Monarch Cave- Comb Ridge

Monarch Cave- Comb Ridge- San Juan County, UT

Monarch Cave- Comb Ridge- San Juan County, UT

Our mid-February through early March weather was AMAZING this year- perfect for getting out and doing some pre-spring hikes.  We were in high ‘show season’ in our office (Jan-March every year when we attend Travel, Sportsman’s, Adventure & Gear shows to promote tourism in San Juan County) and I think I’ve counted that from the first show I attended in January to the last which was the 2nd weekend of April, including personal weekends away, I was out of town 7 of 14 weekends!  But somehow in there, my family managed to get hikes in on 5 separate weekends- I think the weather must have been on our side this year to allow that to happen!

One of our first hikes this year was in mid February, and we decided to hike to Monarch Cave which is located on Comb Ridge, just southwest of Bluff.  We’ve done a lot of other hikes on Comb Ridge; Procession Panel, Wolfman Panel, Fish Mouth Cave, etc., and they’re all amazing- Comb Ridge is definitely one of my favorite places to hike!

Now that our son is getting older (3 1/2 yrs) we’re determined to get out and hike and camp as much as possible this year.  We’re also thinking we might finally be ready to take him on the San Juan River this year- just the upper section between Sand Island and Mexican Hat.  It’s not that I didn’t think he was old enough to go on the river before- I think he’s more than ready!  It’s just that he has multiple & severe food allergies and the thought of him having an allergic reaction on the river, especially on the lower section in the canyon between Mexican Hat and Clay Hills, is pretty terrifying!  (Trust me, my husband manages the San Juan River Office at the BLM and he’s heard some pretty bad stories of things that have happened to kids on the river!)

Riding on Dad's shoulders on the Monarch Cave Trail

Riding on Dad’s shoulders on the Monarch Cave Trail

We were determined to take advantage of any nice weather we could, so when the weather forecast was calling for low 60s around Bluff that weekend, we decided to head down there to take advantage of it!  We picked Monarch Cave because it’s a pretty short hike- only about 2 miles round trip, so we thought that would be a doable length for our son, although as it turned out, the trail was pretty overgrown so he ended up walking very little of it and rode on dad’s shoulders most of the time.  Overgrown trails and 3ft tall kids are not a good combination- everything that would be brushing up against an adult’s thighs and waist are eye level for a little kid- not optimal hiking conditions!

Lunch at Monarch Cave- Comb Ridge

Lunch at Monarch Cave- Comb Ridge

Although the weather was really nice the day we hiked to Monarch Cave, I think I’d actually recommend going a little later in the season because just as you leave the trailhead, you have to cross a wash and it was extremely MUDDY!  At first we tried to walk through it carefully to keep our shoes from getting caked with mud, but after a few minutes we realized that there was no way around it and we were just wasting our time.  Our shoes were so caked with mud that I think it took pretty much the whole 1 mile hike to the ruin before our shoes were mostly clean again.  (You can see in our lunch picture above that my husband’s shoes were still a little muddy.)

Monarch Cave- Comb Ridge- San Juan County, UT

Monarch Cave- Comb Ridge- San Juan County, UT

We knew that some of our friends had been out there the previous day, so when we came to the ammo can with the trail register inside, we read it out loud to our son so he could hear that one of his good buddies had just been there the day before!  I think he was pretty excited about it, but maybe a little confused about how his friend got out there.

Checking out a pictograph at Monarch Cave

Checking out the petroglyphs at Monarch Cave

Monarch Cave- Comb Ridge- San Juan County, UT

Pictographs at Monarch Cave- Comb Ridge- San Juan County, UT

Grinding Grooves at Monarch Cave

Grinding Grooves at Monarch Cave

Checking out Pottery Shard

Checking out Pottery Shards and Corn Cobs

Pictograph in Monarch Cave

Pictograph in Monarch Cave

Mostly, we had picked Monarch Cave because we thought the length of the hike made it kid-friendly, but it really turned out to be an awesome place for kids!  Between the pictographs, petroglyphs, grinding grooves, and the cave itself, there was a lot to keep my little guy busy!  The only thing that made it a little less kid-friendly was the fact that there was a drop-off on one side, but it wasn’t a problem as long as we took turns watching him.

Monarch Cave- Comb Ridge- San Juan County, UT

Monarch Cave- Comb Ridge- San Juan County, UT

Monarch Cave- Comb Ridge- San Juan County, UT

Monarch Cave- Comb Ridge- San Juan County, UT

Monarch Cave- Comb Ridge- San Juan County, UT

Monarch Cave- Comb Ridge- San Juan County, UT

You used to be able to walk right up to the ruins, but currently it’s roped off and you can only look at it from a distance.  But you can still get up close with all the other things I mentioned above, (grinding grooves, petroglyphs, etc.) plus the view of the ruins in the cave with the discolorations on the wall above really makes for great photos, so we really didn’t feel like we were missing too much to not be able to walk right up to the ruin.  It wasn’t overly warm on the day that we were there, but I think this would be a great late spring or early summer hike with all the shade in the alcove and from the high walls on both sides of the canyon.

My son's favorite thing about Monarch Cave? The Echos!

My son’s favorite thing about Monarch Cave? The Echos!

I almost forgot- I think the thing that kept my son busy for the longest amount of time was not the grinding grooves or any of the other cool archaeological things at the cave, but it was actually yelling and listening to the echos that bounced back from within the cave and the canyon.  Luckily, we were the only ones there- I’m pretty sure other hikers would not have thought it was as cool as he did!

