Sunday, June 18, 2017

Northern Arizona and Southern Utah; Part 4 - May 2017

Continued from Part 3; North Rim of the Grand Canyon and Kaibab Plateau

Part 4
Buck Farm Overlook
Navajo National Monument

Remember, you can click on any photo for a larger version.

Monday, May 22, 2017 (continued)

Looking back. You can just see the East Side Game Road climb up the ridge.

I turned right on FR-8910, heading south. The road dove down into lots of washes and up the other side of those, but the road was in great shape for being just dirt with very little washboard. There were even plenty of road signs to keep me aimed at my destination and warnings about it being a flash flood area.

Buck Farm Point

There was one interesting junction where all three roads were signed 8910 - the one I'd come down, one to Saddle Mountain, and one to Buck Farm Point. I later looked at the map and saw the road formed a loop beginning at that junction. I took the left fork. Then there was a sign to the viewpoint where I turned left onto 445H.

View from Horseshoe Point

The dispersed campsite right next to Horseshoe Point.

The first overlook you come to has a nice dispersed campsite right next to the rim and a fantastic view, though you cannot see the river from here. I suspect it could become extremely windy, however, and there is no shade for many miles. There is a wide ledge about 10 or 20 feet below the rim where one could set up a tent or perhaps a small fire out of the wind - you can see it in the first photo above; it's covered in fine, red gravel. There were nice flat rocks to sit upon and I had lunch there. I found a USGS marker. Apparently this is Horseshoe Point.

I tend to take a photo of these historical USGS markers when I stumble upon one. This one is almost 80 years old.

You continue on another couple of miles to Buck Farm Overlook. People have camped there, but it did not look at all hospitable to me. You have to walk 50 yards or so to get to the actual overlook, or I should say one of them. The others require clambering down and up some rock formations. You should wear your hiking boots to do this. You can see a bit of the river from these. I also got photos of some colorful Collard Lizards.

View downstream of the Colorado River. Saddle Mountain on the right.

I thought this was a colorful fellow, but I've since learned the males are very green.
The orange stripes indicate that this is a pregnant female.

Looking upstream of the Colorado River. You can just make out the Vermilion Cliffs on the horizon.

A panorama taken from the location above.

Looking back at my truck, parked at the end of the road. The Kaibab Plateau is in the background.

I belive, from my reading, that this is an immature Collard Lizard.

I believe this is a female lizard.

The sandstone at the east end of the point had this "crust" of hard, dark rock firmly attached.
I don't know what this is called. If you know please leave a comment. Thanks.

A last look down the canyon.

Only a few miles from the highway I stopped to photograph these yellow flowers with the cliffs in the background.
I think the flowers are Desert Princesplume (Stanleya pinnata).

I left the overlook and drove back to the county road, turning north, headed toward Alt-89. This is dry country, though with a back drop of the Kaibab Plateau and before long the Vermilion Cliffs. I stopped at the info kiosk area just prior to pavement to air up and again a good samaritan pulled off the highway to ask if I needed help. I thanked them for asking and assured them I was OK. I guess I need to lower the hood once I hook up my air pump from now on, so I don't raise a false alarm.

I turned right on the highway and followed it to US-89, which I then followed south. I stopped in The Gap, not to be confused with Blue Gap, to fill my tank as I'd noticed their price for gasoline was low for the area. I then turned left onto US-160 toward Tuba City.

Tuba City

When I passed through here about 15 years ago I stumbled into a restaurant that served very good food. I can't remember if I'd ordered a combination plate or just an enchilada plate, but remember they prepared it with red and green chile just like in New Mexico. I didn't know the name, but remembered approximately where it was. I found it. It is the Hogan Restaurant. I ordered the enchilada plate, beef and chicken, red and green, and it was excellent. There were three Navajo Nation Police officers eating Navajo Tacos, and as I passed them on the way to wash my hands, I asked them if the dish was good. They assured me it was. I was tempted to say something about Jim Chee and Lt. Leaphorn, but I managed to control myself :-) I left a 4-Star Yelp review once I got home.

Navajo National Monument

From Tuba City I continued east on US-160 to the turn off for Navajo National Monument. This is the site for the Betatakin cliff dwellings and the trailhead for Keet Seel cliff dwellings. You need to sign up for ranger led hikes to visit either ruin, though there are shorter trails that overlook Betatakin. The monument is administered jointly by the NPS and Navajo Nation Tribal Parks.

They also have two very nice, free campgrounds. One on the hill, Sunset View, accessed by a paved loop, and one along a dirt road, Canyon View, past the visitor center. I'd pitched my tent in this later area on the trip I mentioned above with regard to Tuba City. I chose to camp there this time, too, as I found a site to set up in the shade on this very warm afternoon.

My campsite with much appreciated shade.

Canyon cliffs lit by the setting sun.

The trees have grown since I was last there blocking much of the view, however.

I met a retired gentleman from the midwest. He had been a schoolteacher in Kayenta and was passing though after having helped out with photography for the Shiprock marathon. He had an interesting perspective on The Dine' and the issues/conflicts on the reservation with regard to the modern, outside world. He also told me where to find some interesting pools on the slickrock near the campground. I would go look for those in the morning.

Sunset from my campsite.

Tuesday, May 23

Navajo National Monument (continued)

As I was easily within a day's drive of home, so I took my time here. First, I set off to find the small vernal pools on the slickrock below the campground. As there were lots of birds singing, I took both cameras. I got both landscapes and wild bird photos.

Rain filled pool on the slickrock.

A handsome Western Bluebird watching for flying bugs to intercept.

