Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Wednesday Wildlife

From our campsite on the San Juan River, we hiked up Chinle Wash on the morning of our second day on the river.  After crossing the muddy creek once to locate and view the cliff dwellings and pictographs along the west side of the wash, we forded the stream again on our way to see if there were more ruins in the alcoves high up in a bluff located several hundred yards to the east of Chinle Creek.  That is when I encountered the small lizard pictured below.

This side-blotched lizard, Uta stansburiana, basks in the sun not far from Chinle Creek.  This species is strongly heliothermic and avoids shaded areas, even in the desert.  However, the lizard did scamper into the brush when I tried to get closer. 



Another side-blotched lizard, this one located near the top of the bluff just around the corner from one of the alcoves, was also enjoying the sun.  It may be that a future installment of Wednesday Wildlife will feature a different type of sunbather, so stay tuned.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012


San Juan River Reflections

We woke up early on September 23 to hike up Slickhorn Gulch.  Pools reflected rock formations overlooking the San Juan River and this side canyon. 

  Note:  Click on a photo to enlarge.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Sunday Sunlight


The morning sun peaks over Chama Wall across from our campsite on the Rio Chama on August 19.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Saturday Paddlers - Guadalupe River

Note:  Click on any photo to enlarge.

Four Saturday Paddlers turned out on a beautiful day to participate in a cleanup organized by the Friends of Guadalupe River State Park.  While various Boy Scouts scoured the river banks within the park, we launched our boats at Bergman Crossing (Edge Falls Road) and paddled down to the park, picking up trash along the way.  Because of the early start, the day began a little chilly, but soon warmed up as the clouds parted and the sun burst through.

The timing of our trip proved to be fortuitous.  Friday's rain sent a bubble of water down the river that coincided with our paddle.  The Comfort gauge upstream of us rose briefly to 90 cfs several hours before our launch, while the Spring Branch gauge (downstream) climbed to nearly 40 cfs shortly after we reached the park.  No, we weren't riding the crest of a wave down the river, but neither did we ever have to get out and drag our craft through shallow sections.  For that we were thankful.

Nancy, Susan, and Joline appear to be conducting their own orchestras.  I had to explain to them that the grabbing tools were not batons.

As the temperature rose, we pulled over to adjust our clothing.  Nancy readies to launch after removing a layer.

Susan found an USPS container, and used it to carry trash picked up by her.  Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night ...

A 12-foot section of 8" PVC pipe made for a nice bowsprit on my canoe.  Its weight was almost counterbalanced by the whitewall tire loaded into the rear of the boat.

Once we reached the park, we were treated to a great lunch by Venture Crew 285 from Coker Methodist Church in San Antonio, who had picked up trash in the park.  The menu included elk and deer sausage, tortillas, baked beans, and chips.  For some reason, we were hungry.  Pictured above with Nancy and Joline are Dave and Ray, two of the troop leaders.

The pipe was a little  taller than me.

Note:  For all 15 photos of this outing, click here for my Flickr page, then click on "slideshow."

Thursday, October 25, 2012


Desert Guideposts

Our second day on the San Juan River was spent exploring Lower Chinle Wash and the cliff dwellings, pictographs, and petroglyphs located there.  We were particularly impressed with the dwellings located in a set of alcoves located high in a bluff several hundred yards to the east of, and about 325 feet higher in elevation than, Chinle Creek.  We found the alcoves to be inaccessible, at least to those with our limited climbing skills.

Using a small drainage to the south of the cliffs as a starting point, I was able to ascend about 200 feet in elevation to the top of the ridge.  It turned out to be a rocky plain stretching for miles in several directions.  Working my way back north and west, I ended up looking back down onto Chinle Wash from a viewpoint slightly above the highest alcove.  The bottom photo in this earlier post is of the cliff dwelling located in that alcove.

Rather than returning to camp using the circuitous way I had come, I decided to attempt a more direct route.  Looking for a way down, I came across some drainages marked by several rock cairns like the one pictured above.  The first two routes led to dead ends -  a drop over a sheer cliff face that I was unwilling to attempt.  I think it was the third path, perhaps the one marked with the above cairn, that finally led me all of the way down to Chinle Wash and the trail leading back to our campsite.

The much more impressive cairn pictured above marks the start (if you're beginning at the river) of Honaker Trail.  The trail climbs over 1,200 feet to the rim of the canyon.  This earlier post contains two photographs of the San Juan River from the trail.  

The pile of rocks below is located at the top of Honaker Trail.  From that vantage point high above the river, one can see Monument Valley in the distance.  It's possible that from here I heard a faintly whispered "That'll be the day."   But it may have just been the wind mixed with memories of The Searchers.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Wednesday Wildlife

The red-spotted toad (Bufo punctatus) is common across the Colorado Plateau, usually found along streams in side canyons.  Sure enough, we (well, more precisely, Michael Portman) came across this specimen while hiking up Slickhorn Canyon on September 23 from our camp on the San Juan River.  As you may recall from the last photo of my October 11 post, we immersed ourselves in this true toad's habitat.

