Monday, September 3, 2018

Hiking Around Shay Canyon - Part One

Already gave you a taste of Shay Ridge and Shay Mountain up in the Abajo Mountains.  Now it's time to go to a lower elevation and tell you about Shay Canyon.  The trailhead to Shay Canyon is located about 2 miles west from Newspaper Rock Historical Site (my odometer puts it at 1.8 miles), along Scenic Highway 211.

Actually, this part one was a second hiking trip we took into Shay Canyon.  The first time we climbed upward to the walls of the canyon to ooh and ahh over the rock art panels.  Well I'm going to make you wait for that, as I think it's important you discover all the wonders there.  The Pillar, or what looks, from the highway, like a jug handle arch until you hike to it.  The plant and wildlife; and there are dinosaur tracks embedded into the rock bed of the wash.  Funny story about those dino tracks; walking along I said to my hubby, "Hey hunny, these look like dino tracks!" to which he responded, "Oh no, that's just erosion from water that ran through here."  Sure, I believed that until I found an online BLM report which stated "dinosaur tracks can be found within the rock bed of the dry wash".  So what does that mean?  Means we have to make a third trip back to find those tracks again and photograph them; believe me, this is not a problem or hardship.

Shay Canyon is a beautiful, secluded and soothing place to be; the quiet is very welcome.  We traversed two well worn paths, but came across huge boulders that required climbing over.  That wasn't a problem for us, it was the dark clouds moving closer that deterred us.  Rain can lead to possible flash flooding; it's bad enough to be in an area you know well, but in an unknown area.  Well, either way, we're not stupid enough to take the chance of getting caught up in a flood; a dry wash can become a raging river in seconds!

Anyway, enjoy the photos you're about to see; hint, doing this hike in April or May is much cooler, heat wise, than the hot, hot months of June through August.

Our second time there was in May; the drought in San Juan County had become so severe, Indian Creek was dry as a bone.  Instead of stepping on wet rocks to cross over, it was sand, dry sand we walked over.  After crossing over, a short trail leads you into the bedrock of a creek that once flowed through this canyon area.

We walked towards the pillar first, it's shape becoming more defined the closer you get to it.  Then trail continued for another 500 feet from the pillar, and then the boulders appeared and the only way around was over them.

Pass those bushes in the background is where the boulders blocked the actual path, and climbing over them is required.

Walking back to the Pillar, we started off on a second path.  Now one thing I have to tell you is that some stepping upward from rock bed to upper rock bed will be required on both of the dirt trails.  A walking stick is a huge help for keeping you steady on the climb ups.

There were a few interesting caves above us on the canyon walls; where any creatures were living inside them, we couldn't tell.  However, as seems to be becoming a pattern, turkey vultures suddenly flew in and began circling us.  Sorry fellas, we're not going to be your lunch this time either!

Turkey Vulture in Flight

There is an abundance of plant and wildlife in this area; prickly pear cacti and yucca were in bloom, as well as desert globe mallow and tufted evening primrose aka sand lily (name is understandable as it was growing up from the sandy soil in the dry wash.  Sitting upon a boulder was a desert lizard watching us; we could almost swear he winked at us.

Up on a ledge is Blooming Yucca and prickly pear cacti below it.

Desert Globe Mallow (Mallow family)

Blooming Prickly Pear Cacti growing in large patches, not a single plant.

During the day, this Tufted Evening Primrose takes a nap, but in the evening, the blooms will be in colors of white, pink and purple.  This is also called the Sand Lily, and that is exactly the growth medium the plant thrives in...sand.

Even in death, the trees split and twist into unusual shapes of beauty in their own right.

That's my hubby, Roy, standing by the twisted tree.

Now here comes your teasers for Hiking Shay Canyon - Part Two.  From the original trail, there is an offshoot trail that leads up to the canyon walls themselves; a half mile of rock art drawings and cravings from native tribes who lived in the area, or just passed through and left a message.  As with any historical site, the only trace you should be leaving is a footprint in the sand.

There is always something new to see in San Juan County, so plan your trip and expect to spend a few weeks to months.  One or two days, well it's just unacceptable!

Mary Cokenour

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