Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Hospitality is Key for a Bed and Breakfast.

Valley of the Gods Bed and Breakfast

PO Box 310307
Mexican Hat, Utah, 84531

Phone: (970) 749-1164

Hospitality to travelers, strangers really, goes back to the beginning of recorded history; an extension of religious beliefs and culture.  A perfect example is Xenia, the concept of Greek hospitality where generosity and courtesy were reciprocated between host and guest.  A traveler could knock upon the door of any home, be greeted warmly, given food and a bed to rest upon.  Zeus, leader of the Grecian Pantheon, was also called Zeus Xenios, the protector of travelers; often disguising himself as a weary traveler he was able to see if humble hospitality was practiced or not. Rewards were bestowed to those who were pious to the concept (Theoxeny), punishments to those who refused to help a stranger, or even try to take advantage.

As humankind developed, travel went from walking, horse/oxen drawn carts, waterways, stagecoach, railway, automobile, airplane.  Inns with many rooms, stables for the horse and oxen, developed into hotels with the advent of indoor plumbing.  As families traveled on vacation and needed cheaper lodging, motels burst forth along highways.  Hotels provided meals through a restaurant of their own, or kitchen providing room service.  Diners became the roadside partners to the motels, and then the fast food industry came onto the scene. 

Having traveled through Europe, Russia, Canada and the United States, the concept of hospitality differs, not from country to country, or town to town.  Nowadays, what you get might just be dependent upon what you give, and that means money….or does it?

The Bed and Breakfast, or B & B for short, has never left, but is becoming a much desired staying place for people on vacation or traveling for business.   The owners of a B & B often live within the residence, or within a smaller building on the premises.  Cozy sized bedrooms with ultra-comfy beds, a small private bathroom; homemade breakfast is typically the only meal served.  Guests are treated more like family; rocking chairs on porches, taking in the night air and sky; sharing stories of the day’s sightseeing.


…and let me introduce you to the Valley of the Gods Bed and Breakfast.   The Route 261 entrance to Valley of the Gods is 6.5 miles once you have made the turn off Highway 163; on the way is the road to Goosenecks State Park.  Or, like we did, travel down the 3 miles of switchbacks known as the Moki Dugway, ready to explore the 17 mile trail of the Valley and its amazing formations.  About a half mile in is the B & B, stopping only to take some exterior shots, owner Claire Dorgan came out to ask us if we were reserved guests.  Explaining the travel blog, and wanting to do a write up of her business, she cheerfully exclaimed, “Well, come on in!”  We weren’t staying there, but already felt wanted and welcomed.

The porch is referred to as the outdoor living room, dining room and kitchen; a place to take in the beauty of the landscape, the night show of the stars, breathe deep and relax.  Inside, this home is amazing wood and stone; antiques galore; handmade quilts adorn the sink-into-glorious-sleep beds; rustic country/southwestern charm.  Breakfast is freshly prepared by Claire, unique creations keep the guests surprised and satisfied.  Her husband, Gary, proudly talks about the energy efficiency of the B & B; powered by wind and solar systems.  Looking for a little privacy, the old root cellar building has been converted into a quaint little hideaway of its own.

Lady in the Bathtub.

Valley of the Gods Bed and Breakfast is a haven in the desert; its warm arms surrounding visitors at night while the coyote howls and a tumbleweed rolls into the dark.
Mary Cokenour


Saturday, March 18, 2017

Remembering the Blue Mountain Ski Resort.

In 2016, the National Forest Service removed the last remnants of the ski lift, rails and lodge from the old Blue Mountain Ski Resort. Recently an article came out in The Salt Lake Tribune, written by veteran reporter, Tom Wharton:
Happily, via personal email and phone calls, I assisted Mr. Wharton in gaining information, and photographs, for his story.  So, in his article he wrote that I was a "San Juan County historian" when, in fact, I am more of a historical researcher.  This is a common feature in my travel and food blog posts, as well as my articles that appear in the San Juan Record; San Juan County's local weekly newspaper.

Oh, one more correction to the SLTribune article; Dave Krouskop is the retired manager of the Monticello Welcome Center, not the ski resort.  Luckily I was able to talk to Dave, who agreed to fill me in on the resort's history; and I did make him aware that this information was for a newspaper up in Salt Lake.  Dave remembers his sons complaining that the novice area (bunny slope) wasn't very steep; but many were concerned that "hotdoggers" would shoot across from the lodge to get to the steeper slopes.  Thankfully no accidents ever occurred; and happily, folks on Facebook wrote about their memories of the resort, ski lessons and the fun they had.  Unfortunately, no photographs of those good times to add to fond remembrances.
The resort had a small lodge with a fireplace; on the deck, food would be grilled on the outdoor barbeque; hot beverages were served for those needing a warm up.  Sadly, the resort closed its doors in 1990; Gene Shafer  (born 1931 - died 2011) was the man, not only in charge, but the maintenance crew as well.  His motto was, "If you can ski Blue Mountain, you can ski anywhere!", as these were the steepest slopes in Utah!
Several factors contributed to the closing of the resort; several winters seasons of slim to none snow fall; maintenance, licensing, inspection and insurance costs were high.  No snow meant no skiers, no skiers meant very little funding to offset all those costs.  In 2005, Ray Grass, of Deseret News, did an article on Utah ski resorts which became defunct, and Blue Mountain was featured:

The only remaining features to show that the resort existed are the road up to it, and the parking lot.  In 2013, Jared Hargrave wrote an article for  Look back at the photo of the three male skiers; now the same area is popular for snowboarders.

