Monthly Archives: January 2017

Winter Sun in the Devil’s Kitchen: Apparently Hell HAS frozen over!

“Man, you are one butt-load of sunshine, let me tell you.”
James Dashner, The Maze Runner

So we don’t practice an organized religion.

That’s not to say we don’t teach the children to be strong, moral, caring, loving, kind, generous, virtuous, lovely, of good report or praiseworthy….because we do! We just do it every day instead of just once a week!

Ha ha ha ha!

Nevertheless, the weekends when I get the kids we like to attend what we have affectionately dubbed “Dirt Church”. This is where we go out and explore trails [that’s where the dirt comes from], and we appreciate nature and each other and have some of the most meaningful discussions and bonding time.

We LOVE “Dirt Church”. Maybe I should change the name of this website to Dirt Church. Or perhaps when we publish our Discovering the Monument book we’ll call it “Dirt Church: a Highly Opinionated Guide to Trails and Spaces Inside the Colorado National Monument”.

I just copyrighted that so screw you if you want to steel it. 😉 [My apologies. As I write I’m pretty certain I have a fever of 101+]

Okay…where was I?

Right. Dirt church.

So last Sunday we took the kids for a hike to Devil’s Kitchen. It’s one of the rare excursions we never have to ‘talk them into.’ [aka force them to]. The day was bright and we were all feeling pretty good…except Trinity who had a bit of a cold.

We took the kids to see the petroglyphs then hiked up the wash.

Connor was tasked with looking for animals and signs of animal life for a Cub Scout requirement. He had a wonderful time! We found mouse, bunny, and even mountain lion tracks of various sizes and age. We watched bright azure pinion jays playing in the trees. We saw a wide variety of scat.

Trinity was so full-on complaining that we actually had to stop and have a chat with her…where we gently reminded her that she doesn’t have to be bitchy just because she doesn’t feel well and that she could do very well by turning her attitude around right now young lady and bring back our fun-loving adventure girl because we love her and miss her!And just like that the storm was over.

I’m not sure how long we hung out in ‘the kitchen’…but we all had fun climbing on rocks and lounging in the sunshine. It was a beautiful thing.

On the way back, I decided to lead them all up a rock formation where I suspected there was an arch. Sure enough, there was. I hope my Indian is “Archfinder”. Ha ha ha!

[Fever, remember?]I’m still crossing this lower part of the trail off of our all-trails-in-the-monument theme, but I have no doubt we will be back to share with you the slot canyons and hidden grottos of the upper reaches of this area.

Until then, Cheers!

[Lifting large tub of orange juice]

Connor hiding in the arch.


devil's kitch trail arch colorado national monument with no thoroughfare in background
The cliffs of No Thoroughfare through the arch.

Little arch.


Me and Tim.

The graffiti reads: EFA 1913. I think it stands for “Elisa’s Freaking Awesome”

X Marks the spot!

Kids chillin.

Connor posing like the male model he truly is.

Kids hiking up the wash

All three kids in the arch.

Connor and Tim posing.

Big smile obligatory selfie…just got my ‘braces’ off!

Connor and Matt exploring the history in graffiti

Matt and Tim sharing the cubby hole.




Matt Janson Aztec Butte Granary in Winter

Aztec Butte

“Nothing burns like the cold.”
George R.R. Martin, A Game of Thrones

The weather got progressively worse as the day continued.

We kept hoping that the clouds would come in and hang low in the valleys and our eyes would literally pop out at every next viewpoint.

But, alas, it seemed that the storms swirled around us…obscuring the La Sal Mountains…the Henries…the Abajos….all mountain ranges that you can usually clearly spot from the highest points of Island in the Sky.

Oh yeah, so before I forget [since my life is such that catching up THIS blog takes place late at night…versus my other blog/business that I work on very early in the morning….and lack of sleep makes my memory suffer….] we had wanted to do a nice long, most-of-the-day hike down Taylor Canyon to see the Moses and Zeus formation.

10 mile hike in the dead of winter?! No problem for we two adventurers!

Alas, it was quite icy when we checked it out.

So…yeah. That’s why we ended up spending the day exploring the Gemini Bridges road!

And we ‘settled’ for Aztec Butte.

This beaut is right of one of the main Island in the Sky roads and it’s a relatively short hike and from the top you get these absolutely amazing and vast and mind-blowing views PLUS an ACTUAL FREAKING ANCIENT PUEBLOAN GRANARY!

So we did that instead.

In spite of their warnings of ‘very steep sandstone climbing where you may have to scramble on hands and feet, with ledges of three feet or more.’

Screw that! We’re adventurers!!!

Matt Janson Aztec Butte in Winter

Matt…climbing up Aztec Butte. It’s much, much, much steeper than it looks.Matt Janson Aztec Butte Granary in Winter

Pano from the granary. Matt’s right in the middle. It was pretty darn sketchy crossing over the ice and snow to get to the overhang and Matt was wise and stayed on solid footing. I clung to the wall as I traversed…trying not to think of the steep drop-off that would have sent me plummeting toward a 400 foot drop-off…ah yee.

Matt Janson Aztec Butte Granary in Winter

Matt: macho. Mui amazing.

Matt Janson and Elisa Jones Aztec Butte Winter

It was so cold and windy that when we got to the top we abandoned the pursuit before we got to the structure at the top. I mean…we topped out…just didn’t get to whatever the ‘structure’ is.

Oh man! I just Googled that!

Okay, I’m TOTALLY GOING BACK THERE with the kids if only to see this:

Mosquito Arch, Four Arch Canyon, Moab, Utah in Winter

Four Arch Canyon

“Becoming fearless isn’t the point. That’s impossible. It’s learning how to control your fear, and how to be free from it.”
Veronica Roth, Divergent

Grab a glass of wine/Pepsi/beer/tea/water/cocoa…whatever your pleasure…and join us in a toast to the man who made this map that I can access on my phone even with ZERO cell service and it tells me right where I am and where I’m going and yeah I like it a lot.

Props to you, Todd!

Because here’s how it went down:

We’re cruising up Gemini Bridges road and I’m checking out the map to make sure we’re making the best route up to Canyonlands and here’s what I spot:

Map of Four Arch Canyon, Moab, Utah

And I’m like, “WTAF? There are FOUR ARCHES in this little dead-end canyon down the road!?!?!?! WHINHOT?”

[Why Have I Never Heard Of This?]Crips Arch, Four Arch Canyon, Moab, Utah in Winter

Here’s a little pano action and there’s an arch in this shot. ^^^^ 

Obligatory selfie.Mosquito Arch, Four Arch Canyon, Moab, Utah in Winter

Can you see the arch just left of center in this photo? ^Shadow Arch, Four Arch Canyon, Moab, Utah in Winter

All of these arches were challenging to spot because they’re in the middle of these walls, high up on the cliff. The arch in the shot above is almost exactly in the center of the shot. Bull Whip Arch, Four Arch Canyon, Moab, Utah

This one is Bull Whip arch. You can just see the white sky through it.Crips Arch Four Arch Canyon Moab, Utah in Winter with Snow

Here’s Bull Whip again. See it? Matt Janson and Elisa Jones in Four Arch Canyon Moab, Utah

Surprise! 4 Arches!