**I wanted to share this informative video put out by Friends of Cedar Mesa, which is just one in a series of ‘Visit With Respect’ videos that they’ve been rolling out over the past few weeks.  In the excitement of visiting a new ruin, it can be easy to forget how easily ruins can be damaged by people and even by our favorite four-legged hiking companions. These videos offer helpful tips on how to ensure that our amazing archaeological sites like Monarch Cave, can be enjoyed by future generations.  If you’d like to view the rest of the videos in their Visit With Respect series, please click HERE.

Directions:

From Bluff: Travel west on hwy 191 (this road becomes hwy 163 about 4 miles west of Bluff) for about 5 miles and turn right (north) onto Co Rd 262 (Butler Wash Rd)  After passing through a gate near the highway, continue on this road for 6.9 miles then turn left (west) down a short single track to the trailhead. (There is also a parking area/trailhead at 7.1 miles- I think this is the one we used)

I’m not sure that there are signs at each trailhead that tell you the names of each trail, but following your odometer seems to be the best way to find the sites on Comb Ridge.  Follow the trail approximately 1 mile to Monarch Cave- the trail will be obvious and well marked.

Distance From Monarch Cave to Lodging in San Juan County, Utah:

For more information or to request travel brochures, please call Utah’s Canyon Country at: 800-574-4386

Or e-mail us at: info@utahscanyoncountry.com

 A big thanks to gjhikes.com for allowing us to use their Monarch Cave map!  Check out their hiking blog for ideas on more amazing hikes in Utah as well as Arizona, Colorado, & New Mexico!

 

Posted in Bluff, Hiking, Rock Art, Ruins, Things to do for FREE!, Things to do with kids, Travel, Utah | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Arch Canyon Overlook

Arch Canyon Overlook- One of the most beautiful places I've been in San Juan County!

The view at Arch Canyon Overlook is AMAZING!

Every year about mid to late February when the temperatures creep up to the 40s and sometimes even 50s, I start to get the itch to get out and explore this beautiful area we live in!  Two weekends ago it was 41 degrees in Monticello and my husband and I wanted to take our son for a quick hike and were debating between either Indian Creek or Bluff, and finally decided on Indian Creek since it would save almost an hour of driving and it was already early afternoon by the time we decided to go.

Well, it didn’t quite turn out as we had planned.  As we left Monticello and dropped down off Peter’s Hill, we watched as the temperature started dropping and by the time we got down into Indian creek it was only 37 degrees and there was more snow on the ground than I’ve ever seen down there!  It was really sad because our son was so excited to go on an ‘adventure’, he didn’t want to stop walking once we got to the petroglyph panel at Newspaper Rock. We weren’t dressed for hiking in the snow at all since we had thought it would be warmer down there and hadn’t worn or brought any snow gear, so we ended up just visiting Newspaper Rock and building snowmen and having a snowball fight which seemed to satisfy him.

We built a snowman (and snowdog!) at Newspaper Rock!

We built a snowman (and snowdog!) at Newspaper Rock!

Last weekend was another nice one with temperatures up to the low 50s in some of the lower elevations around here.  Since it was Valentine’s Day we decided to head to Moab for some retail therapy, lunch, and a hike to Longbow Arch.  I was so proud of my little guy- he walked the whole way there himself, all 1.2 miles!  I didn’t willingly hike over a mile until I was in college, and here he is at 3 1/2 hiking like a champ!

Longbow Arch

2016 Valentine’s Day Hike to Longbow Arch

Sorry, I got a little sidetracked there!  But what I’m getting at is that every year when the cold weather lifts for a couple weeks (yes, I’m fully aware that winter is NOT over and we’re probably definitely going to get more snow!) I start to get excited at the thought of all the hiking and camping possibilities that are right around the corner!  Since hiking season will soon be upon us, (hopefully!) I wanted to share one of my favorite ‘adventures’ from last fall out to Arch Canyon Overlook.

We’d always heard about Arch Canyon Overlook and had wanted to go, but had been told that the road could be pretty rough out there.  Last October my husband and I finally decided to give it a try just to see how far we might be able to make it up the road.  I think we totally lucked out because when we got on the road, it looked like it had just been graded and we were able to make it all the way out to the overlook in our (semi-high clearance) Subaru Outback. After we went and were telling our friends & coworkers about it, they were all really surprised to hear that we made it all the way out there, so I think we must have just had perfect timing.  So don’t count on being able to make it all the way there in your vehicle unless you have high clearance!  But you can always drive as far as you’re comfortable with, then just walk the rest of the way in.  (Map at the end of post)

Arch Canyon Overlook

Arch Canyon Overlook

Arch Canyon Overlook is AMAZING!  I seriously couldn’t believe how beautiful it was up there!  I’ve been all over that area, including hiking the north and south (House on Fire Ruin) forks of Mule Canyon and riding a 4-wheeler through Arch Canyon with the San Juan ATV Safari, (read my blog entry on the ride HERE) but I still wasn’t prepared for the view from the top.  I almost want to compare it to the Grand Canyon… but that’s a dangerous thing to get people expecting that they’re going to see.  But I will say that the way I felt when I walked up to the overlook was similar to how I felt the first time I saw the Grand Canyon.  It’s an amazing view from up there!

As much as we like to get out with our little guy, it’s also very stressful to take him places like this with such big drop-offs.  My husband used to work for the National Park Service at Glacier National Park, and got me into reading the ‘Morning Report’ which is a daily report of all the incidents and accidents that happen in National Parks and Monuments across the country.

