Saturday, 25 May 2013

Off Road Adventure

When I read about Coal Mine Canyon on Tripadvisor, I knew I would like to see it and that it might not be easy to find but I didn't bank on a real off road adventure.  A blog site I came across gave us the GPS coordinates for the canyon and told us that it was off Hwy 264 approximately 16.4 miles south of Tuba City.  Then another post said it was much more than 16 miles.  The blog site also had a map of this location.  All this information didn't prepare us for the fact that there were absolutely no signs to tell us which dirt road to take off the highway to get to the canyon.  That stretch of highway was on Navajo reservation land and there were fences beside the highway.  So we looked for a break in the fence quite a bit after the 16 mile point and took our chances.  (For those of you who thought you might try this, the coordinates for the entrance to the dirt road are N35.98621 W911.00059)

It was a little adventurous for us, especially when we didn't know whose land we were on, if we were on the right track or headed in the right direction.  Several times we thought of turning back but we didn't.  The dirt road just went on and on and we came to a point where the track climbed steeply and then dropped - we couldn't really see beyond the top of the hill until we got over it and could very well had dropped down a cliff.   But our sense of adventure egged us on.  We were also lucky we didn't fall off the edge.  We found ourselves at the top of a hill and looking down, canyon land stretched out ahead to the horizon, but no other hint of civilization.

This was an encouraging view and there were other car tracks.  So we kept going and figured it would be safe to follow other tracks that went to the edge of the canyon.  Even then, we played it safe.  We were conscious of the fact that if anything happened to us, we may never be found!  We parked our SUV, rented specifically for this purpose, and walked over to the canyon edge.  See that speck in the distance at 2 o'clock in the picture below?  That's the car.

But what a breathtaking view it was!  All the way to the horizon, not a soul in sight!  It was all ours to look at.  We felt at once the vastness of the land and how small we really were.  It was like we were on another planet.  According to hikers, you could hike into the canyon but there were no real trails, you just followed whatever looked possible.  We were not brave enough for that - imagine falling and breaking a leg or two!  There was no cell phone service - how would one even call for help?

These hoodoos reminded me of Bryce Canyon except these seemed more spread out and had different colours on different layers of rocks.  

It was called Coal Mine Canyon for a very good reason - there were large amounts of coal in the canyon, and you could see the coal seams right here (picture below).

Interesting skirt like formations

It was late afternoon when we got there - you could see the different light effect on the canyon walls.  When we got into our car and drove to another part of the canyon that caught the low rays of the sun, the walls showed a different colour.  Pretty spectacular!

We could see the light fading even as we turned around for more pictures...

So it was time to go back up the hill that we came down -

Probably no big deal for the young, but it was for us an exciting off road adventure - great to do this sort of thing once in a while to keep our nerves in shape...

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