Monday, 30 April 2012 – Durango to Mexican Hat
So we tried to do the right thing and presented ourselves just after 9 a.m. at the Southern Ute Indian Tribe Department of Natural Resources Lands Division – Crossing Permits, only to find that they had already been open from 8 a.m. We made our case to the two ladies who regretted that they had to disappoint us as the place where we wanted to go was not designated a leisure area. After a very pleasant chat they suggested that we’d have a chat with their colleagues in the Wildlife section. Again a very nice chat with the guy who was present who was unaware of the plant and its location but echoed what his colleagues in Crossing Permits had told him. However, he did note that the name of the road along the place where we wanted to go – to see Pediocactus knowltonii – was Road 4000 and this would indicate that it was just across the border in New Mexico, outside Ute or Colorado juristriction and that it was therefore on BLM (Bureau of Land Management) land, which was public right of way, unless local signs or fences indicated otherwise – Have a nice day!!
We did. The next challenge, near our location, still in Colorado was a sign to warn us that the bridge ahead was unsafe and that people would cross at their own risk. It did not look too safe. We noticed a ford to cross the river, but on entering the water, soon changed our minds. A bit farther along, a man was busy at one of the oil well heads.We asked aboutthe bridge. Although it did not look too safe he had been across it quite often. As we approached it for our second attempt, two Dodge Rams pick ups, about twice the size of our car, came across the bridge. It was still standing afterwards, so we gave it a go – no problem. Next we passed a turning to La Boca Cemetery and a sign confirming that we were on Road 4000. SatNav confirmed that at the sign, our front wheels were in New Mexico while our back wheels were still in Colorado. Some 50 meters on and we felt safe to park and take a look. The terrain looked right, very similar to so many other Pedio locations. And soon we found the first cacti. (S2544). But these Pedios looked very similar to P. simpsonii, not like the P. knowltonii that I had seen in cultivation. No flowers – things looked very dry here. Again Coryphantha vivipira was here, making it necessary to check the tubercles for grooves to distinguish it from Pediocactus. Opuntia sp was also noted.
Friends have since confirmed that the ‘true’ knowltonii grows on the otherside of the road in the fenced off area that we had considered too risky as cars passed regularly. I had ‘walked the wire’ but had not found any stragglers that had ‘dropped out’ of the conservation area. So near and yet so far. Still, perhaps our observation that P. simpsonii grows so near by (less then 20 meters?) throws some doubt in my mind as to whether the distinct looking P. knowltonii, growing on slopes under a reasonably dense stand of pine trees deserves a botanical rank or is merely a ‘sport’. [Note to self: What is a biological ‘sport’? – Answer : Any organism that shows a marked change from the normal type or parent stock, typically as a result of mutation.]
We considered today’s mission as completeand headed back into Utah and told SatNav to find us the way to Mexican Hat. (177 miles) Fortunately, it selected the route via Four Corners (S2545). I had suggested that Angie leave most of her souvenir purchases for this monument (not a National Monument, as we still had to pay $3 each to get in, despite our Annual Parks pass). I wonder how it will fit in my luggage. Cliff says that if I take pictures first, then make the pots smaller with a hammer, I can fit it all in and have hours of fun back home, gluing them back together. Fortunately we had bought extra luggage earlier to accommodate the pottery items that are due to come home, so I hope to avoid the ‘restore-from-kit’ stage. We managed to avoid any ‘Made in China’ items and selected some nice pieces signed by the artists with their Navajo names. The nicest pieces was priced at $765 (plus tax?) but representing 60-70 hours of work with a tool-steel needle and a scalpel. We were allowed to take its picture for free. The artist was working on a much larger piece that would eventually sell for around $6,000! And worth every cent considering the skills, time and effort that goes into such piece. Our budget was a bit more restricted – I’m sure that my sons will heave a sigh of relief!
S2546 was for a stop as we approached Mexican Hat, more for the rock formations lit up by the sun as its reddish tinge in the late afternoon accentuated the shadows. They did have rain here, judging by field flowers attempting a Desert-in-flower’ scene.