Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Free Things to Do in the Four Corners: NE Arizona and NW New Mexico

For more free things to do, check out the blog posts for Colorado and Utah.

Hoodoos, petrified logs, bizarre geologic formations.
Spend a day exploring Bisti Wilderness, New Mexico.
Three of the Four Corners belong mostly to the Navajo Nation: Arizona, New Mexico and Utah. Both Arizona and New Mexico have sites that are known for the presence of Ancestral Puebloan ruins: Canyon de Chelly (pronounced "shay") in Arizona and Chaco Canyon in New Mexico.

Canyon de Chelly is located on Navajo land and Navajo people still live and farm in the Canyon. A tour of the Canyon floor, led by Navajo guides, will cost money, but the road which loops around the Canyon offers spectacular views of cliff-dweller ruins and beautiful rock formations. There are overlooks from both the north and the south rims. The history of the Navajos in Canyon de Chelly is both fascinating and sad. When Kit Carson was charged with "rounding up" all Navajos and leading them on the Long Walk to what was almost a concentration camp in Texas, some Navajos were able to avoid being captured and continue living in this area using their knowledge of the land. I recommend reading up on the history of this area in conjunction with your visit. Knowledge of past events will enrich your experience visiting the Canyon.

Going further west, you can't miss the Glen Canyon Dam and beautiful Lake Powell. The visitor's center in Page offers an amazing view of this massive dam and the lake it formed. Lake Powell, in the Glen Canyon Recreation Area, is such an unusual body of water, with innumerable small fingers and tiny crevices to explore. You can pay for tours or houseboats, or you can bring your own kayak and explore independently.

Closer to the Arizona corner, lies Shiprock, the Navajo town and the rock formation. Although the formation was named because of it's similarity to a large sailing ship, the Native Americans see it differently--as the spread wing of an eagle with the rest of the bird underground. You can drive up to Shiprock, but the most intriguing view (featured on a National Geographic Magazine cover) is from a road which heads over the Lukachukai Mountain pass (towards the north rim of Canyon de Chelly). Shiprock is actually a volcanic vent and there is a ridge of shorter volcanic vents terminating at the larger formation. Including the ridge of vents in your photo of Shiprock gives a wonderful perspective shot.

In New Mexico, Chaco Canyon National Monument has a small fee to enter, so, although it is definitely worth exploring, it can't be included here. However, west of Chaco, just south of Bloomfield is a bizarre lunar landscape--Bisti Wilderness. From the parking area, some walking is required to get to the incredible hoodoos, petrified logs, and mounds of the strangest rock formations. You can climb all over these to find geologic treasures and really stretch your imagination with your camera. No facilities at this desert wonderland, so bring food and water for hours of exploration.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Free Things to Do in the Four Corners: Southeast Utah

For more free things to do in the Four Corners, see the prior post about southwest Colorado and the upcoming post about Arizona and New Mexico.

Monument Valley is hard to beat for beautiful landscapes and rock formations. However, just a short drive from there is totally free Valley of the Gods, an 18 mile drive (high clearance vehicle!) that weaves through incredible massive rocks. You can freely hike and climb on these rocks, in contrast to Monument Valley. For those less adventurous, just bring your camera because the sights from your car are worth the drive.

While in southeast Utah, stop at Sand Island Recreation Area, just west of Bluff and take a look at a long wall of petroglyphs--ancient rock art. As you approach the panel, you will begin to discern the faded remnants of the oldest carvings beneath the more recent ones, including the notorious Kokopelli. This is a long panel and much more complex than the more famous Newspaper Rock in Canyonlands National Park. Sand Island is a boat launch area for the San Juan River if you bring your own kayak or canoe.

Near one end of the Valley of the Gods drive is the bottom entrance to Moki Dugway. In the days of extensive uranium mining, the Dugway was constructed as a faster way to get ore trucks down the cliff to processing plants. Attempt this drive only if you have a short vehicle (no RVs or trailers!) and are not afraid of heights. It is a narrow road of switchbacks with no edge protection! The view of the desert floor from the top is phenomenal and you can see the wreckage of some trucks that did not make it down below.

