Thursday, December 28, 2017

Finding Your Connection in 2018.

“Mary, you are one of the most honest people I’ve ever met, and I admire that about you; but honest to a fault.  Living in San Juan County, especially Monticello, that part of your personality will earn you hardships, many you do not deserve.  However, I don’t want you to change, you are not the one that needs to change; the others need to change, start listening and doing.” This was said to me by a man who only lived in Monticello a short time, but was happy as a pig in a mud hole to move away to a more populated area of Utah.

With that I looked back at my life, not just in 2017, but in general and realized that I have changed many times, mainly to make others happy.  From an early age, I relished the thought of visiting museums, discovering the scientific worlds of archaeology, anthropology and paleontology.  In college, I took several of these courses and was at the New York Museum of Natural History (yes, the one from the Ben Stiller movies) so much, all the guards knew me by name.  However, I ended up putting these loves on the shelf, listening to advisors that said there was no money in these careers, no real future for a woman.  I dragged myself through jobs I hated, stayed in an abusive marriage as others kept telling me, “You’ll never do better.”  I figured, if everyone I knew was telling me this, then it must be true, right?

It wasn’t until I was in my 40s that I developed friendships with people who supported me mentally and emotionally.  I divorced the s.o.b., met my current husband, Roy, and even he too kept telling me, “Be who and what you want to be; don’t do things to make me, or anyone else happy.”  With our move to Utah, our adventuring around the 4 Corners region of the four states, I was able to enjoy those lost loves from my younger years.  That crazy woman jumping up and down on slickrock, off State Highway 95, near White Canyon?  Yeah, that was me as I just found dinosaur prints, put my foot next to one and imagined what creature, from millions of years ago, I was communing with.

In essence, what I am trying to communicate to everyone is, have hopes and dreams, hold onto them tightly, and get them done!  Don’t listen to naysayers and simply do as they say, put them on the spot and ask them “Why?  Why don’t you want me to pursue what will make me happy?  Why does it have to be only your way when I know you’ve never tried to do it yourself?”

Need a little inspiration?  Watch the original Muppet Movie (1979), about a little frog that had big dreams and pursued them no matter what.  Listen to the words he sings in “Rainbow Connection” and realize,

“Why are there so many songs about rainbows and what's on the other side?
Rainbows are visions, but only illusions, and rainbows have nothing to hide.
So we've been told and some choose to believe it.
I know they're wrong wait and see.
Someday we'll find it, the rainbow connection.
The lovers, the dreamers and me.”

I remember when a rainbow went over a particular ridge.  I want to climb that ridge and see "what's on the other side?"  In 2018, find your rainbow connection and from the Cokenour family, Happy New Year!

Mary Cokenour

Saturday, August 26, 2017

More at Newspaper Rock Than Imagined.

After writing about the Four Corners Potato ( on my food blog; I decided to drag Roy away from his computer, and go plant hunting.  Newspaper Rock is only about 35-40 minutes away, well, except if you take the one paved road up through the Abajo Mountains and down Harts Draw Road; then it's an easy hour, hour and 15 minutes.  Armed with walking stick and several cameras, we parked in the lot at the Historical Monument; while tourists walked to the rock art wall, we went the opposite way.  There is a dirt trail that leads off from the restroom area; prickly pear cactus, claret cup cactus, sage brush, salt bush, juniper and pinon pine...but no potato plants.  Now mind you, we had no intention of digging up any plants; the thrill of actually seeing and photographing one would definitely be enough!

The trail eventually lead right back to the Route 211, so basically it dead-ended.

Looking across from parking lot at Newspaper Rock.

Trail past restroom dead ends.

Doowozhii aka 3-Wing Salt Bush or 4-Wing Salt Bush

Coming out onto Route 211, we decided to head directly across and check out a visible trail; zig-zagging through the wooded area, we ended up at Indian Creek.  It takes a bit of figuring out where to cross over, but we were able to get back and forth a few times.  Wearing waterproof hiking boots is a must for this kind of outing.  Three plants that were dominant were:

Indian Paintbrush

Canaigre Dock (Buckwheat family)
The Burdock and Canaigre Dock bloom May-June, and even the Indian Paintbrush was not as bright being near the end of August.  Monsoon season was essentially over, so that's another reason why we were hoping to see the 4 Corners Potato, since it thrives due to the moisture.

We ended back at the parking area, checked out the trail that goes down and to the right of Newspaper Rock itself, but, again, no plants we were looking for.  We checked out the small alcoves there, where we usually enjoy picnics, and found that others had definitely been there....modern graffiti of initials and names that were not there 1-2 years ago!  I find it funny that, with this Bears Ears National Monument issue; tourists cry out, "It's public land, we have the right to be on it."  Yes, it's public land, but you DON'T have the right to deface historical areas, destroy landscapes, and leave your crap lying around!!!  ...and there is my rant for this post.

Anyway, we left and drove back towards Highway 191, but only got about 500 feet where there is a pull-in area; and across is a trail (hiking/ATV) leading off to the wooded area.  As there were plants along the bottom of the rock wall, we walked and searched; went down into a small dry wash, came back up and stared at the bullet holes that ranchers had left when they first came through this area. There is one large panel of them, but we started to notice more and then it came to mind that this was often done where Native American rock art existed.  We looked, we stared and then we saw it; faint drawings and carvings, could it be true?  Using my camera's zoom lens and a pair of binoculars, it was confirmed. we had found more rock art that was approximately 550 feet before getting to Newspaper Rock itself.

