Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Apr 18 - Four Corners to a Gooseneck

  • Move from Cortez, CO to Goosenecks State Park in SE Utah
  • Route: US-160 to Four Corners to CO-41 which becomes UT162 to US-163 (Bluff) to UT-316 near Mexican Hat
  • Miles Today:  114
  • Total Spring12 bus-house miles : 1324
  • Total Spring12 toad miles :  520
  • Tonight's camp: Goosenecks State Park (Utah). Free drycamping
  • Weather: morning low 34, high 79 , half clouds, half sun, brisk southerly gusts.
  • Notables: 1. Fulfilled a nearly 50 year "to-do" by stopping at the Four Corners Monument. It wasn't especially notable, except to say I've done it. No need to rush back anytime soon.  2. The scenery along the San Juan River and UT-162 raised the "lookey-wow" bar another notch.  3. The Goosenecks along the San Juan River, where we're camped, is simply stunning.
  • Link to photo album for today.
    Like so much of our existence... it's all about theory and reality.

    In theory, the Four Corners Monument is placed exactly at the point where the four states meet. And after some recent controversy about it's location, the Federal Government and the affected States have all closed ranks and agreed that the current monument is indeed the right place. That's the theory, held in place by just saying it's so.

    But in reality, the monument is off by some distance... I've read by a couple hundred yards or even up to a quarter mile. The early surveyors were incredibly accurate given the tools they had. But it's true that even two of the best surveyors will come up with slightly different results... even with sophisticated instruments available today. It's just the nature of the discipline.

    So here's my take on things: in theory we visited the exact point where the four states meet. In reality, we didn't. And to add another metaphor to the mix... you can add "surveying" to that old adage... that being close only counts in horseshoes, hand grenades, and now, surveying.

    We actually did some "linear exploring" today, when we visited the Four Corners Monument. I checked the aerial view on Google Maps a few days ago and found they had plenty of dusty parking available for rigs of any size. So with Toad in tow, we drove into the Monument, paid our $3 per person (it's operated by the Navajo Nation), and parked in the big vehicle parking lot.

    I could see why no one was interested in hearing anything about the monument being in the wrong place, as there's about an acre of concrete, with cemented in seating, and cemented in bronze plate with a little X in the middle of it. It might have been better to make the marker something portable so that if error is ever proven they can simply roll it over to the new spot... portable bleechers and all.

    On three sides of a square surrounding the monument are rows of Indian vendor booths... all modern and neat... again, made out of concrete and steel. They're not going to move those either.

    We took a few pictures, looked around, and Dar had to buy an authentic Indian "Fry Bread"... which was nothing more than the funnel cakes we bought at the county fair in Wisconsin years ago. I never knew that American Indians invented funnel cakes. Amazing what you don't learn as you're traveling.

    The entrance to Four Corners is in New Mexico. When we left, we retraced a few miles of our path back into Colorado, and then took a left on a road that soon got us into Utah. The drive up that road... most of it in Utah on UT-162 and along the San Juan River... had some great scenery. Trying to keep the big ol' bus-house on the narrow and shoulder-less road was no easy feat. But before long we were dropping down into Bluff, UT. where we turned left and headed south for a few miles. Again... spectacular scenery along the way.

    Just a few miles before reaching the town of Mexican Hat we found a road to the right that takes us to Goosenecks State Park.

    Coming over a rise and then dropping down into the Park, the full extent of where we're going to spend the next couple nights comes into view. This small Park is perched on top a bluff in full view of about 4 "gooseneck" bends in the San Juan River... a thousand feet far below. Over eons of time, the river has cut it's way through a thousand feet of rock. The eroding sides of the cliffs, or bluffs, are banded in colors ranging from deep reds, to greens, grays, tans, and browns. The sides are steep, but appear terraced by harder layers of rock offering more resistance to the forces of erosion than the softer layers. It's eye candy for wandering explorers.

    The view from our campsite.

    The only facilities offered by the State are vault toilets and a few trash cans. Other than that, you pick a spot and park... it's all drycamping -- no hookups. The closest electric line is probably back on the highway about 5 miles away. At night it's dark... totally dark. Unless some errant camper is running his generator, it's quiet... silent... except for sounds of nature or a jet plane passing overhead.

    We're parked about 50 feet from the edge, and the view into the Goosenecks of the San Juan River greet us every time we look out. It's the most spectacular place we've camped in the almost 5 years we've been on sabbatical.

    click for full size