The panoramic landscape at sunset from Muley Point overlook affords great 
photographic opportunities. A desert view from Muley Point, southeast Utah
Muley Point is accessed at the top of the Dugway for another wide expansive view of the desert below, including the formations of Monument Valley. If you have an RV or tent, you can camp at Muley Point.

For those of us who cannot drive the Dugway, the Goosenecks of the San Juan is a State Park nearby with beautiful cutaway views of the layers in the desert rock carved by the twisting San Juan River. It is a great photo op (with outhouses) and you may camp there too.

Although not completely without risk of spending money, Twin Rocks Trading Post in Bluff has the most spectacular collection of Navajo baskets. They also have other types of fine Native American art, including Navajo rugs, jewelry, etc. It is a convenient and good place to eat too, but you have to pay for that. The baskets are a wonder to behold, for free, as long as you don't have to own one.

Goulding's Trading Post Museum is located at Goulding's Lodge, but open to the public. It is not really free because they do ask for a donation. However the donation goes to support education of local Navajo, so I am including it here anyway. The museum celebrates the role of trading posts in the past because Goulding's was one of them and as such was instrumental in bringing goods to the Native Americans and providing an exchange of cultures in the midst of a Navajo reservation. Gouldings also served as the place for John Ford to produce many of the Old West movies, starring John Wayne amid the landscapes of Monument Valley, located across the road from Gouldings. Memorabilia from the movie-making days are also found in the Museum. If you like John Wayne movies, this is a must see!

Southern Utah has some of the most incredible landscapes in the world. Even outside of a National Park or Monument (and there are plenty of them), the views are surprising and strikingly beautiful. As you cross Comb Ridge in your vehicle, the land changes dramatically. Just try to keep your eyes on the road! There are many canyons, gulches and arroyos harboring Ancestral Puebloan ruins which are not on most any map. You can explore the backroads, Butler Wash, Cedar Mesa and many, many more and find your own hidden treasure--rock art, artifacts, remnants of ancient structures, in addition to the natural beauty. Please be aware that, unless you own the land, all artifacts, including pottery sherds and arrowheads, may NOT be removed from the premises, including federal land. This is considered stealing and people are prosecuted for doing this, so don't even think about it.

There is much to enjoy in the Four Corners, from your vehicle, or on foot. And as long as you come prepared with food and water, there are so many places to wander with no fees, I feel I haven't even scratched the surface in these posts.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Free Things to Do in the Four Corners: Southwest Colorado

Why spend lots of money when you can find things to do for free? There are so many activities that can be enjoyed in the Southwest! In fact, there are so many in all Four Corners, I had to divide them up into the different states. I begin with Southwest Colorado, where Kelly Place Bed & Breakfast is located.

Every summer, the Cortez Cultural Center sponsors evening events every day except Sunday. Most of these are traditional Native American dances--great for the whole family! There are also special lectures, Native American music and sometimes drama. These events begin at approximately 7PM in the outdoor amphitheater next to the Cultural Center on Market St., one block north of Main St. Bring a warm covering because it gets cold later, even in summer.

One of my favorites is the talk by one of the few remaining Navajo Codetalkers of World War II, Samuel Sandoval. He explains how he was raised in the Navajo tradition with his grandfather as role model. Then when his country was attacked, he found a new role, helping to use the Navajo language as a communications code during conflict in the Pacific theater. It is an inspiring story, kept completely secret, even from their relatives, for decades.

Just 2 miles west of Kelly Place in McElmo Canyon is the southern trailhead to Sand Canyon. This is public access to Canyons of the Ancients National Monument. Sand Canyon is filled with Ancestral Puebloan ("cliff-dweller") ruin sites. The first one is right in front of you as you park--Castlerock Pueblo. The trail is about 6.5 miles one way, but the upper part of the trail is not as interesting, so it is mostly for people who want a challenging hike. The views of Sleeping Ute Mountain, Battlerock, and the Canyon below are spectacular. There are no facilities of any kind at the trailheads or along the trail, so be prepared with plenty of water and comfortable shoes. Other archaeological sites in Canyons of the Ancients are also free to visit, including Painted Hand Pueblo and Lowry Pueblo.