When I first started reading it I was shocked at how many drownings, falls, and suicides there are in our parks and monuments on a regular basis!  I had no idea, and it’s always really stuck with me.  I haven’t been reading the Morning Report for several years now, (probably since I had a child and barely have time to get dressed or brush my teeth some days!) but I just looked it up and it appears that the Morning Report is no more… looks like August 31st of 2015 was the last day and the park service has changed to a new website and as far as I can see, it’s more just news releases about events and things that are happening in the parks.  Here’s a LINK to the old Morning Report just to give you an idea of what it was like.  You can still see the posts for the week leading up to the final day.

As I was saying, it’s stressful to take our son to places like this with big drop-offs and no rails, (I’ll be writing about an awesome camping trip we went on in the fall soon, but again, it was right on the rim of a canyon with a huge drop-off) but I’ve decided that I’m not going to limit the things our family does just because I’m scared or worried about things like that.  Instead, we just have to watch him like a hawk and make him sit down or hold him when we’re anywhere near the edge.

Arch Canyon- San Juan County, UT

Arch Canyon- San Juan County, UT

Arch Canyon- San Juan County, UT

Arch Canyon- San Juan County, UT

Arch Canyon- San Juan County, UT

Looking Across the Canyon- Arch Canyon- San Juan County, UT

Arch Canyon- San Juan County, UT

Watching Birds- Arch Canyon- San Juan County, UT

Arch Canyon- San Juan County, UT

Arch Canyon- San Juan County, UT

Arch Canyon- San Juan County, UT

Of course he had to climb it himself- Arch Canyon- San Juan County, UT

Arch Canyon- San Juan County, UT

Arch Canyon- San Juan County, UT

I think the photos speak for themselves… it’s an amazing place and you’ll likely have it all to yourself when you visit, which in my opinion is one of the best things about all the beautiful places like this in San Juan County.  So maybe I should stop telling people about all my favorite places?  I’ve thought of that, but this area is just too amazing to keep it all to ourselves!  Plus, San Juan County is one of the biggest counties in the country, so I think there’s enough space for all of us to enjoy!

Directions:

Turn north on Co. Rd 263 (located about halfway between  Blanding and Natural Bridges National Monument) near mile marker 102.  If you’re coming from the west it’s very easy to find- you will see a sign for ‘Mule Canyon Ruins‘- this is NOT where House on Fire is located, this is a developed site with a kiva with interpretive signing, paved parking lot, and a pit toilet.  As soon as you pass this, the turn for House on Fire will be your next left.  If you’re coming from the east, it’s the next right after mile marker 102.

After turning off of hwy 95, reset your odometer and follow Co. Rd 263 past the trailhead for House On Fire Ruins and continue for about 1 mile until just after you cross the North Fork of Mule Canyon and stay left at the fork.  Continue on this road until mile 5.2 where you will reach another fork- stay right on the more well used road and continue to 6.4 miles where you will reach another fork.  If you’re worried about clearance, you can park here and walk the final .2 miles to the overlook, otherwise turn on this road and continue to the parking area.

If you would like to visit Arch Canyon Overlook with one of our local guides on a jeep, side-by-side, ATV, or hiking tour, please visit the Guides & Outfitters page on our website.

Distance from House on Fire to lodging in San Juan County, Utah:

For more information or to request travel brochures, please call Utah’s Canyon Country at: 800-574-4386

Or e-mail us at: info@utahscanyoncountry.com

Posted in ATV, Blanding, Camping, Cedar Mesa, Fall, Geology, Hiking, Rock Art, Things to do for FREE!, Travel, Utah | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Rokerthon 2 at the Four Corners Monument!

Rokerthon 2 at the Four Corners Monument

Rokerthon 2 at the Four Corners Monument  (Photo: Navajo Parks & Rec)

Rokerthon 2 is now in the books and the Today Show’s weatherman, Al Roker has set his second Guinness Record- this time for the fastest time to report the weather from all 50 states.  Last week Al Roker visited the Four Corners Monument which helped him check off 4 states at one location, and a few of us made the EARLY morning drive down to the Four Corners to be in the audience for the 7:00am EST (5:00am MST!!) broadcast.

Our office had been contacted about 3 weeks earlier as the Today Show was trying to plan the logistics of Rokerthon 2, so we knew about it for a while before it became public knowledge. When I first heard about it I though that it might be fun to drive down there to be in the audience but I didn’t seriously plan on going until I mentioned it to my friend Lynne, an employee at the Blanding Visitor Center, the Friday before and she texted me back on Sunday afternoon (which was the day before the broadcast) saying that she was on board and willing to go!  Once it was official, we found another equally crazy friend- Lyndie who works for the Four Corners School/Canyon Country Discovery Center, who was up for an early morning ‘publicity stunt’, as she called it since we are all involved in tourism and/or education and all had something we wanted to make signs to promote.

The Four Corners Monument is about 1 hour 40 minutes from Monticello, but since we were driving in the dark, we planned on a 2 hour drive and decided to leave Monticello at 2:30am.  Lyndie and I met at 2:30am (both of us with coffee in hand!) and made our way down to Blanding to pick up Lynne.  The drive down to the Four Corners flew by as we talked and caught up with each other.  Also, an unexpected bonus to being out and about at 2:30 am was that we got to see a couple meteors from the Leonid Meteor Shower!  I always like to see astronomical events, but I’m not quite interested enough to wake up in the middle of the night to see them, so I was thrilled to be up and able to see a little bit of it!