View of area from across Indian Creek.

Panel riddled with bullet holes, about 200 feet up.
Hunting Scene

Big Horn Sheep Carvings
Bullet holes obscure Roger's last name & full date.

Bird figure?

Figures on this panel are very similar to the Wolfman Panel at Comb Ridge (Lower Butler Wash)

More bullet holes among the drawings.

Stick figures are questionable, but the animal figure looks authentic.

Truman Wilcox was there on July 11, 1926.

Looking across from these panels, there is a jutting point; couldn't find a name for it on any maps though.

I asked locals about the rock art, but it seemed they knew of Newspaper Rock, but not of any in the nearby area.  It was suggested I contact the BLM - Monticello Field Office; I gave the desk person information about the area and contact info.   A couple of days later I received a call back; this is, indeed, listed as a historical site, just not advertised due to Newspaper Rock being the "popular" location.  Hey, all you public lands people, look, but DON'T touch...there's a hint for you.

In conclusion, we didn't find any potato plants to photograph, but we found this wonderful rock art site we must have passed by, oh, over a hundred times, or more, by now.  Still got a thrill for the day!

Mary Cokenour

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Let Me Guide You Through Canyonlands Needles..

So here is my part two of visiting Canyonlands  - Needles District in the winter; still saying "that's crazy!?!"  During the day, dependent on the month, the temperatures are 50s to 70s; at night is when the cold seriously creeps in with the night sky.  If staying in the nearest town, Monticello, there are several hotels and motels to hide in at night; RV campgrounds with full hookups too.  Then there is Canyonlands Lodging which does offer the use of their beautiful cabins year round; or the Runnin' Iron Inn and Line Camp Steakhouse.  Still confused on what to do; check out Tripadvisor: for reviews that will help you make your best decisions.

Enough with advertising (and I don't even get paid for doing it!!!), after that short hike at the Roadside Ruin ( ), the very next pull-in was to view Woodenshoe Arch.  Put the imagination cap on and yes, it does look like one of those wooden shoes associated with Holland.  This is also where you'll get your first viewing of the Needles themselves.  Hint, you have to be in the park between 8am to 11am to get the best lighting for viewing and photographing the Needles.  After 11am, the sun begins traveling overhead and west, so the Needles become covered in haze.

Haze over the Needles.

Here is where I'm going to be really nice to all my readers...a map of Canyonlands - Needles; in winter, the visitor center inside the park is closed, so you can't get a map.  See the red line on the map, that indicates the paved section of roadway through the park.  If you still think you need help, or are lost, stop at the Canyon Country Discovery Center at the northern end of Monticello (just before you enter the City limits on Highway 191) for more information.

By the way, the National Parks (Canyonlands, Arches) do not have stores, so make sure, before beginning the journey, fill up the gas tank, have plenty of water (3-4 quarts per person; double that if long hikes are planned for), healthy protein snacks and ALWAYS take a picnic!   If traveling with person(s) that have walking restrictions, Route 211 has loads he/she/they can see along the way; and Needles will offer them some great sightseeing too!  Now you can understand why I worked for over four years at the Monticello Welcome Center; I know this stuff and made sure visitors were aware!

We continued on the paved roadway towards Big Spring Canyon Overlook, but first stopped at the pull-in area for the Slickrock Foot Trail.  We didn't walk that trail as we were too interested in what we spied on the other side of the roadway.  That shouldn't mean that you don't do the trail; Roy and I just happen to enjoy doing "Oooo, bunny" stuff; you know, "Oooo, what's over there?" or "Oooo, where does that road go?"

Across from the Slickrock Foot Trail

Looking upwards, I spotted an opening and thought it was either a cave, or an arch; inside though, looks like there's a ruin there (ancient or modern I don't know).

One thing I always enjoy is photographing plant life, wild life and desert's like being on another world!.

...and for some reason, Roy enjoys photographing me, photographing.

Back to sightseeing...

Looking across, you can make out Big Spring Canyon Overlook.

Just a short drive down to the next pull-in area, welcome to Big Spring Canyon!

,,,and Roy taking my photo, so I took his too.

Next stop, Elephant Hill Road; the Needles can be seen here too (one mile along road - graded to make passenger car accessible), but, again, the haze makes it difficult to see the layers of coloring.

Reaching the parking area, there are actually two trails; 4 Wheel Drive is rated one of the most extreme in Utah, and the hiking trail.  We didn't drive the 4WD trail, but walked the first 1/4 of a mile and even that was a bit on the nerve wracking side; had to pay attention to avoid a fall, spraining or even breaking something.  It starts out easy on dirt, and then quickly switches to uneven rock!

Wait till you see the views from the point we stopped walking.

It's around 4:30pm and time to head on back to Monticello, as the sunset will begin soon enough (remember, this was February 2017). Time enough to take a quick photo of the hiking trail before we go.

Hope you enjoyed our winter journey through Canyonlands - The Needles District.  See, there's lots to do in the desert winter!

Mary Cokenour