Bear Ears Monument: Day One

Red roof
Mule Canyon ruins: House on Fire or House with Flaming Roof. Saw it both ways.

April 20, 2017

Every tourist-information office should have a man like Steve, who was working the desk at the Blanding, Utah, building when I stopped on my way to the new Bear Ears Monument in the southeast part of the state.

I had borrowed a guidebook from my niece in Salt Lake City, bought three maps at the REI store there, purchased another one at a bookstore in Moab and visited the monument website, such as it is.

But everything I did in my two days there came from Steve’s suggestions.

MuseumFirst off, he said, you need to stop at the Edge of the Cedars Museum in Blanding, which I did. A great introduction to the Anasazi and Ancient Pueblo cultures and archeology. Many of the artifacts found in the region have been collected there and are well displayed. Explanations of how materials where used for building and weaving are clear and fascinating. Speculation on what happened to these people after about 1300 A.D. covers a wide range of explanations. The one I like best is that they did not suffer some awful disaster or fail as a culture but that they migrated and the Native Americans farther south are descendants.

Inside the kiva

The museum is built next to an ancient ruin, complete with a kiva – an underground ceremonial chamber – with access via ladder. Truly a museum display that puts you in the middle of the subject studied.

I skipped the dinosaur museum in town and headed for Mule Canyon instead. Two trails there with the southern one leading to the House with Flaming Roof. Hiked into it and waited with Don, another hiker, hoping that the setting sun would cast light farther into the cliff overhanging the ruins. That, we hoped, would bring out the red in the rock above the ruins. The photo in the tourist-information building is stunning, and my picture (above) doesn’t measure up to it.

Don was shooting with much better equipment than I was with my Sony and has spent his life working in photography. Looking forward to seeing what he came up with.

Don's rig
Don built his camper and pulls it with a VW Bug

We camped next to each other that night, me in the back of the Ram and him in his teardrop trailer that be built himself. Nice thing about this Bureau of Land Management tract is that camping is free and pretty much wherever you can find a spot. Just bring your own water, don’t burn the place down and pick up after yourself.

Slept in Friday morning and chatted over breakfast with Don. Both of us from Midwest farming communities. Both lovers of mountains, photography and camping. Both canoeing enthusiasts, and that led to talk of a Glen Canyon paddle.

Madcap Scheme for 2018?

Don at breakfast


One thought on “Bear Ears Monument: Day One

  1. Love the parks and monuments in Utah, New Mexico, Arizona. My favorites from that area are Arches, Bryce and Mesa Verde. Someday I will visit Canyon de Chelly from my bucket list. Looks like I need to add Bear Ears Monument to the list.

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