Of course there is the Ski Resort Poster that resides in the Frontier Museum, attached to the Monticello Welcome Center (216 South Main Street, Monticello, Utah, 84535); but nowadays memories, in the minds of those who skied at Blue Mountain, will remain far longer.
Personally I have no memories to share about the resort, as we didn't move to San Juan County until 2009. Then again, I'm not a skier; the idea of kissing a tree while speeding down a snowy, not for me.  I'll stick to hanging off ledges, and climbing up red rock walls without equipment; that's enough of a thrill.
Mary Cokenour

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Completing a Forest Trail; Only Took Two Years.

Back in April 2014, Roy and I traveled the dirt road past Recapture Reservoir, up into the Manti-LaSal Forest, but were stopped by snow and ice along the way.  We kept saying we would go back and finish the trail, but so many other adventures kept enticing us.  Well, in November 2016, we finally finished the forest trail; backwards!

Ok, when I say backwards, not the vehicle going backwards, but finishing the trail from the other way.  It goes back to the junction at 6.6 miles past the entrance to Devil's Canyon, off Highway 191 , and the decision to turn left and follow CR 110 to Camp Jackson.  Well, we sort of missed the turn off a little ways along, continued along, not realizing we were traveling further south, then west, then south again.

It was at mile mark 1.1 (set the odometer to zero at the junction) that we noticed an open area with a rocky crest at the edge.  We noticed a couple of campfire rings, but what interested us the most was the appearance the rocky crest gave to our imaginations...the remains of a castle.  The views from this rocky crest were breathtaking, from the peaks of the Abajo Mountains all the way to Bears Ears in the far distance.  Another one of those, "on a clear day, you can see forever" moments.

Bears Ears in the far distance.

We were able to make our way downwards into the crest; Mother Nature did a heck of a job on sculpting the walls of this castle fortress.

Up ahead we spotted a cave; at the same time we heard movement.  Immediately we looked down at the soft dirt and spotted them, very large cat prints...and we backed up quickly, but silently.  We were armed, we are always prepared, but why engage when we can quietly leave?  We're not hunters, we don't begrudge those who hunt to feed their families; hey, we eat meat too.  We are also not trophy hunters; we don't see the point of killing beautiful animals for fun and pleasure only.  Personally I see it this way; you want to hunt for fun?  Make it fair play; animals have claws and teeth; so then the hunter should only be armed with one knife (the claw) and his/her teeth.  See, fair play....oh, if you could see the sly smile on my face right now.

Along the top of the crest, some of the rocks had potholes filled with water; we saw movement, but could not make out what tiny creatures were residing inside.  There was also a dead tree that seemed to have been cut and used for fire wood, yet still had an artful elegance to it.

Now here comes an amusing story, and sadly I have no acceptable photos of the incident.  As we were returning to the trail, we looked ahead to see dust floating up and two rather large "things" running ahead.  At first we thought, "Coyotes?", but didn't see any long tails swinging as the creatures ran.  We were doing about 40mph, and could not catch up; then they did a left hand turn to run down an decline and we could see them clearly...bears!  They looked to be about a year old; we found a trail paralleling the decline into the forest, but they were too fast to get a clear photographic shot.  There is only one photo where the outline of two heads can be made out, but not much more.  What a thrill for the day, being mooned by two bears!

Mile mark 1.2 there was a rocky ridge line; it was then we figured out that this area is the same one that can be seen from Highway 191 as we drive north from Blanding back to Monticello.  We were always commenting, "Wonder how we can get up there?", and here we were!  The ridge line stretched for several miles, sometimes seen through the trees, and sometimes a full view of their naked glory.

Being resigned to the fact that we weren't going to Camp Jackson, we continued onward until we finally saw two signs; FR084 and Manti-LaSal Forest.  It didn't dawn on us where we had been until we came to an overlook of Recapture Reservoir, and saw familiar old barns, cabins and open ranch land.  We had been here before; this was the forest road we had started back in April 2014, but not completed!  We did it, but backwards!  We began to laugh so hard, that some cattle nearby looked at us as if we were totally insane.  Perhaps we were, insane with the glee of accomplishment, the thrill of seeing bears, and having one of our glorious adventures...together.

So, coming to San Juan County and want to try out this little adventure; here are some landmarks:

Monticello Welcome Center on Main Street (Highway 191), set odometer to zero and begin traveling south; 8.9 Miles is the Blue Mountain Dude Ranch (cabins and other facilities are available for rental); 9.5 Miles is Canyonlands Lodging (cabins and a lodge for rental); 11.7 is Devil's Canyon (NFS Campground and FR 085 - 6.6 miles and you're at the junction).  If you want to read more about the trails at that junction; use the Search function on the right hand sidebar of this blog.  Enjoy!

Mary Cokenour