Before we even made it to the Four Corners Monument, you could see a glow of light over the horizon from at least 4-5 miles away.  When we got to the turn we realized that there were already TONS of people there!  I have to stop here and acknowledge Navajo Parks & Recreation for doing an amazing job organizing everything.  I had thought ahead of time that the parking that morning was probably going to be a nightmare, but it was so organized- we were really impressed!

Rokerthon 2 at the Four Corners Monument

Rokerthon 2 at the Four Corners Monument

We parked and made our way to the monument to join the huge crowd that had already formed.  Right away we could see by everyone’s signs that the audience had divided up by state of residency with residents from each state standing in their corresponding corner of the monument.  We found our corner and joined our fellow Utahans who, upon talking with a few, we found out had come from as far away as Salt Lake and St. George!

Lynne, Allison, & Lyndie at the Four Corners Monument for Rokerthon 2!

Lynne, Allison, & Lyndie at the Four Corners Monument for Rokerthon 2!

It was COLD out there, and since Al Roker was there to report the weather, I can tell you exactly how cold it was, 28 degrees!  (And that’s straight from the weatherman’s mouth!) Brrr!  But I think we were so excited that the temperature really didn’t bother us much for the first hour and a half or so.

Photo from the Broadcast of Rokerthon 2 at the Four Corners Monument

Photo from the Broadcast of Rokerthon 2 at the Four Corners Monument

We quickly learned that you had to have a wristband to be allowed down on the main level of the monument during the broadcast.  We didn’t have wristbands at that time but as the Utah part of the forecast was about to start, someone from the Today Show came up and said that since we were holding signs, we could go down to the main level.  Whoo hoo!  We made it!

Each state had a group who were there to preform during the broadcast, and from Utah it was Noteworthy- a female a cappella group from BYU, who we ended up standing behind.  While we didn’t make the front row and you could only see our faces a couple times, we were standing directly behind Al so our signs were in the entire shot, which I think was what was most important to us anyway.

Here are LINKS to two clips of the broadcast on the Today Show’s website…

Rokerthon 2 at the Four Corners Monument

Rokerthon 2 at the Four Corners Monument

Rokerthon 2 at the Four Corners Monument

Rokerthon 2 at the Four Corners Monument

Rokerthon 2 at the Four Corners Monument

Rokerthon 2 at the Four Corners Monument

As the morning progressed, Al would broadcast live for a few minutes, then there would be a break for about 20 minutes or so.  There was a huge tent set up with heaters inside (we got to go inside after it was over and have breakfast!) and as far as I saw, Al never left the monument to go warm up between broadcasts, which I was impressed with.  During the breaks Al spent quite a bit of time talking to the audience, and I saw several people come up to him and give him gifts; a backpack from Osprey– a Cortez, CO based outdoor gear company, a turquoise necklace, and the blanket that he had wrapped around him in the photo above, to name a few.

At one point Al was near us taking photos with some of the audience and as he started to walk away I called him and asked if he’d take a photo with me.  He said yes and we stood side by side for a photo, but unfortunately right as Lyndie was taking the photos, a couple people jumped in front of us to take a selfie with Al in the background, so none of the photos turned out.😦

Sunrise over the Four Corners Monument during Rokerthon 2

Sunrise over the Four Corners Monument during Rokerthon 2  Photo: Lynne Shumway

It was an extremely cold and early morning, but we were all so glad we made the trip down to the Four Corners Monument for Rokerthon 2!  On top of getting to help welcome Al Roker to our area and getting our signs on national TV, we also got to catch a little bit of the Leonid Meteor Shower on the drive down and watch a beautiful sunrise from the Four Corners Monument.  And all of this before 7:00am!  Not a bad way to start the day in Utah’s Canyon Country!

Click HERE to read my previous blog entry on the Four Corners Monument.

For more information or to request travel brochures, please call Utah’s Canyon Country at: 800-574-4386

Or e-mail us at: info@utahscanyoncountry.com

Posted in Four Corners Monument, Things to do for FREE!, Travel, Utah | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Cave Towers- Mule Canyon

Cave Towers- Mule Canyon

Cave Towers- Mule Canyon

In the past few years House on Fire Ruin in Mule Canyon has become a very popular destination for hikers and photographers, but I think few who visit are aware of the nearby Cave Towers Ruins located across the highway and just down the canyon.

A few months ago my husband was out on Cedar Mesa for work and saw tons of cacti in bloom so we decided to go back out there that weekend with our son to try to catch at least a little bit of it.  Spring in the desert is such an amazing thing to see- the first spring we lived here we just happened to catch the peak of the blooms by accident, but it was such an amazing experience, we’ve made a point to seek it out every spring since.

It turned out that our timing was great and we saw lots of different types of desert flowers.  And of course, we were also at Cave Towers, which is an awesome archaeological site right on the rim of Mule Canyon!

Cushion Buckwheat- Cedar Mesa, UT

Cushion Buckwheat- Cedar Mesa, UT

Barrel Cactus- Cedar Mesa, UT

Barrel Cactus- Cedar Mesa, UT

Prickly Pear Cactus- Cedar Mesa- San Juan County, UT

Prickly Pear Cactus- Cedar Mesa- San Juan County, UT

Evening Primrose- Cedar Mesa, UT

Evening Primrose- Cedar Mesa, UT

Firecracker Penstemon- Cedar Mesa, UT

Firecracker Penstemon- Cedar Mesa, UT

Yucca in Bloom- Cedar Mesa, UT

Yucca in Bloom- Cedar Mesa, UT

When we take our son out hiking, we don’t call it ‘hiking’.  I hated hiking as a kid- it sounds like work.  We say that we’re going on an ‘adventure’, and so far he loves it!  I’m sure this isn’t the only reason he likes hiking- I think the more important factors are that we always pick shorter hikes (nothing longer than 3 miles round trip) and we always have LOTS of snack breaks.  (Gotta keep that blood sugar up!)

