The most fascinating understudied place in the world

by Ryan Collins
Elvis Presley’s “Blue Christmas” played on the radio. The lyrics came on slow with the scalding hot coffee. I sat, staring at the map of Indian Creek I had bought a few months ago that is pinned on my wall.
“I’ll have a Blue Christmas without you
I’ll be so blue just thinking about you
Decorations of red on a green Christmas tree
Won’t be the same dear, if you’re not here with me
And when those blue snowflakes start falling
That’s when those blue memories start calling
You’ll be doin’ all right, with your Christmas of white
But I’ll have a blue, blue blue blue Christmas
You’ll be doin’ all right, with your Christmas of white
But I’ll have a blue, blue Christmas”

And to the end of the song, the decision was made. I loaded up at once, took a picture of the map on my wall and drove up 191, headed to Indian Creek. I passed the Home of the Truth and thought to myself that it really doesn’t look all that old. I meandered beyond Newspaper Rock where there was the daily congestion of people coming to try their hand at deciphering the enigmatic panel, even on Christmas day.
I kept going, guided by a sense of wonderment and unfamiliarity with Indian Creek. I’ve been told many stories about the place and all the amazing things that are within the northern unit of the newly rescinded monument. I’ve heard all the national and state news about Bears Ears of course and have read the literature and all this--but me myself--I had no prior physical knowledge of the place other than one prior visit to Newspaper Rock the day I interviewed with Bill Boyle in late September.
I wanted to throw myself at the land and see where I washed up. The pure vastness of the canyon and the beauty of the rocks compelled me forward with a sense of excitement and exploration that I haven’t felt at a national park or monument since I was a young kid.
I came to a place and pulled to the side of the road. I made my way past the tall cottonwoods and through the willows and wandered along the creekbed. I gazed down at the ground intently, looking for a glimpse of arrowheads that may want to show themselves to me after thousands of years of hiding just beneath the surface.
I came to a creek bed that had been carved out by thousands of years of annual water flow. I paused and enjoyed the sun, which had December warmth pouring forth. The birds in the willows caroled while I enjoyed a small lunch. When it was time to leave the place, I loaded my backpack on my shoulders and went in the direction of the rock faces. There were giant boulders that had cascaded down from the Slickrock over time.
I spotted what looked like writing on the face of a giant boulder at the beginning of the ascent to the cliffs. As I got closer I noticed that it was a petroglyph circled by recent desecration along with the initials of two individuals. I stared at it awhile, aghast and deflated in humanity momentarily. I looked around for other telltale signs. There was a spot a few yards away from the desecration where it appeared the culprits had practiced prior to their ignorant deed. It was an American tragedy.
After spending some time contemplating the act, I headed south on the valley floor, along with the peripheral of where the most daring boulders had made their way. I had one discovery after another.
I came across a panel with hundreds of petroglyphs from what appeared to be several different civilizations. It looked as if only the cows had intimate knowledge of this place that holds such unknown wisdom. The double waves festooned throughout the ancient art held a common theme during the sojourn as I marveled at things I will never fully comprehend, but will never stop trying to.
In all, I spent the better part of Christmas 2018 exploring the surface of Indian Creek and it certainly was not a blue Christmas.

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

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