Friday, November 15, 2013

Opening Arches Natl. Park Early

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Only One Ranchette Left at Moab Ranch - Get Yours

The La Sal Range, near Moab, Utah - Click for larger image ( 

Only One Ranchette Remaining For Sale at Moab Ranch 

In 2006, I stayed at the Moab Rim Campark for most of the fall. After a series of unrelenting storms pushed me south to sunny Arizona, I made plans to come back to Moab and the Spanish Valley as soon as weather permitted.
In the spring of 2007, I was back at the RV Park and ready to look at property. Jim Farrell, the owner of the Moab Rim Campark is also a local developer. After touring other available parcels, Jim suggested that I look at Pueblo Verde Estates, which is one of his development projects.
Watch Moab Ranch - The Video here.
Soon, I had money down on a one-third acre lot. At the time, only the roads and utilities were completed. Even so, I could see that this would soon become one of the premier developments in Moab and the Spanish Valley. Standing on level ground at the site, one has spectacular views in all directions. To the West is the Moab Rim, its crenulated sandstone ridge looks impossibly steep and tall. It reminds me of the Grand Canyon, but from the bottom, looking up. To the northeast is the La Sal Range, which includes several peaks greater than 12,500 feet in elevation.
The Ranchettes at Pueblo Verde - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.comOver the next three years, I observed the development activities at Pueblo Verde Estates several times each year. During the build-out, my friend Mary Wright was the sales agent for the modular homes planned for each parcel. To help her efforts, I developed the Moab Estates website, which included the first live webcam from the upper Spanish Valley.
When the economy slowed in 2008, the developers of Pueblo Verde Estates teamed up with the Housing Authority of Southeastern Utah. Over the next two years, the housing authority built high quality, affordable homes on each of the remaining lots. The unique project involved federal government grants and sweat-equity provided by the future homeowners. When completed, the project included more affordable housing units than any similar project in the history of that federal program. Now, those three-bedroom, two-bath homes are a financial and aesthetic credit to their owners and to their neighborhood.
Moonrise over the La Sal Range, as seen from Moab Ranch - Click for larger image (
To view a larger image of the Moab Ranch webcam, click on the above image.
In 2008, I realized that the remaining Ranchettes were an untapped treasure for their future owners. Each Ranchette is almost 2.5 acres in size and includes surrounding open space, dedicated to that purpose. Access is via wide paved roads, which include concrete curbs and gutters.  Underground utilities, include water, sewer, electricity, natural gas, telephone and cable TV, all of which are in and paid for.
In order to inform prospective buyers, I developed the Moab Ranch website. Recently, I completed an update to that website. Now you can view the remaining Ranchette on an interactive map and take a video tour of Moab Ranch. Additionally, you can view a webcam that streams live from the property.
Full Moon rises over the La Sal Range, near Moab, Utah - Click for larger image ( 
Author's Note - November 10, 2013: When the word gets out that only one horse property, complete with unobstructed La Sal Range views, is available for $95,000, the final Ranchette will sell fast. No other property in Moab has all of the amenities you will find at Moab Ranch, at any price.
Email James McGillisEmail James McGillis 

Friday, November 8, 2013

Red Lake Trading Post Begins Its Second Century - Along "The Rainbow Trail"

Just south of the "Elephant's Feet", U.S. Highway 160 approaches Red Lake (Tonalea), Arizona - Click for larger image (

The Old Red Lake Trading Post Begins Its Second Century - Along "The Rainbow Trail"

In the first chapter of author Zane Grey’s “The Rainbow Trail”, he opens his 1915 novel at Red Lake, Arizona. “Shefford halted his tired horse and gazed with slowly realizing eyes. A league-long slope of sage rolled and billowed down to Red Lake, a dry red basin, denuded and glistening, a hollow in the desert, a lonely and desolate door to the vast, wild, and broken upland beyond. Red Lake would be his Rubicon. Either he must enter the unknown to seek, to strive, to find, or to turn back and fail and never know and be always haunted.”

Just north of Red Lake (Tonalea), Arizona two New energy towers, commonly called the "Elephant's Feet" mark the beginning of Zane Grey's "Rainbow Trail" ( hundred years ago, Red Lake, now called Tonalea (Navajo for “gathering place of waters”) held great foreboding for the drifter named Shefford. Zane Grey, a master of mood, went on to describe the Red Lake Trading Post. “Suddenly, Shefford became aware of a house looming out of the barrenness of the slope. It dominated that long white incline. Grim, lonely, forbidding, how strangely it harmonized with its surroundings! The structure was octagon-shaped, built of uncut stone, and resembled a fort.”

