A place by any other name

Two hours or so from our humble abode lies one of the more famous canyons and archaeological systems in the Western US and arguably ground-zero for the public lands debate.

The places? Bears Ears National Monument.

With the recent reinstatement of Bears Ears, this land gets spotlighted again for many people.

Every time I return to this place, I continue to see more.

Even well-known places I’ve never visited. I could live in this area for twenty years and not see everything there is to appreciate.

The hallucinogenic moonflower is often found near these rock images.

With a change of vacation plans for various reasons, including a storm that would dump in both the desert and the high country, I took advantage of the gift of time.

At Joan’s suggestion, I did a solo trip taking a route that would connect two forks of a favorite canyon system and via an old mining track at and above the San Juan River.

I camped out the first night at a favorite spot after visiting some day-use sites. The sunset over the canyon I’d hiked for the next two days did not disappoint.

The following day I made my way into the canyon and enjoyed the solitude. This fork of the canyon, and the canyon itself, for that matter, is not as well-known as other places. I did not find myself surprised at the lack of people.

At about sunset, I made my way down to where the canyon mouth and the San Juan River meet.

The colors of the canyon wall took on the hew of that amazing fall light of the Colorado Plateau.

I found a flat spot just above the river nestled among some old mining debris; far down the river, I could see the twinkling of the headlamps camping on the river that night.

The following morning I climbed up the bluffs and followed an abandoned mining track above the river.

The old ming road turned into another track that led to where Joan and I spent some time this past winter. But today? I’d scrambled up into another fork I last visited in May.

As always, I spotted signs of others who came this way.

Possible depiction of atlatls.

I climbed out of the canyon by sunset, made camp where I left the truck, and enjoyed another evening overlooking the canyons I spent the past couple of days.

The following day I revised places I’ve seen in the past. There is a bit more foot traffic, some new fences, and interpretive signs vs. the quiet place I first visited almost four years ago.  All things change. But the sites never lose their majesty.

Wanting something quieter, I visited lightly seen places not far from my dispersed campsite.

I only saw one local resident in the canyon bottom.

My view from camp took in sunset over the actual Bears Ears. A site I’ll note for future reference and one I suspect Joan and I will use again in the near future.

Overlooking the site, I could not help but wonder what the fate of this land would be in a decade? With more protection often comes more regulation and pressure on a resource. I’m thankful for the preservation of this land, but part of me always wonders will the very status of this place causes similar problems as in other public lands? Time will tell.

For now, the land endures.

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