Just one of the cliff-dweller sites encountered along the Sand Canyon trail.
Saddlehorn Ruin in Sand Canyon, Canyons of the Ancients National Monument
Yucca House National Monument is a little known and consequently infrequently visited archaeological site. It is unexcavated and mostly under the ground. If you want to know what a site looks like before it is uncovered, this is where you find out.

Heading further west on McElmo Road (County Road G), you encounter numerous ranches and an old one-room school, called Battlerock Charter School, in continuous operation since 1915. Just before the Colorado/Utah border is the Ismay Trading Post. This is a very old trading post, marked by piles of old tires. There is a dirt road just east of the entrance to the Ismay parking area. If you take this and park to the left of a small hill, you will be in Canyons of the Ancients National Monument--BLM territory. Climbing up the hill brings you to a nice rock art panel and among an area of many Ancestral Puebloan ruins, mostly just piles of rubble. If you are going to Hovenweep National Monument, taking the McElmo Road is a scenic and more interesting route than Hwy. 160.

Two other worthy stops along the McElmo are the Guy Drew and the Sutcliffe Wineries. Free wine tasting is offered at both wineries, but you run the risk of loving their wines and wanting to buy some! Check the wineries for visiting hours.

Driving along Road G, you can't help but be overwhelmed by magnificent Sleeping Ute Mountain, rising just south of the road. This is an old volcano which never erupted (and we hope it stays sleeping!). It looms to nearly 10,000 ft. above sea level, 5,000 ft. above the road you are on. When viewed from Cortez, you can envision the form of a supine Ute Indian, with arms folded across his chest, down to the toes on his feet.

Coming soon: Free things to do in southeast Utah, northwest Arizona and northeast New Mexico.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

What the desert looks like after 2" rain at Kelly Place!

All of the following photos were taken within 2000' of our lodge.
You can spend days roaming the canyons and shooting the very 
bizarre landscapes to be found here.

Cactus Canyon, later that day, more dry and curling up just fine.

Cactus Canyon, many meteor strikes even in this small 12" square area.

Cactus Canyon, could well be the Moons surface.
Well, what's with the potato chip effect? Not without water.

Cactus Canyon, solitary "leg" holding up the rest of the world.

Cactus Canyon, this tree couldn't decide which way to grow,
finally got over it and strengthen up!

Cactus Canyon, cool mini-water slide in the rock.

Cactus Canyon, a nice serene scene with water in it, rare.
I also love the rock textures I find in Cactus Canyon. Can't get enough of them!
Cactus Canyon, we have our own "arches" beginning to form. 
Give it another 2.5M years!

Cactus Canyon, this is the end of the "road" for this old man. 
I know a way to get around this,but the clouds were building, 
lightning and rain beginning. Decided to high tail it out of there!

Cactus Canyon, the "leg" section, pretty amazing to inspect this. 
 The debris is from the July '13 rains.

Cactus Canyon, "sharks teeth" cavity.

More of Cactus Canyon, the "leg" section. 
This goes on for about 100' on the east wall.

Cactus Canyon again, this section has great looking "legs"!

July rains, nice to see Cactus Canyon with water standing around.

Cactus Canyon, strange levels of rock cliffs to behold. This is just a small sample!

This old grand daddy looks dead, look again, there is green up there.
It is not really connected to the ground by much, pretty amazing to see.

Cactus Canyon, the "split", yes it is still standing after that pounding!

Fiber! Loads of fiber!

Some trees have it tough, you could say a tough "century" of living in hard places!

More trees pulled up and pegged against the rock cliff in Cactus Canyon.
Again, the water was that high to put them up there, really!

Could be the Moon's surface, I suppose. 
NOT, well that small 'space buggy' you see in the middle is only found on Earth!

I simply love to take pic's of mud. 
This was placed here grain by grain by torrents of water.

Cactus Canyon where our trail/road crosses from Sue's Kiva to George's Kiva.
Pretty well are not going to drive the Yamaha Rhino through there again!

