Tag Archives: no thoroughfare

Matt Janson at Hiking No Thoroughfare Canyon Colorado National Monument first waterfall

No Thoroughfare in a Thunderstorm

“Unending Love

I seem to have loved you in numberless forms, numberless times…
In life after life, in age after age, forever.
My spellbound heart has made and remade the necklace of songs,
That you take as a gift, wear round your neck in your many forms,
In life after life, in age after age, forever.

Whenever I hear old chronicles of love, it’s age old pain,
It’s ancient tale of being apart or together.
As I stare on and on into the past, in the end you emerge,
Clad in the light of a pole-star, piercing the darkness of time.
You become an image of what is remembered forever.

You and I have floated here on the stream that brings from the fount.
At the heart of time, love of one for another.
We have played along side millions of lovers,
Shared in the same shy sweetness of meeting,
the distressful tears of farewell,
Old love but in shapes that renew and renew forever.

Today it is heaped at your feet, it has found its end in you
The love of all man’s days both past and forever:
Universal joy, universal sorrow, universal life.
The memories of all loves merging with this one love of ours –
And the songs of every poet past and forever.”
Rabindranath Tagore, Selected Poems

I insisted we get out today.

Last time we didn’t have the kiddos we spent the weekend at home working on the house. And the next week I was SUPER stressed out. I had to tell Matt again that trail/adventure time is how I relax. I couldn’t spend the day working. I’d already worked 6 days in a row. I needed a day off and I needed trail time.

He, being the most amazing loving man ever, obliged me a hike up No Thoroughfare today. It was crazy awesome.

The water was high and there was bright green mermaid hair growing in the lower canyon. We watched a frog swim in the first pool.

We hiked up, beyond the first waterfall and enjoyed a snack of peanut butter and jam sandwiches [we made the jam ourselves], then hiked down as a storm blew in.

By the time we were 50 feet past the waterfall on our way down we were being pummeled by hail.

The thunder was intimidating, and soon turned into massively huge water droplets. That didn’t stop us from a bit of exploring…

We ended up soaked, but happy.

I know you, dear reader, are probably so tired of hearing of how much we love each other….but we just can’t help it! We’ve waited our whole lives to find what we have and we wish this feeling on every single person in the world!

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.




no thoroughfare canyon petroglyphs in winter

Iced Is Twice as Nice: A Hike Up No Thoroughfare

“Mere color, unspoiled by meaning, and unallied with definite form, can speak to the soul in a thousand different ways. ”Oscar Wilde

It’s a snowstorm that covered nearly the entire country, so impactful they gave it a name: Helena.

When it hit Grand Junction it was relatively tame. Tamed by the mountains of Utah and the protective Bookcliffs, only to crash upon the Grand Mesa at its 11,000 feet to let loose any fury she had left.  The school where I teach was cancelled.

And that’s saying something here in Colorado.

Unfortunately, my own kids’ schools were only delayed.  So we had a nice leisurely morning, with big breakfasts and playing with kids, and after we deposited them into their educational repository, we hit Starbucks to use the last of my student-gifted gift cards and drive up the snow-packed road to the East Entrance of the Colorado National Monument.

 The ranger at the booth gave us the beta on Rim Rock Road: closed for plowing. After a bit of friendly verbal sparring, we headed to park at Devil’s Kitchen after we promised to return with condition updates from No Thoroughfare.

There’s a good reason we chose this canyon for snowy exploration. In the wintertime the walls tend to freeze into sheets of pillared ice, with the greatest pillar of all accessible by the non-death-wishing adventurer being the 100 ft tall seasonal waterfall inappropriately dubbed “The First Waterfall”, which in good ice years becomes a plinth of frozen creation tempting to all ice-climbing fiends.

[See it in prime climbing-form in an earlier post HERE] 

As we headed down the trail [realizing that snowshoes probably would have been appropriate at least on this section…the snow being 8-12 feet in dry-powdery depth], I got it in my head that now would be a good time to do some exploration.

Consider: we have many times explored this region near to the trailhead, but never the lower wash of No Thoroughfare that stretches between the Devil’s Kitchen trail and Echo Canyon/Old Gordon trail. It the fall it is filled with Cottonwoods, whose heights now laid bare looked more like empty arms of damned creatures raised to the sky begging for relief.

I had recently read THIS article about a nice petroglyph panel, hidden under the lee of a cliff wall, and decided that now was as good a time as any to find it, then hike up the wash prior to achieving the No Thoroughfare trail proper.

 And I’m glad we did! Once we found it [I have an instinctual knack for discovering things based solely on a description] we discovered it half-exposed, and half-concealed with snow. We were absolutely delighted!  Wouldn’t you be?