Cave Towers- Mule Canyon- Cedar Mesa

Cave Towers- Mule Canyon- Cedar Mesa

Cave Towers- Mule Canyon, UT

Throwing Rocks in the Potholes at Cave Towers- Mule Canyon, UT

Cave Towers- Mule Canyon, UT

Checking out the Reflections- Cave Towers- Mule Canyon, UT

Snack Break at Cave Towers- Cedar Mesa, UT

Snack Break at Cave Towers- Cedar Mesa, UT

Watching Lizards- Cedar Mesa, UT

Watching Lizards- Cedar Mesa, UT

Cave Towers- Cedar Mesa, UT

Cave Towers- Cedar Mesa, UT

There are a total of seven towers along the rim of the canyon- some are on the east side, and some on the west.  Most of them are little more than piles of rubble, but one tower on the west side of the canyon still has a large section of wall standing with a doorway intact.

There are also ruins in some of the alcoves and overhangs of the walls of the canyon.  To see these, just walk out along the west rim and look across the canyon to the east wall.  We didn’t walk out far enough to see any of these on this visit, but we’ve seen them on previous trips out there.

Cave Towers is a great place to spend the day exploring, or even to just make a quick stop when visiting one of the more well known sites nearby like House on Fire Ruin.  While there are a lot of ruins in the area, round tower ruins are pretty unique, and definitely worth a visit!

Directions:

Just south of Blanding, turn right (west) on Hwy 95. Follow this road for approximately 19 miles and turn left on an unmarked road between mile markers 102 and 103.  There will be a gate that you can open and go through, just be sure to close it behind you.  If you do not have a high clearance vehicle, you should pull over when you start to see the road getting rough. (You will see some wider spots where others have pulled over and turned around)

High clearance and 4WD vehicles can drive up the road almost all the way to Cave Towers.  Whether you walk or drive, the distance from the gate to the trailhead is only about .5 miles, so it’s really a very short walk to/from the canyon rim and the towers, no matter where you park along the road.  The trail to the towers isn’t a developed or marked trail, but if you just walk southeast from the end of the road, you will come to the rim of the canyon and the towers are very easy to see from there.

Distance from House on Fire to lodging in San Juan County, Utah:

For more information or to request travel brochures, please call Utah’s Canyon Country at: 800-574-4386

Or e-mail us at: info@utahscanyoncountry.com

Posted in Blanding, Flowers, Hiking, Ruins, Things to do for FREE!, Things to do with kids, Travel, Utah | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Finders Keepers at the Hideout Golf Club

We finally found one! Finders Keepers at the Hideout Golf Club- Monticello, UT

We finally found one! Finders Keepers at the Hideout Golf Club- Monticello, UT

From Memorial Day through Labor Day each year, the City of Monticello does a program called ‘Finders Keepers’ where they hide locally made Cedar Mesa Pottery along the cart paths at the Hideout Golf Club and whoever finds the pottery gets to keep it!  My husband and I started looking in the summer of 2012 when I was pregnant with our son, and we’ve been looking every year since.  About a month ago, after 3 years of looking, we FINALLY found one!

I was getting to the point where I was pretty sure that there wasn’t pottery hidden out there at all!  And actually, just about 15 seconds before we found it my husband said, ‘So, do we know for sure that there’s really pottery hidden out here?’ and I responded, ‘They say there is, but I’m seriously beginning to doubt it.’ And then boom, there it was!

Finders Keepers at the Hideout Golf Club- Monticello, UT

Finders Keepers at the Hideout Golf Club- Monticello, UT

Finders Keepers at the Hideout Golf Club- Monticello, UT

Finders Keepers at the Hideout Golf Club- Monticello, UT

Finders Keepers at the Hideout Golf Club- Monticello, UT

Finders Keepers at the Hideout Golf Club- Monticello, UT

Of course, we didn’t look on a daily basis or anything like that.  I’d say we probably walked on the golf course once every other week or so throughout the summer.  And actually most of the time my son was more into watching deer, chasing bunnies, and looking for golf balls, but still- you’d have thought we would have found something before now!

Finders Keepers runs until Labor Day, so there are still a few weeks to get out there and look for a treasure of your own to take home!

For more information or to request travel brochures, please call Utah’s Canyon Country at: 800-574-4386

Or e-mail us at: info@utahscanyoncountry.com

Posted in Events, Monticello, Things to do for FREE!, Things to do with kids, Travel, Utah | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Monticello Ghost Tour!

Monticello Ghost Tour 2015

Monticello Ghost Tour 2015 (flyer: San Juan Record)

My absolute favorite day of the year in Monticello is only 4 days away…. Pioneer Day!  Well, technically Pioneer Day is only 3 days away, but the main part of our town’s celebration is always held on the nearest Saturday, and that is 4 days away!

In the past few years I’ve written a couple posts on Monticello’s Pioneer Day Celebration, (2011 & 2012) and the schedule is usually always pretty much the same from year to year; Softball Tournament and Live Music in the park on Friday night, and a Family 5K, Lions Club Breakfast, Parade, Games & Food Booths, and Fireworks on Saturday.  But one event that was new last year and will be back again this year, is the Monticello Ghost Tour!

I was so excited when I heard about this tour- this kind of thing is right up my alley!  More than expecting to hear about any actual ghosts, I felt like this would be a great opportunity to hear about some of the more unusual history of the town, and it definitely was!

