The Sandoval Signpost

An Independent Monthly Newsmagazine Serving the Community since 1989


San Juan Canoe

Intrepid canoists punch Government Rapid on the San Juan River.

Close encounters on the San Juan

The old Volvo was running hotter than a five-dollar pistol up the hills northwest of Shiprock in temperatures close to 110 degrees. Air conditioning blowing full blast, we were overloaded with four eighteen-year-olds and trailering a sixteen-foot raft, a canoe, and enough food and gear for a five-day float through the gooseneck canyons of the San Juan River.

What a relief to finally reach the Recapture Lodge in Bluff, Utah, and meet up with the other ten members of our expedition. It seemed almost cool in cottonwood shade around the pool, relaxing with a copy of the Four Corners Free Press.

There was a story about the recent discovery of the skeleton of Jason McVean close to a nearby creek bed. McVean was the suspected triggerman in the 1998 assault rifle killing of Officer Dale Claxton in Cortez, Colorado. If any of three fugitives could have survived in the rugged terrain around the San Juan, it was thought to be the survivalist McVean, who remained on wanted posters long after the bodies of his partners had been found. Now we know that they all died, each by his own hand, shortly after the bizarre crime spree that involved the shooting of four cops and the theft of a water truck, leading to the largest manhunt in Four Corners history. The story brought back memories of our first trip down the San Juan.

One of the fugitives killed himself following a shootout near Sand Island shortly after we (ten adults and eight little kids) launched. Little did we know that we were the last group to launch before the manhunt swarmed into the area.

A little knowledge of the crime spree, coupled with our relative lack of river experience and the remote beauty of the place, all lent excitement to the expedition. We didn’t know that hundreds of officers from different agencies were combing the area and dominating national news. We wondered at the absence of other rafters on the river and the daily presence of helicopters.

There were, of course, plenty of other things to occupy our attention—Anasazi ruins, petroglyphs, capsized boats, cliff jumping into side canyon pools, the gooseneck canyons. We amused ourselves by making up stories about the outlaws and jumping out from behind trees to scare the kids. It was a brand new kind of adventure into an amazing place we’d never seen.

Now the kids are nearly grown up and we’ve floated the canyons many times. All trips down the San Juan are pale reflections of the first time. Maybe that’s why we’re using old material for this story. There was nothing wrong with this summer’s trip—other than the intense heat.

Our 1998 expedition was greeted at the takeout by FBI agents in bullet-proof vests, carrying assault rifles. They checked our permit and did a careful head count, telling us that the bad guys were probably nearby. Then they noticed that their shift was over and left us alone to pack up and get the hell out of there. We threw the kids and gear in the cars and sped past the green Clay Hills back to civilization and a hotel shower.

There was a roadblock and CNN satellite dishes at the turnoff to Bluff where our shuttle driver had to cry and tell lies to get back to her car. The rest of us drove fifty miles north to Monticello before finding restaurants and hotels that weren’t full of law enforcement and news media.

The world outside the rim of the canyon seemed altered and strange. We’ve been on a lot of river trips since then, and always there is the anticipation of some world-turning event—whether war, terrorism, martial law, or stock market crash—that has happened back in “Rim World” during our absence.

This time there was nothing catastrophic waiting, other than a ten-cent jump in gas prices. The other half of Utah was on fire, but the heat wave was over. We stayed a night in Bluff in a hundred-year-old sandstone house rented cheap with beds enough for most of us.

Some cool fall day we’ll leave the boats behind and come back here to car camp and backpack. It’s only about five hours away. We’ll explore the historic sites, from Muley Point, down the Moki Dugway, through the Garden of the Gods, down to Goosenecks State Park, and take a walk by the river. It probably won’t make much of a story.

Nine trails projects across New Mexico to receive funding

New Mexico State Parks announced on July 9 that nine trail projects will be awarded a total of over $1 million through the 2007 Recreational Trails Program (RTP). The funding will support development of twenty-five miles of new trail and maintenance of another twenty-five miles of existing trail. The RTP, managed by the State Parks Division of the Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department, is a federal-aid program that assists communities and other entities in the construction and maintenance of trails.

The RTP provides up to eighty percent of a project’s total cost with a minimum twenty percent match from the sponsoring entity. Projects are recommended for funding by the Recreational Trails Program Advisory Board, a panel of trail users and experts from across the state. Eligible projects include motorized and non-motorized new trail construction, maintenance, trailhead improvements, and acquisition of land or right-of-way for trails.

Since the program’s inception in 1993, New Mexico has awarded over $8 million to more than one hundred successful project sponsors across the state. The RTP has helped to create and maintain hundreds of miles of trails for hikers, bicyclists, equestrians, and motorized trail users.

Trails not only provide venues for healthy living, but trail development can remove some of the barriers to non-motorized urban travel and consequently provide viable alternative transportation to schools, businesses, and places of employment. Trails also provide access to spectacular scenery and remote sites, offering solitude and emotional and spiritual rejuvenation.

Recreational Trails Program funds are allocated through the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users. The program is guaranteed funding through 2009, when the law will need to be reauthorized by the U.S. Congress.

For additional information, contact Trails Coordinator, Jessica Terrell at (505) 827-1476 or You may also visit the State Parks website at or call 888-NMPA.

Post office makes vacationing easier

Going on vacation? Would you like the Postal Service to hold your mail to keep it from piling up? Now you can go online and arrange to have your mail held from three to thirty days. Just go to and search for “Hold Mail Service.” The site is encrypted for your protection.

First enter your zip code at the prompt. Then enter your address information and the dates the mail should be held. At the end of the process, you are given a confirmation number to modify the request if you come back early or if you decide you want to stay on vacation a little bit longer. The online service then electronically notifies your local Post Office, which holds all your mail for the time specified. Delivery resumes on your requested date.

Planning to be gone a while? You may prefer to have your mail travel with you with the Post Office’s Premium Forwarding Service. If you are planning to be away from home for more than two weeks and up to a year, you can have all of your mail forwarded to your temporary address by Priority Mail. Stop by your local post office for more information.

Twin Warriors and Santa Ana Golf Clubs named in prestigious lists

On June 21, Golf Digest, one of the country’s leading golf publications, named Twin Warriors Golf Club and Santa Ana Golf Club to its list of the forty best casino golf courses. Twin Warriors Golf Club was ranked tenth in the country and Santa Ana Golf Club was ranked thirty-third in the July survey. Both golf clubs are part of the Pueblo of Santa Ana and are associated with Santa Ana Star Casino.

Twin Warriors Golf Club is an eighteen-hole, championship golf course, placed in and around twenty ancient cultural sites of previous habitation and activity. The Twin Warriors Golf Club has grassy knolls and ridges dotted with juniper and piñon pine trees. The surrounding scenery includes arroyos, the Tuyuna butte, and a view of the Sandia Mountains. In addition to the Golf Digest ranking, Twin Warriors Golf Club has been named to Golf Magazine’s Top Seventy-five U.S. Golf Resorts, Conde Nast’s Top One Hundred Golf Resorts in North America, the Caribbean and the Atlantic, Ireland and Scotland, and Golf Digest’s Top One Hundred Public Golf Courses, at number forty-nine.

Santa Ana Golf Club is the award-winning sister course to Twin Warriors Golf Club. Along with the Golf Digest ranking, it is currently ranked seventh in Golf Magazine’s Top Fifty U.S. Golf Courses for under $50, Golf Digest’s tenth-best golf in the state, and one of Golf for Women’s America’s Top One Hundred Women-Friendly Courses.






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