Four Corners

June 2008 -- A leisurely journey through America's Four Corners region. The goal was simple: escape Arizona's desert heat by gaining as much altitude as a 15 year old van will allow.

Click any image to enlarge.

Click image for a more detailed map.

Okay, first thing's first ... the grub. You really can't enjoy a trip unless the food rewards you for taking the time for yourself. Here's a gargantuan veggie 'wich at Oregano's in Flagstaff. Pretty impressive looking, and the grilled veggie's were tasty but the bread was sort of blah.

The menu was full of not-so-cute names. The photo you see here is known as the Veggie Wedgie. I actually said to Catherine upon ordering -- as if it were no big deal -- "I'll have the Wedgie." The words came out before I could think of it. Embarrassing!

Fast, straight ahead jazz on the speakers and The Wizard of Oz (the black-and-white section at the end) was on the teevee. American restaurants and bars have adopted a strange trend -- teevee without sound. My theory: Our attention spans have gotten so short that we're uncomfortable with prolonged periods of looking at our lunch partner. So we're relieved at having something else to look at guilt-free.

Oregano's is in a 1930's Craftsman bungalow. Warm and inviting with just a touch too many kitschy chotchkie's on the wall a la Friday's.
I really wanted to eat here, the Crystal Creek Sandwich Co., which was ravingly reviewed by the cool cashier at the Varsity Gasser service station. Said he eats there almost every day. But the joint was jam packed with Northern Arizona University students, was blasting sports on the teevee (yes, the sound was on) and I wasn't thrilled with the idea of waiting 30 minutes for road food.
San Francisco Peaks
San Francisco Peaks, the highest in Arizona, 12,633 feet.
Can't miss the big National Park Service sign on the highway out of Flagstaff. With little between here and Cortez, these guys would surely provide me with all sorts of great information about where to go and where to camp. However ...
... ugh. Closed.

How is it that we can't keep our park offices open on weekends, just when we need them? Really, how much could it cost versus funding, oh I don't know ... an unprovoked war?
Cameron Trading Post
Out of Flagstaff, after an hour of wide open West. is the Cameron Trading Post, run by our friend Jimmy Jensen. Originally a Paul Harvey railroad stop during America's Romantic Age, the place is a whole lot of something in the middle of nothing. There's really nowhere to camp in these parts so I spent the night.
Little Colorado River
View #1 from my spacious balcony. That's the Little Colorado down there.
View #2 from my spacious balcony.
Cameron Trading Post
During the entirety of the trip, I guess I encountered 50% German, 30% American and 20% French. The impact of the weak greenback was obvious.
Navajo Rug Weaving
Exquisite Navajo rugs are woven on premises.
Inside the Cameron dining room for huevos rancheros de manaña. Fast service and clean busboys who constantly clean the carpets. My eggs were served with a fresh, hot-wrapped tortilla and -- very authentic -- a freshly grilled poblano chile. All flavor, just a touch of heat.

Near me were a manicured and respectful Navajo family of eight, three American rock climber gals, a Hopi man and a German couple with bright, new daypacks.
My room was immaculate and comfortable at Cameron Trading Post. Unfortunately, the t.p. was threaded in the wrong direction upon arrival. One demerit, Jimmy.
Toyota Previa
Trusted travel companion, The Egg
(Toyota Previa)
Back on the road, headed north. Painted Desert type geography here.
Still loaded up by a good breakfast at Cameron, I was not tempted by the inviting Amigo Cafe Cafe.
Navajo National Monument
Navajo National Monument is spectacular. That cubby hole on the left once housed a 140 room community.
Click to enlarge and see the ancient condos.
A nice campground here at Navajo.
Next time for sure.
Dinosaur footprint
Petrified dinosaur footprint.
Mormon tea
Mormon tea, also known as ephedra. Traditionally used a cold remedy. I can vouch for this as I *used to* get great relief from hay fever when this plant was in Breathe Easy tea. But the feds outlawed this most heinous of flora and now I'm back to my old pill pals, provided oh-so-readily by the pharmaceutical industry.
Where's Waldo? Can you spot the lizard?
I couldn't resist this shot. What was the Schwan's Man / Woman doing way the heck out here?
A typical structure from pre- white folk times.
Interior built of juniper.
Kayenta Arizona
Strip mall ; Kayenta, Arizona.

Valley of the Gods
For your viewing pleasure, two panoramas. The second one is the Valley Of The Gods, which would be the ultimate place for a vision quest. Hope to come back when the weather is cooler.
Monument Valley
Entering Monument Valley
I'll tell ya straight up -
I did not doctor the color in this photo!
Church Rock
Campsite in Monument Valley.
View from the tent. Not bad digs.
Kampground Kitty. I gave her a can of tuna and you'd think I saved her family from the Holocaust.
Goulding's Lodge
Goulding's Lodge for breakfast. Strange service here; I could have had my coffee refilled 12 times (if that's what I ordered) but not a single offer to refill my iced tea. I ordred the breakfast burrito without the sausage, but I got the sausage but not the green chile sauce and sour cream. Server was inattentive, food is a 5 out of 10. But what are you going to do? It's the only place between Kayenta and Bluff.
Just yer average everyday Navajo auto repair station.
Bluff, Utah
Bluff, Utah
Founded 1880
A couple 'radical dudes' just finished their Mountain Dews after a hot ride in Canyon Of The Ancients National Monument. Looks like a great place to backpack.
The McElmo River Valley
and Sleeping Ute Mountain.