Monticello Ghost Tour- Pioneer Day 2014

Monticello Ghost Tour- Pioneer Day 2014 (photo: Merri Allyson Platt)

The tour was on a hayride, and we went on one of the later tours, so it was pretty much dark by the time it started.  During that particular tour which was on Friday night, there were lots of people setting off fireworks at their houses, so we got a fireworks show along with our tour, which was really fun and just added to the whole hayride experience!

I won’t tell any of the actual stories (you’ll have to go on the tour for yourself if you want to hear them!) but there were stories that involved unexplained deaths, accidents, shootouts, police stand-offs, and much, much more.  Who knew this small, quiet town had such an exciting history?!

The tour was really interesting, but as the owner of a house that was built in the mid-40s, one thing that I found a little unsettling as we were weaving our way through the neighborhoods, was the possibility that we might come to a stop in front of my house and I’d hear some horrible story of a murder or something equally disturbing that had happened there!  We were on my street at two separate times, and actually stopped at the house next door, but luckily no stories about my house were told on the ghost tour- whew! However, we did stop in front of two of my friends’ houses and heard stories about them- one was called, ‘the most haunted house in Monticello’!  Glad it wasn’t my house!😉

Monticello Ghost Tour- Pioneer Day 2014

Hyland Hotel- Monticello Ghost Tour 2014 (photo: Merri Allyson Platt)

The ghost tour is my new favorite part of Monticello’s Pioneer Day festivities and we’re definitely going again this year!  The tour has grown to 3 nights this year; Thursday, July 23rd- Saturday, July 25th.   All the information for the tour is on the flyer at the beginning of this post, or you can call the San Juan Record at (435)587-2277 for more information.

For more information or to request travel brochures, please call Utah’s Canyon Country at: 800-574-4386

Or e-mail us at: info@utahscanyoncountry.com

 

 

Posted in Evening Programs, Events, Monticello, Things to do with kids, Tours, Tours/Guided Trips, Travel, Utah | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Canyoneering in Leprechaun Canyon with North Wash Outfitters

Leprechaun Canyon- Canyoneering Trip with North Wash Outfitters

Rappelling in Leprechaun Canyon- Canyoneering with North Wash Outfitters

I’ve been wanting to try canyoneering for years now and a couple weeks ago I finally got to go out with North Wash Outfitters, a canyoneering guide company out of Blanding, UT.  Although I’d never done it, or maybe because I’d never done it, canyoneering and rappelling have been an on-going obsession of mine ever since we moved to Monticello.

Spooky Slot Canyon- Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument

Spooky Slot Canyon- Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument

In the past 6 years my husband and I have hiked in several different slot canyons in the southern part of the Utah like Spooky, Peek-a-boo, Zebra Canyons in Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument, and Little Wildhorse Canyon near Goblin Valley, but none of them required any kind of technical skill- just hiking and a little bit of maneuvering through tight spaces.  While these canyons were all amazing and definitely satisfied my desire for exploring slot canyons, they didn’t do anything for my obsession with wanting to try rappelling.

Rock climbing at travel show

Rock climbing at travel show

It’s almost embarrassing to share this photo and compare it to real rock climbing or rapelling in any way, but climbing these portable rock climbing walls at the travel and sportsman’s shows our office exhibits at, are the only experience I’d ever had with ropes or harnesses.  And I’ve done it a grand total of two times in the 5 years I’ve been doing shows.  Pretty sad, huh?

I’d been keeping in touch with the owner of North Wash Outfitters, Jared Hillhouse, and a couple weeks ago he told me that he had an upcoming trip that had room for me to join.  I was thrilled to finally be getting the chance to go, and immediately told him to sign me up!  Once it was official that I was going, the reality kind of hit me- all this time I’d been thinking about how much I wanted to try canyoneering, but it never occurred to me that there was a possibility that I physically might not be able to do it.  I never really thought about being scared about the heights of the rappels either.  It wasn’t until I received a pre-trip e-mail from Jared that described Leprechaun Canyon as, ‘very physically demanding’ with lots of stemming, (I had to look that one up- it’s when you use your hands and feet to travel through rock corridors without touching the ground.) and 3 rappels upwards of about 40′, that I started to wonder if I was going to be able to do it.

I’ve always considered myself to be pretty outdoorsy, I’ve done tons of hiking, camping, rafting, x-country skiing, etc., but I knew this was going to be different.  And while I love to do things outdoors, I’m not a big risk taker by any means, even less so now that I have a son.  I like rafting, but I’m not really a fan of big rapids after flipping several years ago.  I love cross country skiing, but I get nervous at the really big hills, especially ones with a turn at the bottom.  I’ve always loved snorkeling, but I get scared when I realize that I’m much farther from shore than I thought I was or when the fish get too close to me. (My dad was born and raised in Hawaii and was attacked by a bunch of fish once when snorkeling.  Don’t ask- it’s a long story.  But this is where my irrational fear came from!)  You see where I’m going with this?  I knew that in a slot canyon, there likely wouldn’t be an alternate route around big scary obstacles, but after waiting 5+ years to try it, I knew I had to do it.

Leprechaun Canyon Trailhead

Leprechaun Canyon Trailhead- Canyoneering with North Wash Outfitters

I met up with our guide for the day, Brett, at North Wash Outfitters’ office in Blanding at 7:00am, and from there we drove out to the trailhead where we’d be meeting the other two people who were signed up for the trip.  The route took us west on hwy 95 through Comb Ridge and past House on Fire RuinNatural Bridges National Monument, and Hite, across Glenn Canyon, and just over the county line into Garfield County.  At the trailhead we met up with the others, a father and son from Santa Fe, and after Brett made sure he had all our paperwork he had us each grab a harness, helmet, elbow and knee pads, and a pair of gloves to put in our backpacks to use once we got to the canyon, then it was finally time to go!

