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Monday, April 16, 2012

Mine Eyes Have A Sweet Tooth

We made a decision to hold on to our boondock camp here amongst the mind blowing monuments in Valley of the Gods and commute to and from "the action" over in Butler Wash. 
Mine eyes have a "sweet tooth," and ne'er tire of this "candy." 

Though red is the last color I would ever kick out of bed, there is more to the drama of this landscape than hue. I believe the Johns Ford and Wayne proved that back in the '40s. Even as a child... gazing spellbound into a black and white TV... this "backdrop" struck a punch to my gut. 

I was around eleven years old the first time I came here... riding in the voluminous back seat of a 1960 Oldsmobile Rocket 88 (I can still picture the grandiose chromed hood ornament). Skies were black with moisture as we made our way across the surreal landscape; sheets of rain pounded our car, rendering windshield wipers useless. 

There were few bridges in those days... for all the little "Blue Highways" out in the middle of nowhere. Our narrow strip of asphalt dipped into all but the deepest of washes. Rain fell out of the heavens with such fury that Dad made a biblical references to Noah. Knowing the power of flash floods and how quickly water rises in this mostly sandstone environment, Dad eased the Olds through each gully... ready to back up if flood waters became too deep and/or swift. 

Even after the rain stopped, murky flood waters kept rising... soon pushing halfway up doors on the upstream side. I thought this great adventure, until our behemoth Olds began to yield to the water's force. When the backside began to slip downstream mom squealed with fright. Dad reacted quickly... steered into the "skid" and hit the gas. We were fortunate to get out of that predicament. 

We were stopped before the next crossing due to a line of cars in the road, so we got out to see what was going on. A car was stranded in the middle of what was a rather large wash. It sat off the road, askew with the grill pointing into raging water. The driver sat on his window ledge, helpless. There was a line of cars on the other side too, with people milling about... anxious to be on their way. After an hour or so a tractor trailer braved the wash and made it across... but water on the upstream side was over the tops of tires. Only when flood waters receded a foot, and after another car made it across would Dad attempt a crossing. I hand-cranked the window down and watched water roil up to its threshold. I couldn't resist putting a hand in; it came out foamy, reddened and smelling of earth. Mom warned me not stain my new white tee shirt... or else.

Some easterners (my father-in-law among them) struggled to find beauty in a land so devoid of trees and green. I got upset after one of my "top ten awesome drives through Utah" nearly put him to sleep. "There sure aren't many trees out here (yawn)." 

It took a drive from Raleigh, North Carolina to the Outer Banks for me to understand how he felt. After an hour I was bored stiff... couldn't keep my eyes open. Bobbie took the wheel; I took a nap. Four lanes of tedium... mile after mile of mostly straight and level... a horizonless swath of green. Trees? Yes... couldn't see the forest for them, nor anything else of consequence unless being sandwiched between long haul truckers is your idea of a scenic outing. I was never so glad to wrap my eyes around a flat ocean and watch it roll onto an equally flat beach; at least there were waves and bikinis to keep me from retreating into a coma. That experience left me trying to figure out how or where we come by "Home," the preference for one place over another, and if there a genetic component to it. Is it a "learned" trait... or are we wired to surround ourselves with familiarity because there is safety in doing so?

Enough questions and stories from the road. Here are a few more photos from the "Kiva" cliff dwelling and our Valley of the Gods boondock. Happy "Monday, Monday... can't trust that day..." RIP Mama Cass, your voice still plays in my head.

Our boondock in Valley of the Gods... looking north

Looking south...

Camp "Gods"

Almost ghostly, Monument Valley shimmers in the distance

Backroad to the Abajo Mountains 

Well, it sure beats a tent...

Just one of a thousand stories...

Stone Age window

The Back Room; This low ceiling room reached far into the mountain behind the cliff dwelling and was cooler by ten degrees. There was a water seep along the back wall that trickled into a depression. What a convenient source of water, almost like modern day houses.

View out from the cliff dwelling... I think they could spot any "trouble" coming their way.

The corn they grew was so small... look at this miniature cob.

Another room... it had a small entry, possible to keep out the cold, so it might be a sleeping room. Note holes to let some light in.

Could you live here?


  1. Mark,


    I'm pretty sure I don't have to tell you what driving through the Grand Staircase Escalante is like.

    Good travels,


  2. Dick,
    Looking at your Kiva Coffeehouse link... haven't been there, I guess.

    Don't get me started on The Grand Staircase... you can get lost in there, which is the point, right? :))

    and speaking of that amazing (pun intended) part of Utah... and that you have biked route 12... you are likely familiar with The Devil's Backbone; an impenetrable hell hole if there ever was one. Route 12 is a "must drive," or bike.

  3. I don't know why but I have always wanted to spend a couple of weeks alone, in an isolated cave with an elevated view. I think you found that cave. It must be very quiet as you sit in the Kiva and listen. What a great place to be camped. Enjoy the quietness.
    John Q

  4. John Q,
    You sound like someone trying to get in touch with their inner caveman :)) You might not be alone out here... lots of critters make these caves home too.

  5. ... especially if the "Bike" is an 1854cc. Yamaha V-Twin! :)

    Been there... Done that! :)

  6. CowBoy Brian,
    If you miss a Twisty riding the Devil's Backbone they'll never find your ass :))

  7. Yes, I have been there and done that. However, the bike that I was riding was a Bianchi bicycle.

    There is also a Devils Backbone in Mexico.
    The Mazatlan-Durango highway makes UT12 look tame by comparison. They are building a new toll road that will take away much of the traffic and make it an even more spectacular ride. I drove it in early 2010 with a Scion Xb towing a Teardrop trailer.


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