Off the beaten path in San Juan

by Buckley Jensen

I recently shared my experience as a Boy Scout in Monticello. My Scoutmasters planted the seeds for my love affair with San Juan County.

Memories of youthful camping trips and explorations have become some of the strongest fetters that bind me to this land today.

Kent Frost, San Juan’s famous guide and explorer, once told me that one could spend a lifetime exploring the hidden places in this county and never see them all. Mr. Frost has spent a lifetime doing just that. He freely admits that he would need another lifetime or two to finish the job.

As a 16-year old teenager, I decided I wanted to see as much of San Juan as I could. I purchased a war-surplus Willy’s Jeep at Hays Brothers Buick in Salt Lake. It wouldn’t run and I had to tow it home from Salt Lake in l960.

I spent a year rebuilding the engine and making it “Elephant Hill” worthy. I painted it bright yellow and named it “Ol’ Yeller”.

Real fun was loading up my dog Slater and, with friends who also had jeeps, heading out in the San Juan wilderness, sometimes for days at a time. In those days, uranium prospectors built roads everywhere. We had a maze of jeep trails to explore. Most of those old roads do not exist today.

Jeepin’ in my teen years kept me out of trouble, away from girls (well, sorta) and instilled a love of this area that will never die. I am grateful that my youth was filled with adventure instead of electronic paraphernalia.

Along the way, I developed a love for photography. For many years, I used a Leica M3 camera, which was the Rolls Royce of 35mm cameras. I have recently forsaken the old ways and gone digital.

Anyway, to get to the point, my wife and I are introducing a new series next week based on our future adventures in San Juan County. This series, like “The Giants of San Juan”, will appear intermittently as space and demand allow. I am grateful for the opportunity.

Wise men say the best way to be happy in life is to figure out what it is you love most and then learn how to make a living at it. I pretty much finished the “making a living” part of my life, but for sure this off-the-beaten-path stuff is more fun than most of what I did for 45 years earning daily bread.

My hope is that this series will reflect the feelings Marcia and I have for San Juan County. Marcia is basically a city slicker, but she is fast becoming converted to country life generally, and country life in San Juan in particular.

As an excellent writer, she is aboard as the co-producer and co-writer. Join us in this adventure, together we will increase our knowledge and love for this magnificent land.

I will share the lifetime of experience I have had here in San Juan and Marcia will share her insights from the perspective of a transplanted city girl.

Thanks for tagging along as we take you “Off the Beaten Path” in magnificent San Juan County.

San Juan Record

49 South Main St
PO Box 879
Monticello, UT 84535

Phone: 435.587.2277
Fax: 435.587.3377
Open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday