Molas Pass.
The road is getting narrower, more twists and turns, you're gaining elevation and then the majestic Molas Pass comes into view.  At 10,910 feet above sea level, it's an impressive site; you're not done climbing yet as the fun is just starting to intensify.
Molas Pass
The first town you will finally reach is Silverton; originally it was called "Baker's Park" after Captain Charles Baker.  It is a small town with many  of the original buildings from the 1800s still standing.  From Durango, you can take a scenic ride on the Durango-Silverton Railroad to the town and back again; during the winter holiday season, the "Polar Express" runs for children to enjoy.
Now remember that mining was the main reason why settlements began in this section of the Rocky Mountains.  Historical restorations are taking place by the Idarado Mining Company in the San Miguel Valley; also, don't be surprised to see an abandoned mine shaft sticking out towards the highway as you drive through the mountains.
Between Silverton and Ouray is Red Mountain Pass whose summit reaches 11,038 feet above sea level.  The drive is exhilarating along the narrow mountain road, but the scenic views are worth the anxiety.

Red Mountain Pass

Then comes the city of Ouray, much larger than Silverton and certainly offering much more for visitors.  It has all the modern conveniences, intermingled with the charm of the Old West...have I mentioned the awesome scenery enough yet!?!  As you take the hair pin turns on the highway exit, the slower speed will allow you to get a full appreciation of the city itself.  Feeling stressed out from the drive; check into your hotel/motel and take advantage of Ouray's natural hot springs.  I bet that piece of news just got your full attention.
Since it was spring time, snow was melting with the warming sun; don't be surprised to see a waterfall cascading down a mountain wall, only to become icy rivulets reaching out towards your vehicle.  There will be a tunnel or two blasted out from the natural rock...this was such an awesome adventure!

If you continue northward on Route 550, your next stop will be Ridgway; it has become a haven for artists and artisans.  Stop in at the True Grit Cafe for a meal; True Grit should sound familiar as Ridgway was the setting for the classic John Wayne movie.  Take a walk along the main street and stop in at the local shops; many of the artists though have shops in the back streets.

We continued on Route 550 until we reached Grand Junction; had a great dinner at Famous Dave's BBQ, and made the long ride home to Monticello.  As scenic as traveling Route 191 to Monticello is, it was anti-climactic after the journey on the San Juan Skyway (Route 550).

Mary Cokenour