Leprechaun Canyon- Canyoneering Trip with North Wash Outfitters

Leprechaun Canyon- Canyoneering with North Wash Outfitters

I have to say, the first 3 minutes of the trip was the scariest part of the entire day!  While I was prepared for rappelling, I was not prepared for such a steep (rope & harness-free!) climb to get up onto the sandstone.  Well, I guess it’s not entirely accurate to say it was ‘rope-free’, Brett actually climbed up ahead of us, then dropped a rope down that we could hold onto if we needed it.  (I needed it!) Probably more for security than anything else, but as soon as I had that rope in my hand I was fine.

Leprechaun Canyon- Canyoneering with North Wash Outfitters

Leprechaun Canyon- Canyoneering with North Wash Outfitters

Leprechaun Canyon- Canyoneering with North Wash Outfitters

Leprechaun Canyon- Canyoneering with North Wash Outfitters

Leprechaun Canyon- Canyoneering with North Wash Outfitters

Leprechaun Canyon- Canyoneering with North Wash Outfitters

I’m not sure what the distance was from the parking area to the part of the canyon where we’d be dropping in, but I’m guessing about a mile or so but to be honest, the scenery was so amazing, I hardly noticed and really enjoyed the hike.

Leprechaun Canyon- Canyoneering with North Wash Outfitters

Leprechaun Canyon- Canyoneering with North Wash Outfitters

When we got to the spot, it was time to gear up, which meant putting on all of the gear we’d put in our packs at the trailhead.  As I put on my harness, Brett had said that it should be not just tight, but ‘uncomfortably tight’.  Yep, it was definitely uncomfortably tight.  I remember thinking that it was probably going to bother me all day, but by the time I finished the first of 3 rappels, I had already forgotten about it and didn’t even think about it again for the rest of the day.

First Rappel- Leprechaun Canyon with North Wash Outfitters

My First Rappel into Leprechaun Canyon- Canyoneering with North Wash Outfitters (photo: North Wash Outfitters)

It was finally time for the first rappel.  I don’t know how I ended up going first, but I did and this is when I learned that I was going to be responsible for lowering myself down to the bottom.  This may seem like something I should have known, but with my previous climbing/rappelling experiences that I mentioned earlier, you had no control over the speed that you were lowered- there was some kind of counter weight or something that automatically lowered you.  With that being my only other experience with rappelling, I just thought that was how it worked.  But no, it was up to me to get myself safely to the bottom of the canyon.  Yikes!  I wasn’t sure I trusted ‘me’ yet, but our guide Brett seemed so confident that I decided to just go with it.  I mean, how likely is it that I was the most uncoordinated person that had ever gone out canyoneering with them?  Not likely, is what I kept telling myself…

The first rappel was really awkward- you had to maneuver yourself through a tight turn in the canyon at the same time you were stepping over the edge and starting to descend.  It took me a while to get over the edge, but once I did, it was much easier and I was able to lower myself to the ground without incident.  Success!  It was such an awesome feeling to have done it!  I don’t think there are many times in my life that I’d ever describe myself as feeling ‘giddy’, but I was definitely feeling giddy after I made it to the bottom of the canyon!

Canyoneering in Leprechaun Canyon with North Wash Outfitters

Waiting for the 2nd Rappel- Leprechaun Canyon- Canyoneering with North Wash Outfitters

All it took was that one rappel and I was good to go!  Once I saw that I could do it, I knew the rest of the day was going to be awesome, and it was!  The photo above is just before the second rappel- I was definitely WAY more relaxed than I was before the first rappel!  I wish I had a picture of myself before the first one to do a side-by-side comparison, but I was too busy worrying about not killing myself to think of having my picture taken!

Canyoneering in Leprechaun Canyon with North Wash Outfitters

Leprechaun Canyon- Canyoneering with North Wash Outfitters

Canyoneering in Leprechaun Canyon with North Wash Outfitters

Leprechaun Canyon- Canyoneering with North Wash Outfitters

There were quite a few places where we had to descend drops without ropes- the pictures above are two examples of those kinds of spots.  After making it down himself, Brett would stand at the bottom and direct or help those of us that needed it.  (I needed it!)  I realized right away that I liked to be behind him because then I could see how he maneuvered through each spot and I could try to do the exact same thing.  I’ll admit that I don’t think I ever managed to do the ‘exact same thing’, but at least I could see what I was supposed to be doing.  It was the same every time he rappelled- he made it look so easy!  In my mind, I knew that that was how I was supposed to be doing it, and I had a picture in my mind of the position that I should be in, but I don’t think it ever actually happened.  But I made it down in one piece- that was good enough for me for my first time!

The morning flew by and before we knew it, it was time for lunch.  I inhaled my sandwich and a granola bar and found that my banana had turned to mush inside my backpack.  Here’s a tip for anyone who is going to be doing this: put your food inside hard containers!  With all the tight spots we maneuvered though in the canyon, there were many times where we had our backs pressed up against one rock wall and our feet against another with anything in our packs getting completely squished, like my banana.😦

Canyoneering in Leprechaun Canyon with North Wash Outfitters

Leprechaun Canyon- Canyoneering with North Wash Outfitters

Canyoneering in Leprechaun Canyon with North Wash Outfitters

Leprechaun Canyon- Canyoneering with North Wash Outfitters

After lunch we got to a spot in the canyon that was absolutely beautiful.  If you google ‘slot canyons’ THIS is the exact kind of photo that will come up- narrow canyons with really wavy, textured, red rock walls and cool lighting.  I’d say it rivals Antelope Canyon in terms of beauty, and one big thing it has over Antelope Canyon… FEWER PEOPLE!  This is always a plus in my book!