Grey went on, “As he approached on horseback, no living thing appeared in the limit of Shefford’s vision. He gazed shudderingly at the unwelcoming habitation, at the dark, eyelike windows, at the sweep of the barren slope merging into the vast red valley, at the bold, bleak bluffs. Could anyone live here?”

In October 2013, Red Lake at Tonalea, Arizona looked much like it did 100 years prior, when Zane Grey wrote about the place - Click for larger image ( the book, Shefford soon meets Presbrey, the fictional trader who owns and runs the Red Lake Trading Post. Almost inadvertently, Shefford saves a young Navajo woman from an attack by a missionary who is visiting the store. From there, Shefford and the Indian woman travel separately toward Kayenta. Grey’s description of Kayenta indicates that it was then another trading post consisting of two buildings and a corral. To discover what happened next, along "The Rainbow Trail", one must read the novel.

In October 2013, as I approached Tonalea from the north, along U.S. Highway 160, I knew none of Grey’s story. Although I had often seen the dark and foreboding structure described by Zane Grey, I had no idea that its history stretched back more than one hundred years. I saw it as a somewhat forlorn convenience store, frequented by local Navajo residents and by tourists intrepid enough to enter the dark structure. Having never stopped there before, I resolved that day to do so.

The old Red Lake Trading post, now a convenience store near Red Lake (Tonalea), Arizona looks much as author Zane Grey described it one hundred years ago - Click for larger image ( reason for my stop was to photograph the elusive Red Lake, which supposedly lay downhill from the old trading post and general store. While researching an earlier story about Cow Springs, a few miles north, I had found a Google satellite image of Red Lake. With its copyright date of 2013, I assumed that the map accurately depicted Red Lake, which appeared to be nothing more than a dry meadow to the east of the old trading post.

To my surprise that October day, I saw a shimmering pool of water at the bottom of the hill. A century earlier, Zane Grey described it thus: “In the center of the basin lay a small pool shining brightly in the sunset glow. Small objects moved around it, so small that Shefford thought he saw several dogs led by a child. But it was the distance that deceived him. There was a man down there watering his horses. Shefford went on with his horse to the pool.”

A Navajo maiden, with water flowing from her basket indicates that fresh water is available from the huge tank upon which her image resides at Red Lake (Tonalea), Arizona - Click for larger image ( only difference in my visit to Red Lake was the time of day and the passage of one hundred years. As before, the shallow pool, rimmed by a wide swath of wet sand shone in reflected light. With my travel trailer in tow, a trip to the far pool was out of the question. Although Indian Route 21 took off from the highway on the south side of the building, I knew that turn-around spots were rare on such routes. Instead, I contented myself with a few telephoto images of the far-flung, shimmering pool. After taking pictures of the lake, I had a decision to make. Should I enter the dark and foreboding building or travel on to Flagstaff, where I planned to spend the night? With the sun sinking low and no fellow visitors in sight, I decided to travel on.

The Spirit of Red Lake (Tonalea), Arizona resides on the side of a garage at the intersection of Indian Route 21 and U.S. Highway 160, in Navajo country - Click for larger image ( I swung my rig around the back of the building, I hoped to find an exit there. Although the way was not easy, there was an exit loop around the back. Before departing, I marveled at the huge water tank ensconced behind the building. It featured a Navajo language inscription and a Navajo maiden, with water flowing from her basket. Seeing the huge supply tank, I realized that Tonalea and the old Red Lake Trading Post were to this day a “place where the waters gathered”.

After taking a deep breath, I drove down a rock-strewn slope, with my travel trailer bumping slowly along behind. Turning back on to Indian Route 21, I spotted some street art on the door of an old metal garage. Although I could not discern what deity or devil the artwork represented, the panels that held the painting seemed to reflect each other from left to right. Upon further study, I realized that my impression of a mirror image was incorrect. Some details on the left side of the painting were different on the right.

Despite its forbidding exterior, the old Red Lake Trading Post (now a convenience store) has welcomed customers at Tonalea for over one hundred years - Click for larger image ( I departed Red Lake, heading south on U.S. Highway 160, I let out a sigh of relief. As I drove, I wondered who now ran the general store at Tonalea and what the place was like inside. Again, I turn to Zane Grey for his first impression of the trading post interior. “Shefford had difficulty finding the foot of the stairway. He climbed to enter a large loft, lighted by two lamps. The huge loft was in the shape of a half-octagon. A door opened upon the valley side, and here, too, there were windows. How attractive the place was in comparison with the impressions gained from the outside!”

Since I did not go inside the ancient building that day, I cannot describe it here. On my next trip along the “The Rainbow Trail”, I will stop at the Red Lake general store and see for myself. Meanwhile, wouldn't it be nice for the State of Arizona to honor a business that has operated continuously there for more than a century?

