|At Four Corners Monument|
|Goosenecks State Park, Utah|
Called the best example of entrenched meandering in the world
The San Juan river has carved its path into the Colorado Plateau as it rose up
The first time I visited was the result of a spur-of-the-moment decision in the winter of 2009. After weeks of looking out my front door at the same old picture of snow blowing across the field and a windy, less than -20 degree cold, I booked some time off and loaded up my little Honda Fit and started driving south. We headed across the border and down the Interstate 15,stopping over first in Great Falls, Montana and then in Orem, Utah. It was the third day of travel that proved to be a total revelation. We turned east off of the I-15 at a place called Spanish Forks and followed a road that cut through a gap in the Wasatch Range. We could see a threatening looking storm ahead, but we passed through the mini-blizzard unscathed. We emerged through the gap into what seemed like another world - a world of pinion pines and Utah junipers, a world without snow! We drove through Price and Green River and finally stopped at a roadside pullout North of Moab. We were giddy! We checked into the hotel in Moab and went to Arches National Park that afternoon (which was amazing). That's how my exploration of this unique area began.
|The double arches|
|Looking under Mesa Arch from Island in the Sky. |
LaSal mountains in the distance.
|The Upheaval Dome|
|Newspaper Rock -Needles district|
Closer to the Four Corners itself is Monument Valley, which is situated on the Utah/ Arizona border. There we stayed at the historic Goulding's Lodge in the heart of Navajo country. Goulding's started as a small trading post run by Harry Goulding and his wife "Mike". In 1930's things were not going well financially at the trading post. Harry heard that John Ford was planning to shoot a new Western film so he gathered up what few dollars he could and had some professional photos taken of the area. Then he traveled to John Ford's office in Holly Wood. When he was told by a receptionist that Ford was a busy man, Harry just said "I can wait, I brought my bed-roll". When John Ford saw the photos, he was intrigued and the classic western "Stagecoach" starring John Wayne was filmed there in 1939. That was the beginning of a long string of movies filmed in the region. The cast and crew stayed at Goulding's and the local Navajo's got work as extras and wranglers in many of Ford's films.
|The spire in the background was climbed by|
Clint Eastwood and George Kennedy in "the Eiger Sanction"
Canyon de Chelly, in the Arizona corner can be viewed
from the top of the canyon and the Navajo people still work farms at the bottom
of the canyon. There are many excellent viewpoints along the canyon - two of
the most famous are "The Whitehouse" and "Spider's Rock". In my favorite science fiction film, "Contact" Jody Foster's character
sits on the edge of the canyon and runs sand through her fingers in the poignant
|The Whitehouse Ruins|
|At "Spider Rock"|
|The "ring of fire"|
The New Mexico corner is no less interesting. Views of the aptly named Shiprock follow you as you cross into the "Land of Enchantment". I have been to Chaco Canyon twice - once to view the annular eclipse on May 20, 2012 (which was an experience in itself).
Chaco was the cultural center of the "Anasazi" (as called by early European archaeologists) between 800 and 1200 AD. Today it is agreed that the ruins on the site were built by puebloan peoples, ancestors of the Hopi and Pueblo people. I really should not even wade into this subject, because there is an evolving understanding of what Chaco is all about. Was it built for trade, religion, ceremonial purposes? Trade definitely went on there - macaw carcasses, turquiose, copper and shells have all been found in the ruins of the canyon. I have been told that ancient trails emanate from Chaco heading east to the Mississippi, south to Mexico and west to California. There are pictographs in a canyon near Canmore, Alberta that appear to be made by peoples of the four corners, so who knows how far people traveled to visit this important site? I think that because these people passed on their traditions through oral rather than written means, people of European descent such as myself will never comprehend the meaning of these places. I have little doubt that the people who need to know, understand exactly what the significance of this place is and why it is located in a particularly arid part of the high desert. Buildings such as Pueblo Buenito are said to have astronomical significance and alignment and it felt like an honor to be there for the eclipse, after traveling 2 and a half thousand kilometres from my home. I try to never forget that I am only able to access some of these amazing places by the grace of the peoples of the desert and that I am traveling Indian land. Perhaps I am being naive in this, but this land and its peoples deserve our respect.
|My wife, Bev at Butler Wash, Utah|
The Four Corners is a place that I first fell in love with from afar. The images and art that I became familiar with (long before I even knew where it came from) already were a part of my consciousness before I managed to travel to that sacred place. I was not one bit disappointed when we passed across the Wasatch mountains that winter day and into the land of my dreams.