Along with fewer people, another big plus this canyon has over others like the extremely popular Little Wild Horse Canyon that I mentioned earlier, is that it’s in pristine condition!  While we were in the canyon, I didn’t even think about it until I happened to see a button on the ground, but seeing that one small button made me realize that I hadn’t seen a single piece of trash or anything left behind by other people.  Being in such a tight space, it’s easy to see how someone would have unknowingly lost a button off their clothes- your body is always rubbing up against the walls of the canyon, and that’s something they warn you about ahead of time- whatever you wear in the canyon; your clothes, hiking boots, backpack, etc., will likely never be the same afterwards.  (And it’s true!) But seeing that lost button really brought to my attention the fact that aside from a few spots where you could see marks where people slid down the sandstone, the canyon is immaculate.

Later in the day it became clear to me that a big part of the reason the canyon is so clean is because of the guides from North Wash Outfitters.  Toward the end of the day when we were stemming through a long, narrow section over water, a disposable water bottle fell out of someone’s back pack and into the water below.  Brett had already gone through and was waiting at the end, but went back to retrieve it in a place that maybe wasn’t that difficult for him, but looked really difficult to me.  That’s when I realized that the canyon wasn’t clean because everyone was picking up after themselves, it was clean because the guides make a point and go out of their way to keep it clean.  I was really impressed with that.  I know when I’m out hiking, I want to feel a sense of discovery.  Of course  I know that I’m not really the first person to ever visit the place, but I want to feel like I am, and it’s hard to feel that way when you’re constantly seeing trash on the trail from those who visited before you, so it’s awesome to see that North Wash’s guides take such good care of that beautiful canyon so that everyone can enjoy it.

Canyoneering in Leprechaun Canyon with North Wash Outfitters

Leprechaun Canyon- Canyoneering with North Wash Outfitters (photo: North Wash Outfitters)

Unavoidable Refreshing Water in the Canyon! (video: North Wash Outfitters)

We’d been getting unseasonal amounts of rain in the weeks prior to this canyoneering trip, so there was a lot of water in the canyon.  I think Brett said that it was about as much water as he’d ever seen in there.  Although we had been warned of the possibility of water, I can’t say I was really looking forward to it, in fact, I was kind of hoping that we wouldn’t find any once we got in the canyon.  But it turned out that the day we were out there was one of the first warmer days we’d had yet this year, and although it was fairly cool in the canyon, it was a hot day and the water felt awesome!  Although we still tried to avoid the water when possible, there were some places where there was no way around it and we had no choice but to get in.

Canyoneering in Leprechaun Canyon with North Wash Outfitters

Leprechaun Canyon- Canyoneering with North Wash Outfitters (photo: North Wash Outfitters)

Looking back at the photo above where I’m standing over the water, I honestly can’t remember how I got out of that position without getting wet, but I know that I did.  The thing that sticks out in my mind is that I was just proud that I made it into that position!  I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to stretch to get my arms to the other wall of the canyon, but when I said this to Brett, he employed the form of encouragement that he seemed to have found to be effective on me- telling me about a really small/short woman he’d taken out on one of his trips.  He actually only told me about her once, and after that all he had to say was, ‘You know that woman I was telling you about?  She made it across.  She did it.  She made it down.  etc.’  Turns out this was very effective!  I’m really not a competitive person at all, but hearing that was definitely enough to get me to at least try, and sure enough, I was always able to do it.  I think for me, since it was my first time, I really didn’t know what I was capable of.  Maybe since the guides take so many people out there, they know better than we do what each of us is really going to be able to do.  Whatever it was, Brett seemed to know just the right type and right amount of motivation and pushing to get me to try things, and he was always right- there was nothing that I wasn’t able to do, and I always felt amazing afterwards!

Leprechaun Canyon- Canyoneering with North Wash Outfitters

The Last Rappel- Leprechaun Canyon- Canyoneering with North Wash Outfitters

(video: KSL Outdoors)

The day flew by and before I knew it, we were at the end of the canyon and it was time to take off all our gear and hike back to the vehicles.  I really didn’t want it to be over, but I was also exhausted!  You know it’s going to be bad when you’re not even done with a hike yet and the soreness is already setting in!  

It really was an amazing trip and my only regret is that I didn’t bring my husband along- he would have loved it!  I’m definitely going to have to send him out on a trip with North Wash Outfitters, or better yet, go out on another one with him!  Even with knee & elbow pads, I was scraped up and bruised for a good week and a half afterwards.  But I take that as a good sign- as Jared said in his interview on KSL Outdoors in the video above, ‘It’s not a good day in a canyon until you leave a little bit of blood.’  So it looks like I was properly initiated into the sport of canyoneering!  And of course, I’m happy to finally be able to say that my rappelling experience now extends far beyond portable rock climbing walls.

For more information or to request travel brochures, please call Utah’s Canyon Country at: 800-574-4386

Or e-mail us at: info@utahscanyoncountry.com

Posted in Blanding, Canyoneering, Hiking, Tours, Tours/Guided Trips, Travel, Utah, Videos | Tagged , , , , , , , | 4 Comments