Cactus Canyon, our trail/road from Sue's to George's Kiva.
Pretty well wiped out I would say. I’m not banging my Kubota
tractor in there to fix this one again!

What can I say, mud again. 
Gotta go back each day, sometimes twice a day to see this stuff "grow"!

Here it is about one day after the storm. 
Chips are going like mad, then back to being sand.

Here I go again Nancy. Mud, mud and shiny mud! 
This stuff lasted a couple of hours beforebecoming potato chips in the sun. 
Love that color, kind of looks like pig's ears or skin?

Some how I just like the look of wet mud after a big rain!

During the down pour. Kept up like this for about 45 minutes. Dumped about 2.5" total.

Shot from protection by porch. Looking down those steps at our back, really, 
there is a 40' cliff just about 30' from this water, so much it still built up before 
going over the edge. (About 2" deep here.)

Pour over in camp ground, pretty much over with in this photo!
No way am I taking my Nikon out it a downpour to get you pics!

Camp ground tent site at pour over. Buried the metal legs, about 4" 
of sand and rocks. Glad there weren't any campers, the night before 
two ladies had a tent right next to the BBQ you see on the left.

Main water fall is all cleaned up now!

Pinion tree uprooted and tossed about like a toy.

Trees shoved into the V of two trees right in front of the main lodge building.
They didn't jump up there, the water was really that high for about an hour.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Tigger tries to fly!

Tigger was watching TV and  and wanted to try "flying" like the airplane he saw, he got in the position of a plane but found it hard to "take off".... the little tike did get himself into a very aerodynamic pose getting ready to part the air as he flew, however he failed to notice he needs a propeller!
Looks like two wings, a tail and navigation portals looking right at you!

 All laid out, so relaxed!

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Ute Indians

Lightning Hawk of the White Mesa Utes plays at Kelly Place Bed and Breakfast
The history of the Ute Indians goes back to times unknown.  They were a powerful people with a heritage of nomadic living that pre-dates the Navajo in this region.  The Ute Mountain Ute reservation is located on the Colorado corner of the 4 Corners, with Navajos on the Arizona, Utah and New Mexico corners. 

The Utes offer guided tours of the Ute Mountain Tribal Park, the southern neighbour of Mesa Verde National Park.  When Euro-Americans decided to form the National Park, the Utes told them that, if they really want to preserve the Ancestral Puebloan (Anasazi) ruins, they should just leave the land in the property of the Utes, because their tribe had kept the ruins in pristine, unpillaged condition for hundreds of years already.  In truth, when you visit the Tribal Park, you can see artefacts on the ground where they have lain for centuries—unlike our sterilized, collected and curated National Park.  At the Tribal Park, you can still climb into the Ancestral Puebloan cliff dwellings to view from the perspective of those who lived there 800-1,000 years ago. 

When the West was “settled”, the Utes were assorted onto several reservations.  The Southern Utes (south central Colorado) and the Ute Mountain Utes (southwestern Colorado) each have casinos among other income-producing businesses to assist the tribe members. The White Mesa Utes on a small reservation in southeastern Utah have little to sustain their members.  They are the descendants of the participants of the “Last Indian War” and proudly inform you that they never did sign a peace treaty.  One of the esteemed leaders of this tribe, Aldean (Lightning Hawk) Ketchum was the first flute player in the opening ceremony of the Salt Lake City Olympics.  He is an imposing figure of a man with a friendly, gentle voice.  Kelly Place is proud that Aldean and his Navajo wife Wanda offer programs here to visitors, not just of flute music, native dress and dance, but more importantly of stories. The stories from their lives give us an indication of how their heritage has shaped them and the unique point of view and values given by their cultures.

Friday, June 21, 2013

World Famous Kelly Place Granola Recipe

Best granola recipe from Kelly Place Bed and Breakfast
 In answer to many, many requests, here is the recipe for 
the best granola made at Kelly Place Bed and Breakfast.

