Tuesday, August 26, 2014

All Roads Lead to Montezuma Canyon - Coal Bed Canyon, Well Sort Of.

When we had last traveled through the lower section of Coal Bed Canyon (CR 341), we were stopped on two trails that required ATVs; we don't own one. So, we decided to go back to Montezuma Canyon Road and explore a trail going off into a hillside at 4.3 miles north of Perkins Road (CR 206). On the map I'm posting below, the bold, broken black lines are the two trails I'm writing about today; these were the same trails that were at the 9.3 mile mark when we traveled the lower section of Coal Bed Canyon.

Once on the dirt trail, off of Montezuma Canyon Road (CR 146), it immediately splits into two trails at 1/10th of a mile.  The trail to the left heads on up and around a hill before leveling off; it's rocky, sandy and 4-wheel drive is definitely a must!

Trail to the left goes up and around a hill.

We had traveled 1.7 miles, going upwards and around a corner to a perfect stopping place that overlooked the land below us.  We both noticed, at the same time, that this viewpoint looked familiar...too familiar; yep, there were the ponds below.  Around a huge boulder we saw the trail continue upwards, and I began hiking it...son of a...!!!  There is was, the section of the trail coming down from Coal Bed Canyon that stopped us the first time; broken up rocks and road that only an ATV would be able to manage.  We had found the connection between Coal Bed Canyon and Montezuma Canyon once again, and once again stopped from completing it.  On a side note, we did find a lovely campsite in the area we were parked.

Camping Area

Notice I did the hike up, while Roy relaxed by the SUV.

My handsome husband, Roy.
As disappointed as we were about not being able to complete the trail fully; we still had the trail to the right, so back to the original starting point.  This new trail had a few splits to it, and we explored what we could.  At the first split (3/10s of a mile), we went straight, but it ended 1.2 miles, for us at least, when it turned obviously ATV only.  Just before it though, at the 1 mile mark, a short trail to the left ended at a corral with a huge cow skull on the fence.  Yes, I'm doing this backwards and for a good reason; it was the trail that was at the 6/10s of a mile mark that ended up being the most exciting.

This trail wound up a hill and we couldn't help but wonder if this could be that second trail from the 9.3 mile split on Coal Bed Canyon.  We also wondered, if it was, would we be able to get over the roughest section of it, or have to turn back; or could we turn back and have to rough it out?  ...and upwards we went.

About 1.5 miles up we began a steady climb upwards on a section of trail that had us rocking and rolling; it was over quickly though and a half mile later; there is was, the rock formation that looked like a hand, and where we had found the bullsnake.  The entire trek was two miles, but we had done it, we had traveled another trail that connected one canyon (Coal Bed) to Montezuma Canyon Road.  We were pumped up with adrenaline and sheer excitement; so instead of taking the easy dirt trail directly to CR 341 and home, we followed an obvious trail, on the left, that traversed up and over a hill.  Oh yes, we were feeling quite good about ourselves!

We stopped just over the hill and the views from up there were stunning!

There you have it, another "All Roads Lead to Montezuma Canyon" adventure; backwards this time, but still just as awesome!

Mary Cokenour

Friday, August 22, 2014

A Mine Find in Monument Canyon.

I'd told Roy about my ride through Monument Canyon (CR372), and after seeing the road to it when we drove the upper half of Coal Bed Canyon (CR 341), he agreed to the drive. Now this is one of the big advantages of driving with a partner, one of you is bound to catch sight of something the other person might miss. The first time I'd gone through, I'd found that cave, or what I thought was a cave, opening. The second time through led us to a larger find, a mine close by to the opening I'd first found; I'd missed it, but Roy spotted it immediately.

There are two mine shafts in this one area.

We found out later on that mines in the various canyons are no surprise; I'm not talking about old abandoned mines here, but newly developed ones.  What we were told is that it's not unusual for people to start a mine to tap into one of the natural gas or petroleum lines in the area; fossil hunt; or dig for a mineral of some sort.  Number one, you have to be careful not to venture into these mines as you don't know how safe they are.  We could see lots of fallen rock everywhere and some of the timbers were obviously cracked.  As much as we both wanted to go deeper inside; fear of getting injured, killed and/or trapped kept us sensible.  We also didn't know for sure if anyone or thing was in the mine, whether hiding or using it as a home.  Number two, the people who opened these mines are protective of them when they're around; they won't think twice about shooting at you; whether to simply warn, or inflict harm, is their choice.  A huge reason why is they're not supposed to be there themselves!