Colorado, at last. Green, green, green! Welcome relief for a desert-dried Zonie. Quaking aspen and red-winged blackbird. And - did I mention? -- green.

Ever notice how topography actually changes when you cross state (or country) borders? Examples: AZ/CA (at Blythe), CAN/NV (near Tahoe), CA/OR (Siskiyou Summit), OR/WA (Columbia River).
Cortez, Colorado
Cortez, Colorado. Simply put, I found the people in this town to be harsh.

The establishment that looked tempting to refresh and cool down, the Main Street Brewery Restaurant, wasn't open when I arrived at 2pm. Blondie's Pub & Grill could have been good but they didn't post their menu. Maybe it's just me, but I'll walk by a restaurant without a menu showing rather than walk in and ask. I'm just sorta not interested if they're not proud of their menu.

I got a peak at the food at El Grande Cafe. What I saw looked like Green Giant Niblets and impossibly white mashed potatoes.

So, I followed a vehicle painted to advertise to Taco Bell. A good, old fashioned Bell Beefer never hurt anyone, except perhaps one's lunch mate.
San Juan National Forest
Campsite in San Juan National Forest
west of Durango.

I intended to camp at Mesa Verde National Park but the campground was ... a disgrace. No longer part of the Park Service, the campground was run by Aramark -- that's right, the uniform cleaning service. Natually. Overgrown campsites, horrible road through the campground and just general dereliction. Scrub oak and beat up picnic tables. Nice national treasure.
Words cannot express the swelling pride of a Previa owner.
Durango, Colorado
Durango, Colorado. Natives refer to themselves as "Durangotans"

Animas River

Ped. trail / bike trail along the un-dammed Animas River through the heart of Durango.
Skateboard park along the river banks.
Trestle for the famed steam train.
The Animas peaked at 20 times its normal summer flow in 1911.
Took a way-too-quick float down the Animas with Robin and Stephen of Flexible Flyers Rafting. These delightful river rats have been taking the world-weary (like me) down this river for 25 years. On board I met a woman motocross champion and aeronautical engineer for Sandia Labs, both Durangotans.
Rebuilding an ancient pedestrian bridge.
There are more restaurants per capita in Durango than anywhere in the U.S, including San Francisco.
Had a top-notch dinner at Himalayan Kitchen. Himalayan food you ask? I had:

1) Steamed dumplings called mo-mo, like soft pot sticker (scrumptious!); 2) Tse Phing, "Lightly sautéed mushrooms and varieties of vegetables, tomato, Himalayan spices, and simmered with beans noodle"; and 3) mango lassi (yogurt drink). Heavenly!
A walk through residential Durango.
Durango Colorado street
Site of the under-construction town library.
Durango train station

Durango train station
(stock photo)

Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad
Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad
And, of course, the little choo-choo that made the place famous!

Durango-Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad
Video 1

Durango-Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad
Video 2

Durango-Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad
Video 3

Durango-Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad
Video 4

Desperate for a room, the Adobe Inn was expensive and gross. $102 for old and spotted carpets. My non-smoking room nevertheless wreaked of cheap perfume, perhaps to mask the unemptied ashtray outside the door. The grill of my HVAC unit was coated with dust and the chrome plated luggage rack was rusting. The parking lot was crumbling, which happens in snow country, but you'd think anyone with pride would at least sweep the thing once a year.

Between Durango and Silverton.
I did *not* Photshop this!

Finally getting into some real altitude.

Julie Andrews would love the place.
Colorado waterfall
Colorado waterfall
Engineer Mountain
Engineer Mountain
Twilight Peak
Twilight Peak
Silverton, Colorado
At 9300 feet, the bustling 'burb of Silverton, Colorado. I am seriously in love.
A high-falutin' hotel in Silverton.

The good folks of Silverton
get mighty creative in the winter.

Waiting for Dr. Fleischman
For sale
Camping above Silverton
at Mineral Creek
approx. 10,000 feet
Bear print
Ursus Alert!
Mineral Creek, Colorado
Ophir Pass
The Ophir Pass. I knew it was a long shot to get over this thing in The Egg.
Elevations approaching
12,000 feet and not paved.
Over the ridge is Telluride.
But fate would not allow it on this fine day.
Slippin' and slidin' way out there with no one else around in a very low vehicle ... the end of the line.

Time to head home to Arizona.


View all
  • "I wanted to take this opportunity to thank you for all your assistance with my order. This being my first order with you has been such a pleasure. Great communication combined with great service. Gold Mountain Trading sets an example other companies should follow. I have told all my friends to visit your web site and encouraged them to buy from you. Thanks again for allowing me to have such a pleasurable shopping experience with you."

    Nita Pace
    Chelan, Washington
    [Nita purchased our Buckle Handbag and Bull Riders Only Buckle]