Intrepid canoists punch Government Rapid on the
San Juan River.
Close encounters on the San Juan
—TY AND BARB BELKNAP
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
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
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 email@example.com.
You may also visit the State Parks website at www.nmparks.com
or call 888-NMPA.
Post office makes vacationing easier
—DAVE LEWIN, COMMUNICATIONS PROGRAMS SPECIALIST,
SOUTHWEST AREA PUBLIC AFFAIRS AND COMMUNICATIONS, USPS
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 www.usps.com
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
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.