Being monsoon season in San Juan County, we weren't surprised to see storm clouds coming in from the west.  Since I'd traveled this road before, I knew how many miles until we reached the upper roadway leading to Colorado, into Dove Creek, back onto Route 491 and home.  Roy, Roy, Roy, oh yea of little faith; he kept questioning me on, "Should you be taking so long on photographing the area?"  A few shots of the storm coming in, how could I resist those dramatic skies; and we made it to Dove Creek just as the thunderstorm hit.  A leisurely drive back to Monticello and the SUV got a good washing for free; it was all over by the time we reached our home.  That's the thing with monsoon season; storm clouds everyday, maybe thunder and lightning only, maybe rain from five seconds to five hours; maybe the whole she-bang!!!

Only out for a couple of hours, but the amount of pleasure...priceless!

Mary Cokenour

Friday, August 15, 2014

Up and Over Deer Neck Mesa.

In the late winter, Roy and I explored San Juan County roads in the Lisbon Valley area, however, some were still too full of snow to get through. One of these roads was CR 323 or Deer Neck Road which goes up and over a portion of Deer Neck Mesa. Roy couldn't be with me for this adventure, so my dog, Jenna, quickly volunteered to be my traveling companion.

Two maps with CR 323 hi-lighted in orange to help you follow along.

After turning onto Lisbon Valley Road and going three miles, there is a dirt trail off to the right.  This trail ends a half mile at CR 108 which leads around White Rock, however, there is another dirt trail that runs parallel, and closer to White Rock.  Well you know I had to find out where it went exactly and what I could see; unfortunately, this trail became sandier and sandier.  I found a level pull in area that I could make a safe turn around in, parked and did some impromptu hiking.  While the scenery from White Rock is gorgeous, it is marred by electrical towers and wires stretching across the valley.

Dirt Trail, off CR 108, parallel and close to White Rock
White Rock Panorama
Valley View Panorama from
White Rock
Back onto CR 108, I drove eastward about a half mile before it, once again, met with Lisbon Valley Road.  After 1.5 miles, still traveling east, I came upon a newly graded gravel road; yeah, I had to see what this was about; but it ended at CR 112 only after a half mile.  That was just fine though, as I knew I needed to get on CR 112 eventually to access CR 323 and Deer Neck Mesa.  Before I got to CR 323 though, immediately was a dirt trail leading towards the Mesa and it was so inviting.  In only 3/10ths of a mile, I came upon a wondrous land of slick rock which was obviously used as a camping area.  Oh, this was a fun place to explore!

Slick Rock and Camping Sites

Back to CR 112 and making the turn onto CR 323, yes, it was that close!  This road begins as dirt, immediately turns to gravel, and after that is anybody's guess; there was no rhyme or reason, but many a "Holy Sh*t" when the road was nothing more than broken up rock.  You'll get what I mean by the next set of photos of portions of the road and how it ever changed from dirt, to gravel, to "what the heck!" and back again.  Now what encouraged me to go on?  Number one was to conquer fear.  Number two was that the road had obviously been graded and the wide tire tracks indicated a large sized vehicle (larger than my SUV) had done the work; if it could make it, so could I!  I needed to pay strict attention as there were gaps along the sides now and then, or a rather large rock lying on the road that I had to circumvent.  To take pictures required many stops which allowed Jenna romping time.

The views of Lisbon Valley, and the Anticline, were stunning as I traveled up the side of the Mesa and finally to its top.  The sky couldn't make up its mind about being cloudy or sunny, so the light and shadows played wonderfully over the Valley.

By the way, I'd only driven 2.1 miles before I came upon a manmade "cave", or possibly the beginning of a mine.  It's not unusual to be traveling through a canyon, valley, up and down hills and not stumble across caves or mines.  How did I know it was manmade and not simply a natural opening in the rock face?  Look way in the rear and there is a wooden timber set up floor to ceiling.

Uranium mining made a lot of folks rich in San Juan County, but it also made the workers very ill.  The mines have been closed off since the 1960s, but that doesn't mean a reminder hasn't been left here and there of those days past.

By mile mark four, I began seeing fencing on both sides of the road and "No Trespassing" signs.  I knew exactly where I was when I saw the "Sunrise Country" settlement, but it would be about another 45 minutes before I found myself on Route 491 and the way west to Monticello.

This was a most awesome day of adventuring; I conquered a rocky road and the fear of driving up and over it; I saw the most spectacular views; and just had the one of rhe best days.  Life is definitely an adventure!

Mary Cokenour