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The Chaco Phenomenon of the San Juan Basin

Tour of the Ancients: Chimney Rock National Monument, Twin Angels Pueblo & Lowry Pueblo
Thursday & Friday, May 20-21, 2021

After leaving El Malpais National Monument in the early afternoon on Thursday, we then drove north across the San Juan Basin on our way to Durango. There was a storm system moving into the area this evening and it was supposed to rain overnight and throughout the day on Friday, so we thought it would be best to get a hotel room in town tonight. On our way we made a short detour to visit the Twin Angels Pueblo, which is a Chacoan Great House located at the edge of Kutz Canyon, not far from Angel Peak. We were planning to visit Chimney Rock National Monument on Friday and had already visited the Dittert Site in the El Malpais National Conservation Area earlier in the week, so I thought it would be nice to visit yet another Chaco Outlier this week.

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Rivers of Ancient Fires: The Malpais

Tuesday – Thursday, May 18-20, 2021

After spending two nice days in Arizona exploring Petrified Forest National Park, it was time to move on to New Mexico so we could spend a couple of days along the Continental Divide at the southeast margin of the Colorado Plateau in El Malpais National Monument and the El Malpais National Conservation Area. Last winter we spent a short day in this area but were unable to do much because the roads were snow-covered and muddy from a recent winter storm, so we had vowed to come back as soon as we could in warmer weather. We had hoped to do a little caving on our next visit, but because the caves are all currently closed due to COVID-19, we had to stay above ground this trip. Of course, there were plenty of other hiking opportunities to keep us busy and that just means we now have another excuse to come back when the caves are open again!

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Ute Mountain Tribal Park: The Other Mesa Verde

Friday & Saturday, May 14-15, 2021

After being constantly busy with school since January, Diane finally had a week off between semesters for a Spring Break and she was looking forward to getting away, so I planned a trip that would take us mostly to northern Arizona and New Mexico for the upcoming week. On our way down through the Four Corners area we would be spending our first day checking out the ruins and rock art at the Ute Mountain Tribal Park. The Tribal Park is found along the Mancos River and shares a boundary with Mesa Verde National Park. Thankfully that’s all it shares, since it doesn’t have the crowds, reconstructed ruins or the sterilized feeling of the popular National Park. A Ute guide is required to visit this park, so a few weeks before the trip I arranged for a private guide and a night in the campground along the Mancos River. Like many of the other trips I have done this spring, this was another one we had originally planned for last year, but which also got cancelled because of COVID-19.

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Cedar Mesa Chronicles: Chapter 3

Thursday – Sunday, March 25-28, 2021

This weekend Jerry and I were planning to go on a three-day backpacking trip in Capitol Reef National Park, but as the weekend got closer the weather forecast was not looking good. The forecast was calling for much cooler temperatures with rain and snow which would not have been good for the narrow water-filled canyon we wanted to hike, so it looked like we would be changing our plans. Instead, we decided to head further south to Comb Ridge and Cedar Mesa since we knew we would be able to work around the weather there no matter what it did. I left after work on Friday afternoon and headed south to meet up with Jerry. After getting stuck in traffic for a while just before entering Moab, I drove through some pretty strong winds with snow from about Monticello to Blanding. I met Jerry at the Butler Wash Ruins just after sunset and we decided to camp along Comb Wash, just in case there was a lot of precipitation overnight and the roads got muddy. As predicted, there was more rain and snow overnight so on Friday we stuck to the lower elevations and did a little hiking on Comb Ridge. Later in the day things had started to dry out so we headed up onto Cedar Mesa for the rest of the weekend. Here are some photos from our weekend spent below the Bears Ears.

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Hidden in the Shadows of the Bears Ears

Thanksgiving Weekend | Cedar Mesa Chronicles: Chapter 2
Thursday – Sunday, November 26-29, 2020

This year for Thanksgiving we were originally thinking about changing up our typical plans and spending the long holiday weekend in northern New Mexico instead. However, with the pandemic essentially shutting down travel into New Mexico right now we decided it would be best for us to stay in southern Utah and return to Cedar Mesa like we usually do. While we would normally get a hotel room in Blanding for this annual trip, we were not really comfortable staying at a hotel this time around, so we decided to pack up our warmest gear and camp the entire weekend.

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