We vowed to return on a later date, both with children and the sun to melt the snow.

The lower wash was enchanting as it snaked us dangerously over boulder fields and between at least one tight-squeeze, carved by years of flash-flooding.

Once we reached the trail we were surprised to see a young couple just in front of us, headed the same direction as we were! I shan’t make the mistake again to assume we are the only hearty adventurers with a desire to explore unlikely areas at unlikely times.

We eventually overtook them and found that they were not entirely appropriately dressed or shod, and they didn’t seem to be carrying any water. Even though the temperature easily dropped to 20 or lower in the shade, when you’re clearing trail through shin-deep snow you get quite warm and lose a lot of fluids through sweat and evaporation.

In fact, at one point the combination of the frigid air and my breath caused a light frosting on the tips of my hair.

With Matt in the lead and I following in his steps, we made it to the “First Pool” without too much concern.

Then we saw the stairs.

They were almost entirely obscured by snow.

Nevertheless, we pressed onward, with the young couple following behind in our footsteps.  Between the Pool and the Waterfall there are several areas where there is no ‘trail’, per se. As flash floods from the seasonal monsoons re-shape the canyon annually, it becomes a matter of simply stepping where you won’t twist and ankle or fall down.

 I can’t begin to express how it took all my trail- and yoga-trained finesse not to fall at least every 200 meters.

Unfortunately, the girl behind me took many, many falls [they told me at one point that they were counting, and the count was up to 35].

The scenery was beyond lovely, with a bluebird day lighting up the cliffs, and the shadowy light of mid-winter creating high-contrasting images in every direction.

When we finally reached the “First Waterfall” we were disappointed to find it only 10% complete, compared to the version of it we saw last January.

My view of the ‘waterfall’ from the frozen pool below.

The snow pile obscuring the sign pointing to the unimproved trail that goes straight up the hill….

Not one to miss an opportunity for a new experience, I decided to wander out onto the ice of the pool and jump up and down. I’d never done that before.

Vertical pano Matt took of me standing on the frozen pool.

The other couple had turned quickly and were already headed back. They were very friendly and I slightly regret not being able to tell them about this website and find out more about them. I guess I like figuring out why they would do what we had just done… hmmm…..

Our trek down was a little more slippery than the trek up, and I must admit that at times I was concerned I would twist my ankle and be unable to extract myself from the canyon. The thought of having to call MCSARGT is horrifying because I’m pretty sure the father of my children would be one of the first to find me and once he realized it was me he would never let me live the embarrassment down. We’re cool like that. Ha ha ha!

[Seriously though, the SAR team is freakishly awesome and I’m super proud that he’s a volunteer. All of Mesa County should be proud of the work they do!]

To pass the time, and because I was extremely exhausted pre-hike from spending more than an hour attempting to clear our driveway of ice and snow this morning, I recounted some of the libretto from “Fiddler on the Roof” to Matt, who has never seen it.

Being a music teacher daughter of a music teacher and classically-trained vocalist, musicals were the bread-and-butter of movie selections in the home of my youth. How can I be expected to share a life with someone who hasn’t seen some of the greatest movies ever- and who has a degree in film?!

[In recompense, he did watch ‘Hello Dolly’ with me later that night. That’s true love right there.]

There seemed to be a few more footprints in the snow of the little critters that thrive in this canyon than there had been on our way up.

As I was taking note of one, a very large shadow crossed my field of vision.  I turned and spotted a red tailed hawk perched on a naked branch on the canyon rim, not 75 feet above me.

Matt turned and looked as well, and as we watched, the bird seemed to scoff at us and fly away. I was able to get a shot of him before he was out of sight.

 As we resumed our hike, I resumed my musing at the tracks in the snow, my eye following one set to a long-dead invasive species plant that seemed to have a little ball of fur protruding from it.

Upon closer inspection, it became clear: we had found the hawk’s quarry.

A tiny, nearly-frozen mouse, clinging to the branch, balled up to conceal its self.

We got closer. And closer. And Matt said, “I want to touch it.”

“Give it a try,” I replied.

So he did.

Eventually, we turned and looked back up the canyon, only to spy the hawk once again on the naked branch of a juniper tree, watching us.

We retreated several yards down the trail, but couldn’t resist standing to watch if the predator would indeed drop from the sky to partake of its prey.  If that petite mouse became a hawk’s petite treat, we didn’t witness it.

But we did make it back to the car, cold and wet and cheerful, but otherwise unscathed from this pristine canyon adventure that we won’t forget for some time to come.