4 Corners of the American Southwest


                            4 CORNERS OF THE AMERICAN SOUTHWEST 

My wife to be, Shino (pronounced She-no, short for Shinobu,) and I, left Oakland on my 500cc Honda motorcycle, for the 4 Corners of the American Southwest. The 4 Corners consist of Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, and Arizona, where their borders intersect. It is the only such place in the U.S. 

It is a land of breathtaking expanses, wilderness, deserts, canyons, and monoliths. And it is quiet. So much so that it echos in your head. 

Throughout the area are scattered the ruins of the ancient Anasazi (“Ancient Ones”) Indians, a civilization whose ancestors are thought to be the present-day Pueblo Indians, that lived in the area for thousands of years, only to suddenly disappear about 1300 A.D., leaving behind in their ruins a history of their existence.  

It was June. We had time for two weeks of camping. We had entertained the idea of going to visit my family in Louisiana, but that would be a long, hard trip, and with the time we had, we opted for a more leisurely time of it. 

We left mid-afternoon after work, headed east for Yosemite, where we bedded down in the woods, off of a dirt road just west of the park. We didn’t sleep well that night, probably just excited for the trip. Not helping our sleep was the full moon shining so bright. 

Morning finally arrived and we were off for coffee at the convenience store just inside Yosemite at Hwy 120 and Tioga Pass Road. 

Onward and upward to Tioga Pass, where we crested the Sierra mountains at almost 10000 feet. It takes almost a hundred miles to climb from the flat valley of central California through the foothills and lush forests to the crest. This is the wet side (in a good year) of the mountains catching the rain and snow. In only ten miles, down a steep descent to Lee Vining, Mono Lake, and volcanic craters, desert conditions are the norm. The transition is remarkable. 

Having been to Yosemite before, this is where our trip really begins. High desert and the relatively “new” craters rule the landscape. Scattered on the slopes of the craters, pines grow in the volcanic pea gravel. There is no real soil. Some sage and hardy bunch grasses manage to exist. It is cold in winter. 

We continued eastward through the crater field to the rolling deserts and mountain ridges of Nevada. We took a dip in a hot spring of an abandoned resort in outside Tonopah, pretending not to see the “no trespassing” sign. Though muddy, the spring felt great anyway. Shino started building on her almost non-existent swimming skills. 

We camped that night in the sage near the town of Alamo, after getting some food stuffs from a local grocery. Shino always managed to cook up something delicious on our one-burner stove. The moon, and stars, shined bright.  

Jets landed and took off from a far-off base, too far away to be heard. I took it for a government airfield as there was no airport located on the map. High overhead, commercial jets arced across the sky. 

The next morning at the crossroads town of Panaca, we found another hot spring. It was a large pond, clean and clear. Shino improved upon her swimming. We spent hours here, in no hurry to leave. Resting up. The first couple of days traveling by motorcycle was tiring but we were starting to get into the rhythm of it.  

We crossed into Utah, and Cedar City, and camped for the night in a forest service campground west of the Cedar Breaks Nat’l Monument. 


The next days and nights began a dreamscape of National Monuments and Parks. 

We gained elevation and at Cedar Breaks, snow still persisted in tree shadows and north facing slopes. By mid-morning we were in Bryce Canyon. We motored the 15-mile out and back Hwy 63, lined one after another with stunning views of multi-colored turret shaped hoodoos, cliffs, canyons, and vistas.  

This same humbling display of beautifully sculpted/eroded lands revealed itself at every turn, and in every Park we were to visit. Always different, yet the same in its majesty, these lands were special, and deeply moving to the soul.  

Up we went on the Grand Staircase-Escalante, America’s least explored wilderness due to its maze of rock and convoluted canyons and inaccessibility. The road climbed threadlike and narrow over the bare rock ridge. If you wanted to sightsee, you had to stop. Steep falloffs on either side of the road demanded one’s full attention as going over the side would be unforgiving. The small town of Escalante seemed to be “at the top of the world.” 

The road leveled out and forests now covered the slopes as we arrived in Boulder, another small community. We stopped here for a while at a well-kept ruin of a once thriving tribe. A testament to the hardiness of its inhabitants. 

Here began a stretch of road that was being repaved. Twenty miles of fist-sized roadbed rock over which I rarely got out of first gear. It was very slow and tiring, as to go any faster was courting a spill. 

Finally, we reached the paved road and began a descent to a larger highway connecting to Capital Reef Nat’l Park. Yet more wonderful displays of Nature. Words become poor descriptors. 

Another thing in common to these wildernesses were outlaws. There were hideouts scattered throughout these thousands of maze-like square miles, visited by the likes of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. 

By early evening we made it to the small crossroads town of Hanksville, near the Muddy River which empties into the Colorado another thirty miles south. It was truly “out in the middle of nowhere.” My kind of town. I would love to stay there a while just to experience the changing of the seasons. 

We pressed on north on Hwy 24, to Interstate 70, then east to the town of Green River, on Green River, about seventy miles away. The sun set gloriously on the high open desert plateau and it was dark by the time we arrived.  

After another full day, we pulled in beyond the trucks stopped for the night at the truck stop and camped on the banks of the river. It also empties into the Colorado about sixty miles south. 

                                                                                              end part 1, part 2, part 3.

Image by Justus Hermann from Pixabay.

                               Give Castles On The Rhine From A River Barge a read.