Kelly Place Best Granola (makes lots!)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • 16 c. old fashioned oats
  • 8 c. unsalted sunflower seeds
  • 4 c. raw sesame seeds
  • 7 c. nuts (pecans, almonds, walnuts)
  • 3 T. cinnamon
  • 1 T. salt
Mix.  I use my hands with food service gloves.  Make a shallow well in the center and add:
  •  2 c. good vegetable (canola) oil
  • 3 T. vanilla
  • 2 c. honey

Mix thoroughly. Spread evenly on 2 full size, rimmed metal sheet pans. Place one in the middle of the oven, and one on the bottom rack.  After 10 min, remove the bottom pan and stir/turn with a spatula.  Do the same with the other pan, rotating their oven placement top/bottom and front/back.  Repeat after another 10 min.  And finally, after the third 10 minutes, the granola should be lightly toasted.  Variables include your oven's temperature, the darkness and thickness of your metal pan.  You may need to change the position in the oven, the temperature setting, or the times to get the toasting you want.

After removal from the oven, you must stir/turn every 5 minutes for about 15 minutes to prevent clumping.  Once the granola is cool, you can add 12 oz each of chopped dried apricots, raisins and dried cranberries.

For best freshness, we store in a airtight container in the freezer.  If the granola appears somewhat burned, taste it.  I have had some that was overdone, but the carmelization did not taste burned.  Next time modify a variable.  This is the best granola recipe I have ever found!

Monday, April 8, 2013

Beautiful Navajo Rugs

Needless to report, Navajo rugs are a major attraction in this region. The best way to purchase a rug is directly from the weaver, who is often the person who raised the sheep, carded and spun the wool, dyed the yarn, and finally designed and created the rug.  The second best way is to go to the Crown Point, NM rug auctions.  They are held once a month and you will find masses of beautiful weavings, large and small, at the most reasonable prices.  Kelly Place has some rugs for sale which were purchased from Navajo weavers who came to us or from the Crown Point auction.  This rug (17" x 23") is a raised weave, giving it a 3-dimensional effect.  Check out the Crown Point website to find dates and location: www.crownpointrugauction.com

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Archaeology class at Kelly Place!

We host various school groups here at Kelly Place B&B and are still finding

new places to dig and recover Anasazi buildings and artefacts.

Here is one school group well into the project:

Birds, Not Cats!

The annual birding festival is coming up, May 8-12! There are already a lot of summer birds here at Kelly Place. Marc is stocking up on seed. By the end of summer, I get tired of hearing the white-wing doves, but I realize I missed them over the winter!
We have over 89 bird species identified at Kelly Place in the past.
Get festival info at mesaverdecountry.com. We will try to contain our cats....

The Furby Explained!

I better put his picture up and tell you.... he was the most adorable orange long hair kitty I had ever seen and he lived here for about 3 years before disappearing one day.... we never found a shred or heard of him at our neighbors, so who knows?

I was heart broken to see him gone so I'll have to carry on his placid energy and be his spirit, here he is:
Furby in a thoughtful pose....

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Duck, duck, dukkah!

Throw this together and serve it on anything smooth to liven it up!


  • 1/2 c. shelled pistachios
  • 2 T. sesame seeds
  • 2 tsp. coriander seeds
  • 2 tsp. cumin seeds
  • 1/2 tsp. fennel seeds
  • 1/4 tsp. whole black peppercorns
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
Toast pistachios in dry skillet over medium low heat, stirring occasionally until golden, about 6 min. Remove from skillet to cool. Add remaining ingredients, except salt to skillet and toast 1-2 min, until fragrant. Remove from skillet to cool. Put all ingredients into a food processor and grind coarsely.
Serve in pureed soups, plain yogurt, on peanut butter, and use your imagination! Make more and save in the freezer for instant crunch!

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Ok, another photo....

In the spirit of sharing our visual world.... if you have been here in the dry season, you probably never actually got to see how it looks to have water doing it's seasonal job in our canyons.  Here is a quick shot I took one day in 2010....
Rain carving it's way down the canyon.

Photography at Kelly Place?

I (Marc, not Furby) have been taking hundreds of great photos of the large scale landscape as well as the small minute world near the grounds here at Kelly Place and I plan to select some of the phot's and get them on here for you to see. Here's a first pic. taken around fall 2009, great colors!
Cottonwood fall leaves in the sun.