Note:  Click on any photo to enlarge.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012


Baseball Man

In honor of the upcoming World Series, here are two photographs from my San Juan River trip.  Pictured is a famous pictograph which we viewed during our hike up Lower Chinle Wash on September 17.  "Baseball Man" actually consists of two separate pictographs.  The human figure may date from the Basketmaker Period, and the superimposed shield from the Pueblo Period.


Sunday, October 21, 2012

Sunday Sunlight

The setting sun illuminates jet contrails over our campsite across from "The Tabernacle" rock formation on the San Juan River on September 19.

Thursday, October 18, 2012


Four Corners Monument

Mike Scudday, Zoltan Mraz, and Michael Portman are amused by a tourist's elegant pose.  In a new version of the Twister game, each of her four appendages is touching a different state:  Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, and Arizona.

There was no shortage of parking spaces.

Zoltan studies the Navajo crafts.  He ended up purchasing a pottery vase with a nice Navajo design.  Lovely, just ... lovely.

OK, I know I've limited myself to three photos for these Thursday posts.  But, since this is about Four Corners, I think adding one more just this once is appropriate.  Besides, Joline's only helpful advice for our trip was to be sure to try the Indian fried bread.  Unfortunately, this concession stand wasn't open during our visit.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Wednesday Wildlife

From its perch at the top of the Honaker Trail, a long-nosed leopard lizard seems to enjoy the view of the San Juan River over 1,200 feet below. 

This omnivorous species (Gambelia wislizenii) is well-known for its hunting prowess.  A fast ambush predator, its diet includes small snakes and lizards almost as big as itself, including those of its own species.  I can't be sure that this one wasn't sizing me up.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012


San Juan River Campsites

After six nights sleeping in my tent, I decided to go minimalist at our campsite at Slickhorn Canyon.  Even without the tent, the sleeping bag liner by itself was sufficient, and the sleeping bag stayed in its red sack.

Our last night was spent at Oljeto Wash.  We had our first significant clouds of the trip, so out came the rainfly for the first time.  A good thing, too, since there were a few spatters of rain that night.  This view is looking upstream at the San Juan River, with Oljeto Wash entering the river from the right.  The tributary is sometimes referred to as Moonlight Creek ("Oljeto" is Navajo for "moonlight"). Oljeto Wash originates in Arizona, and some claim that my hike the next day may have taken me that far.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Sunday Sunlight


The setting sun lights up a bluff at Ghost Ranch.  This is Zoltan's and my view as we head home after four nights on the Rio Chama in August of this year. The photo was taken at the intersection of Forest Road 151 and U. S. Highway 84, about five miles from where our river trip concluded at Big Eddy Takeout.

Note:  Click on image to enlarge.

Thursday, October 11, 2012


What Happens on the San Juan River ...

Chinle Wash


An unexpected sighting on top of the ridge high above Chinle Creek, in an area above the top-most cliff dwelling.

We can only speculate as to what happened to the ancient peoples who once inhabited this area.  They left only a few clues behind.  

Slickhorn Gulch 


What were you expecting to see in the plunge pools of Slickhorn Gulch?  Water nymphs?  I found no bathing beauties -- only Zoltan, Michael, and Mike attempting to rinse off some of the river sand, mud, and dust accumulated over the prior seven days.


Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Wednesday Wildlife


A caracara strikes a regal pose during a presentation by the "eagle lady" at Guadalupe River State Park on January 11, 2009.

Susan, on the other hand ...

Tuesday, October 9, 2012


A River Runs Through It

Views of the San Juan River while climbing the Honaker Trail on September 21.  The elevation gain from the river to the top is more than 1,200 feet.

I guess you could say the scenery was pretty spectacular.

Note:  Click on any photo to enlarge.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Sunday Sunlight

Sunrise on August 18, 2012, at Aragon Campsite on the Rio Chama.  Jon Carlson is one of the first to greet the morning sun.

Thursday, October 4, 2012


San Juan River - Not a Dodge Ram

Michael observes a desert bighorn sheep that had come down to the river to drink.  As with all of the other bighorn sheep we saw during our nine days on the San Juan River, this mature ram was on the Navajo Nation side of the river.  But it was the only bighorn we spotted which was not part of a family group.

Note:  Click on any photo to enlarge.

The ram was not particularly shy.

In fact, he seemed to be posing for the photographer.


Tuesday, October 2, 2012


San Juan River - This Old House

"River House" near Mile 5.9

Cliff dwelling high over Chinle Wash