The last overlook we visited at Canyon De Chelly provided us with a view of the Antelope House Ruin. It was now time to head to the Four Corners Monument to obtain our Navajo Nation hiking and camping permits for our paddling trip on the San Juan River.
Paddling the Llano River at flood stage on September 22, 2013, involved lots of stops to scout the rapids and try to pick out which of the many channels to take. This fairly large lizard was sunning itself on one of the large limestone outcroppings next to one of the rapids. It appears to be a greater earless lizard (Cophosaurus texanus).
On our second day on the San Juan River, the seven of us made the short
walk from our campsite to the River House Ruin. We then broke into
smaller groups to explore the area to the west of the cliff
dwelling. Michael Portman and I ended up on the sloping eastern face of Comb Ridge. I have previously posted photos of the imposing western face of Comb Ridge at sunset.
Michael and I located the remains of the wagon road constructed by the
Hole-in-the-Rock expedition to ascend San Juan Hill, which is what the
settlers named this section of Comb Ridge. After climbing to the top of the trail, I
enjoyed spectacular views of Comb Wash below me along the steep
western flank of the ridge. The expedition had followed Comb Wash
southward to the San Juan River, where a gap in Comb Ridge provided access to the east side of the ridge. With no route for a road along the river, the Mormon pioneers then cut a road back up the eastern flank of the ridge.
The bottom of the trail is marked by these signs. To read the interesting (and somewhat gruesome) account of the Mormon pioneers' determined ascent up San Juan Hill, click on the photo above.
A concise sign post marks the beginning of the trail.
August 10 brought us this year's perigee of the moon, the moon's closest point to us in its orbit around our planet. This "largest" full moon of the year fortuitously arrived while we were visiting/working at our Amen Mountain Deck Home, which is located at an elevation of 9,600 feet in Garfield, Colorado. So I guess we were even closer to the moon than most earthlings.
The rising "supermoon" illuminates the mist rising up our valley in this handheld shot taken from the deck of the cabin. I'm almost glad that I didn't have my tripod with me.
A couple of days later, the morning sun lights up the same mountain ridge.
I encountered an animal's tracks on September 30 while hiking to the sandstone bluffs just to the east of Chinle Wash. We were camped nearby on the San Juan River. Recent rains had left small ponds of water in this desert environment, and the soil was moist in these drainage areas. My recollection is that these prints were about two to three inches in length.
On October 1, our fourth day on the San Juan River, we paddled from Chinle Camp (mile 8.4) to Fossil Stop Camp (mile 20.3). Although the river had been running at about 850 cfs when we first launched our boats three days earlier, it had peaked at over 5,000 cfs during our first night on the river and its flow ranged from three to four thousand cubic feet per second this day.
The standing waves were high and often troublesome, and those of us in canoes had to occasionally beach our boats to bail water. The most formidable challenge we encountered was Eight Foot Rapid at mile 17.2. We took the time to scout this rapid before running it, and were glad we did. The preferred route at this water level was much different than it had been two years earlier, when the river had been running at about 950 cfs.
The two Michaels, Portman above and Scudday below, are shown at the bottom of Eight Foot Rapid. They appear to be pleased, or at least relieved, by their successful runs. And the rest of us were glad that we would not have to view (again) the clothes and equipment of one of them hanging in trees at our campground to dry.
The day following the end of our San Juan River trip was a busy one. After a driving tour of the Valley of the Gods, we wound our way up the Moki Dugway, made a short detour over to the overlooks at Muley Point, and visited Natural Bridges National Monument. We then headed east on Utah State Route 95 on our way to Bluff, Utah, for dinner.
Between us and our destination was Comb Ridge, which is a classic example of a monocline, a step-like crease in the Earth's crust. It is a prominent geologic feature, almost 80 miles in length, in southeastern Utah and northern Arizona. While on the river, we had spent three nights camping close to where it is cut in two by the river. Now the highway would have to break through this barrier near its northern terminus.
As the road approached the western flank of Comb Ridge, the setting sun illuminated not only the steeply tilted sandstone rock layers, but also the moon. In the photo above, the gash in the ridge near the center is the highway cut.
We pulled over at this breach in Comb Ridge to admire the view and the sun's handiwork.
While visiting the Four Corners area in early October, we encountered many instructive signs. These first two were posted at Natural Bridges National Monument.
Kathy (in the bright red shirt) refused to be intimidated at the ledge viewpoint overlooking Sipapu Bridge. This viewpoint had apparently not yet been corralled. Fortunately, it did not run amok during our visit.
What could possibly go wrong?
This sign at Kepler Cascades in Yellowstone National Park, which we visited in June, didn't need many words to convey its message.
This lizard appeared unfazed by our presence. It was sunning itself in a small depression in the cliff face next to the petroglyphs located at about Mile 3.4 (as measured downstream from the Sand Island boat ramp) on the San Juan River. Note that the lizard had lost its tail, which was now growing back. My guess is that this is a northern plateau lizard (Sceloporus undulatus elongatus), a subspecies of the eastern fence lizard. It may be a gravid female, although September 28 may have been a little late in the season for that.
The second day of our road trip to the San Juan River found us arriving at Canyon De Chelly National Monument in the late afternoon. After checking in at the Sacred Canyon Lodge, we only had time for a quick drive along the South Rim Drive to the Spider Rock and Face Rock Overlooks.
The day was heading towards dusk when we made the short walk out to the overlook for Spider Rock.
As the sun began to set, it illuminated some distant showers both to the northeast (above) and the southwest (below) of the canyon.
We awoke early the next morning (Sept. 27) for a reason -- to watch the sun rise and light up the canyon walls. We arrived at the Junction Overlook before seven o'clock.
Kathy looks expectantly to the east.
The sun begins to peak over the horizon.
The bright orb is momentarily trapped.
As the rock formations seem to catch fire around us, our view to the east includes the small town of Chinle and a high ridge in the distance. What a great start to the day.
A not-so-timid rock squirrel (Spermophilus variegatus) posed for a portrait along the White House Ruin trail in Canyon De Chelly National Monument. Kathy and I spent a night in the monument on our way to the San Juan River in late September.
Our last day on the river was a busy one. We were up before 7:00; made coffee, ate breakfast, washed dishes, struck camp, loaded our boats, and were on the river shortly after 10:00; arrived 6.6 miles down river at the BLM boat ramp at Mexican Hat less than ninety minutes later; and had loaded all of our boats on the trailers and gear into our vehicles in time to order lunch by 1:30 at The Olde Bridge Grille in town. After a relaxing meal, the other five members of our merry band of paddlers headed south and east for home.
But the day for Kathy and me had just begun. After checking into our room at the San Juan Inn and transferring items from our ice chests to the tiny refrigerator in the room, our first order of business after five river days was, of course, a warm shower and clean clothes. After a brief rest, it was off to Goosenecks State Park, a short drive north from Mexican Hat. We arrived around 5:00. After about thirty minutes of viewing the impressive entrenched meanders of the San Juan River (see photo in prior blog post), we headed back south through Mexican Hat and on to Monument Valley Tribal Park.
After several stops for photos, we arrived at The View Hotel in Monument Valley before 6:30, just in time to catch the setting sun illuminating the iconic rock formations overlooked by the hotel.
And we were in time to catch dinner at the hotel restaurant and watch as the sun set and the day merged into twilight.