Friday, November 1, 2013

Sledgehammers and Spray-Paint at Cow Springs, Arizona

A friendly alien keeps watch at the ruin of the Cow Springs Trading Post near Tonalea, Arizona - Click for larger image (

Sledgehammers and Spray-Paint Now Dominate the Art Scene at Cow Springs, Arizona

In September 2013, I wrote about the state of the art at Cow Springs, Arizona. The term “Cow Springs” has a triple meaning. It stands first for the elusive springs once used to water cattle. Second, it stands for the small Navajo community that occupies a space between Cow Springs Lake and U.S. New energy light streams down on Main Street, Cow Springs, Arizona - Click for larger image ( 160, thirty miles south of Kayenta, Arizona. Third, the name is synonymous with the long defunct Cow Springs Trading Post and service station, which once stood across the highway from the settlement.

Being too small to rate its own U.S. Census district, no one knows how many Navajo actually live in Cow Springs. There are no discernible commercial services available in the settlement. With that, the “Cow Springs Head Start” nursery school appears to be the most prominent enterprise in town. To see for myself, in October 2013 I took a quick driving tour of Cow Springs. After looking around, I would guess the place has a few hundred residents.
A school bus returns to U.S. Highway 160 at Cow Springs, Arizona - Click for larger image (
After inspecting the ruin of the former Cow Springs Trading Post, I then drove across the highway, over a railroad grade crossing and into a tiny hamlet of mostly well-kept frame houses. Turning south on what appeared to be the major road in town, my path paralleled the highway. With my travel trailer in tow, I could not locate Cow Springs Lake, which I knew lay to my southwest. Although I could see the growth of a tree line upstream of the dwindling lake, I could not risk becoming stuck on some dead end road.

Despite the fact that the Cow Springs Trading Post closed over forty-five years ago, human activity in and around the ghost-building remains high. The two
New art at the Cow Springs Trading Post is often crude in its message, if colorful in its presentation ( implements of choice remain spray-paint and the sledgehammer. Almost equal in their usage, paint covers old art as the hammers continue deconstructing what little remains of the building. Since my previous visit, in the spring of 2013, the rate of destruction was astonishing. Even the paint on the old Standard Oil Products pole-sign appeared more flaked and baked in the sun.

When observing public art, most humans tend to like older, more traditional works. Although portraits of warriors and braves once adorned the concrete block walls of the ruin, most are now gone or covered with many layers of seemingly random words and images. If we can surmise any underlying theme within recent art at Cow Springs, it is that those in power will fall some day. Apocalyptic art and poetry, accented by the hammers of destruction create accidental cubist works.

Over several years, sledgehammer artists at Cow Springs, Arizona reduced "the Prophet" to a cubist jumble of broken blocks ( the best example of "sledgehammer cubism" is the Prophet, seen here in a time-lapse animated GIF image. Not many years ago, the Prophet appeared on a prominent wall of the ruin. Evocatively painted with both brushstrokes and spray-paint stencils, destructionist wrecking crews soon targeted the work. On my 2009 visit to the ruin, the concrete slab that held the Prophet’s image no longer stood. Although the image of the Prophet remained largely intact, it was now lying on the concrete floor. During my most recent visit, I noted that the visage of the Prophet had become a jumble of unrecognizable fragments. After an extensive sledgehammer attack, portions of one haunting eye and a bit of a skullcap were all that I could recognize. although rotated or tumbled into a chaotic pattern, most of the fragments remained in their places.

The dramatic spray-paint profile titled “Navajo Warrior” had suffered a similar fate. Over the course of a decade or so, the female warrior mythos had suffered various graffiti-induced indignities. On this visit, I found her image obliterated by elaborate graffiti monikers. In the afternoon sun, only her red-accented left eye shone through to me.

"Navajo Girl", a wheat paste photo-mural at Cow Springs, Arizona, as she stood in 2012. To see the deconstruction of art at the Cow Springs Trading Post, click for a larger image ( recently as 2012, local artist Jetsonorama’s photo-mural depicting a young Navajo girl graced a prominent south-facing wall of the ruin. Resplendent in her finery, but with one eye torn mostly away, her youthful energy and optimism still shone through. A year later, beneath a welter of angry words and misogynistic art, her visage now hides from the world.

As I indicated at the beginning of this story, most people opine for the day when art was beautiful and easy to appreciate. A century ago, the likes of Pablo Picasso deconstructed beautiful images into their cubic components. Likewise, unseen hands continue to deconstruct the remaining walls and art at the Cow Springs Trading Post. Those works not yet obliterated, are festooned with colorful fragments of the deconstructionists' aching souls.