Looking along the slickrock in the direction of the visitor center.

A Juniper Titmouse in his name-sake tree.

Morning view of my campsite.

On my return, I broke camp and drove to the visitor center. I walked the short trail down to the Betatakin overlook. The light would have been better in the evening, but I'd been too tired and hot to do the walk the day before. It was, nonetheless, a beautiful walk with lots of wildflowers and more birds singing.

Wildflower along Sandal Trail.

View into the canyon from the overlook. The dwellings are in the alcove to the left.

A cheerful flower in the mustard family, I believe.

A closer view of Betatakin (a composite of two images to adjust exposure.)

A detailed view of Betatakin pieced together from 3 exposures taken with my 300mm lens.

I should have taken my 70-200mm lens. The lenses I had with me were either too wide or too long. So I've pieced together multiple images to be able to show you Betatakin in as much detail as you can get from the overlook.

On my way back up the trail I captured the image of this Ash-throated Flycatcher.

Another look at Betatakin Canyon from along the trail.

As I was leaving the monument, I stopped for one more photo at the Tsengi Point Overlook.


Leaving the national monument, I turned left on the highway and headed to Kayenta. I was hungry by this time and had hoped to find Navajo vendors selling food. I did not, so stopped at Bashas Market and selected a rib dinner from the deli's hot case.

Church Rock - a volcanic remnant.

Continuing along 160 I stopped to photograph Church Rock, a volcanic neck. I had not driven this stretch of US-160 between the turn-off to Many Farms and the turn off to Mexican Hat. It is a scenic area with the Baby Rocks formations, that I failed to photograph, and the long Cock's Comb ridge that will eventually work its way north into Utah.

Teec Nos Pos

I took US-64 at the junction and drove into Teec Nos Pos. I stopped at the trading post and got permission to photograph inside. I've added those photos to last month's blog post on the trading post.

Highway 666

By the time I got to Shiprock, I realized I was ahead of schedule. If I took my usual way home I'd hit the city right at rush hour. Rather than do that, I chose a longer route that would take more time and allow me to see another new area I'd not been through. I drove south on US-491, formerly US-666.

The Chuska Mountains are on the right as you drive south. There are several interesting volcanic necks, little cousins of Ship Rock along the way, too. It was too hot and too windy for me to want to stop for photos, sorry. Rather than drive all the way into Gallup, I was going to take a turn-off to Crownpoint, then head back to the freeway, but somehow I missed the turn. There were stretches of road construction, so maybe the sign had been misplaced, or perhaps I was just on the Rez.

At Gallup I rejoined I-40 and headed east toward home.


I was going to stop in Grants where I knew there was a Blake's Lotaburger that served up a good green chile cheeseburger. Then I saw a billboard that reminded me I had been wanting to try a Laguna Burger in the town by Laguna Pueblo. I'd heard good things about these special green chile cheeseburgers, so this would be a perfect opportunity to try one.

The Laguna Burger is in the same building as the 66 Pit Stop gas station/convenience store at Exit 114. It was cool inside and I ordered a Laguna Burger combo "for here." OMG, it was delicious! The half-pound beef patty was very flavorful, the green chile well roasted and not too hot, and the fries were some of the best I've ever had - you felt like you were eating real potatoes, fried to golden perfection. Do yourself a favor and stop there or the other location on the opposite side of the freeway from the 66 Casino, closer to Albuquerque. It's also in a 66 Pit Stop gas station/convenience store. I left a 5-Star Yelp Review. [Note: there is now a Laguna Burger in Albuquerque, across 12th from the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center. I ate there 12-23-17. The burger was very good though more expensive than in Laguna, but the fries were a big disappointment - instead of full size and perfectly cooked, they were more of the shoestring variety and greasy, sigh.]

With a blissfully full belly I returned to the freeway and to home, comfortably after rush hour and still with plenty of light to unpack the camper.

A wonderful week's journey. Thanks for joining me.


  1. You covered a lot of ground on a great trip! Thank you so much for the informative and well crafted report, it is appreciated!

    1. Ski, thanks for reading my report and leaving a comment.

  2. Thanks so much for this site, Bill; we seem to be kindred spirits somewhat, as I've just bought a Palomino camper to go on my pickup, specifically to go through the Ouray-Silverton-Telluride mining country that we drove through (only on 550) with friends in 2012. I'm a retired geologist and manager for a while of an underground silver mine in BC, so you can imagine the draw that country has for me.

    I've already traced many of the same paths as you have through the red-rock country of Utah, using a camper-van that I built up myself. If I'd only found a 4WD adaptation for it, I'd still have it, I was still button-popping proud when I finished it. Been to many of the Utah places for which you've furnished photos, and a few you haven't--such as wine-toasting the sunset with crystal stemware from Powell Point at the southern tip of the Paunsaugant Plateau NE of Bryce Canyon. Do you know that if you make shadow-puppets with your hands at sunset from there they go out into space?

    Many of these trips were made with a fellow widower who was a criminology prof with a similar van; what memories we have. With a new wife I intend to make more, especially of that historic Colorado mining country. Many thanks for the descriptions, we will be obliterating a few of your tire tracks shortly--as you will have scuffed some of mine in Utah. Len

    1. Len, thanks for sharing a taste of your adventures. My earliest forays were in a VW Campmobile 45 years ago - that heavy, underpowered van could go amazing places. My current rig is much more suitable for exploring, though without the character of the old bus.

      I hope you have more great adventures in future with your new set up. Lots of cool places to explore in Colorado, that's for sure. Happy Trails!


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