Sunday, August 28, 2016

Bear Cave, and Mammoths Too!

Richard Watkins, Age 79
Known to locals; often hiked to as a family event; location passed on to each new generation; that's Bear Cave in San Juan County, Utah. As part of our July 4th family day with the Watkins Family, Roy and I became part of this generational event.  Well, we were adopted by them after all, so it stands to reason we know this family secret.  That's right folks, this is a well kept secret among San Juan County families, so I will NOT being giving directions or even landmarks to this location.

First, let me introduce you to the patriarch of the Watkins Family, Richard Watkins, age 79 and who will be 80 come February 2017.  This sweet, gentle man decided that Roy and I were as close to being family, as were the blood relations.  Basically his daughter Amy is our sister, as we are brother and sister to her; and now we have two new sisters, Ivy and Jan; along with a slew of nieces and nephews now (their children).  This proves the fact that water can be as thick as blood; consider this a life lesson from "This Ole Wise Woman".

The climb down into the cave, and returning up the other side, is not easy; there are boulders to climb over and between; fallen tree trunks to get over; many tight spaces and hugging of walls along ledges.

The Climb Down begins.

Looking back up to the top of the climb.

 Looks easy along here.

Victoria wondering, "Why are you so slow!?!"
...or Not!

Bessie and Victoria show how to squeeze through.

Not getting any easier.

Squeeze through some boulders.

The Log of Sad Memories and Remembrance - the last time dad's wife, Marie, came here with him, her foot became entangled in a bush and she fell.  Previously diagnosed with an abdominal aortic aneurysm, a stent had been placed in the artery. When she fell, the stent was damaged; subsequent internal bleeding took her away from her family and friends.  While dad has been here afterwards, it's no longer a place of sadness, but remembrance of his sweet Marie.

Sliding down the pathway

Hug that tree!

Welcome to Bear Cave

Bear Cave is immense; as you can see from the photos, viewing the family inside gives a good depiction of the size and depth.  Rock art adorns the walls, as does modern graffiti from locals who could not resist adding their names to the walls.  Unfortunately, the ceiling and walls of the cave have been flaking for generations.  Back in the 1950s, the Bear and two Mammoths were quite discernible; now only one Mammoth remains (partially) while time has erased the other.

The Cave Drawings

Graffiti from locals.

Ceilings and Walls are flaking.

The one remaining Mammoth
Mammoth outlined


The Bear
Bear outlined

Humanoid Figures

Looking out from the Cave.

I presume that the trees that now rise up tall in front of the cave were mere saplings when it was inhabited by ancient Native people.  Back then, they would have had a grand view of the canyon beyond.

Knowing dad (yes, Roy and I call him dad), he was thinking about his wonderful Marie; she was there in spirit, keeping an eye on all of us, and smiling the whole time.  Well, we were there as family, and that was very important to her; family.

....time for the long and strenuous climb up to the top, back to our vehicles for much needed fresh, cold water and snacks.  Hope you enjoyed this newest adventure, and no, I'm still not telling the location!

Mary Cokenour

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Lower Arch Canyon Overlook.

On July 4, 2016; dad (Richard Watkins) took us on a hiking trip; included were Roy, myself, his daughters Amy and Jan, and Jan's children: Gabby, Bessie and Victoria.  Amy stayed behind with Gabby, and the vehicles, as Gabby was very young, and we had a hard enough time keeping Bessie from doing happy dances on the ledge edges.  I thought I was bad hanging off of them!  Now dad is going to be 80 in Feb 2017, and he surely put us through our paces; he made me feel old and feeble trying to keep up with him.

Now here is the truly funny part, Roy and I had picnicked nearby just last year, and didn't know this trail existed.  You see, the trail for the Upper Arch Canyon Overlook is marked on Mule Canyon/Texas Flat Road; there's even a metal stairway to help you get down to the ledges.  Not here, you either know where it is, or you drive right by never knowing the wondrous beauty that lies behind a sandstone hill.

Lets begin, the location is 3 miles along (click link above for Road info); it's an open slickrock area with evidence of previous camping being done there.  Start walking straight towards the sandstone hill; you might have to do a little crab walking on some spots; and a bit of your back against the sandstone as you watch your footing on the tight ledges.  Keep moving to the right of the hill; around the corner it opens up for easier walking and then you see it; the openness of Lower Arch Canyon...prepared to be in awe!

View from the sandstone hill.

Formation back in Mule Canyon.

Lower Arch Canyon Panoramas

The formations are Dreamspeaker (desert tower), and Dreamcatcher (fins behind Dreamspeaker); they are mentioned in rock climbing books, and climbing sites on the internet.  Dad said the locals call the desert tower, "The Old Man", but the other name he couldn't say, considering he was surrounded by polite female company.  I'm sure he told my husband Roy later on, but I still haven't heard; it must be that bad!

Dreamspeaker (desert tower to right), Dreamcatcher (left side of photo)



To the far left of the formations, look along the cliffside ledges (squint if you have to) are Anasazi ruins.

If you look over the top of the ledges, you can slightly see Upper Arch Canyon; to get a better view, drive another 3 miles on Mule Canyon/Texas Flat Road.  There will be a sign to the right directing you to the Overlook; a metal staircase makes it easier to get down to the ledges.

Begin walking to the right to get a better view of the far southern end of Lower Arch Canyon.  This area can be accessed via 4 wheel drive, and then ATV, from State Highway 95.  (click Here for information)

Don't forget to keep looking across the canyon; didn't see more ruins, but the carving of the stone, by Mother Nature, is picturesque.

Keep walking and you end up in a desert/forest area full of pinyon pines, sage brush and cacti.  Be careful, it's easy to get turned around, lose your bearings and get lost in this area.


Pinyon Pine

By the way, the entire time we were hiking around, we were being watched; first by one Turkey Vulture, sometimes circled by a group of six or more.  I decided to look up what a group of vultures is called. "A group of vultures is called a wake, committee, venue, kettle, or volt. The term kettle refers to vultures in flight, while committee, volt, and venue refer to vultures resting in trees. Wake is reserved for a group of vultures that are feeding."  All I know is that they were probably watching us and trying to figure out which of us would become lunch.

Now after this jaunt, we did more hiking to find a cave that locals know about, "Bear Cave".  There is rock art there of human figures, a bear, and, wait for it...mammoths.  I have loads of photos to share, but the location....that's going to remain a secret.

Mary Cokenour