2021: Year in Review

It’s time for Rick Bell’s sixth annual Year in Review, and 2021 has been a year to remember (or try to forget).

My first career was as a news photographer, and I like to keep a camera handy to record things worth shooting.

This year I’ve focused on subjects in Bluff, the Trading Post, and some handsome critters. Here are my favorite shots, month by month.

January: On an unusually overcast and dreary day in late January, a ray of sunshine came through the door and brightened the trading post. This sparkling little cutie went straight to a jewelry case and seemed delighted by what she saw. A future customer?

February: Peggy Black brought in a beautiful large butterfly basket, and we stepped outside to take a shot of her with the work.

We have become so used to wearing our masks, I took several exposures before realizing she was still wearing her face covering.

Bluff has had a mask mandate since the beginning of the pandemic, and what was rare before has now become routine.

March: In the early spring, someone painted the garage behind the San Juan River Kitchen, and Main Street took on an unexpected color scheme.

The brilliant yellow screen and trim explodes off the pink-purple concrete blocks.

As you drive west on Highway 191, you cannot fail to see the new and most original chromatic addition to old Bluff City.

April: Most of these photos were taken on the grounds of Twin Rocks Trading Post, with our side porch above the post as a favorite vantage point.

From the porch, April’s full moon was setting on the horizon when wispy clouds began to rise up to meet the bright light in the sky.

May: On a late May afternoon, the sunset behind the Navajo Twins was painted in gentle shades of blues, pinks, and yellows.

To see that the two giant monuments do not actually touch, it is necessary to go to our backyard.

Every day we watch tourists drive up and lower their windows and shoot the Twins from their car. With a little extra effort and patience, much more powerful images of the monuments are possible.

June: Every year, Priscilla cares for the pots of fountain grass which line the front porch of the post and café. In the late afternoon, the plants are backlighted by the setting sun, producing a line of beautiful white and pink plumes.

July: Twins are pretty important around here, but none are more special than Priscilla’s granddaughters, Lalania and Kaiyra. Lalania says she is taller because she was born one minute before her sister. Both have the deepest dimples I have ever seen.

August: For weeks during the summer of 2021, heavy smoke from the California wildfires settled into our valley, obscuring the normally crystal-clear sky.

The setting sun, viewed through the smoke, looks like a Japanese woodcut in muted grays, blacks, and orange.

September: One Sunday afternoon, I looked out into the parking lot and saw a truck carrying a large steel cage. Going over to see what it contained, I was thrilled to see this magnificent Churro sheep ram.

These sheep, introduced by early Spanish explorers, provided the long silky wool used to create the early Chief blankets.

October: After a powerful all-night rainstorm, the rising sun reveals a beautiful rainbow and lights the rim of the distant western bluffs. Monsoons in the fall brought desperately needed moisture to the area to help fill the San Juan River and stock ponds.

November: Frances, our café’s general manager, cooked up a grand Thanksgiving meal for staff and friends, where we got to spend time with Russy Spencer.

Russy, who calls himself the “Navajo Elvis,” is a great character and master storyteller.

December: Zippy and Spot, our salt-n-pepper pair of female kittens, moved into the apartment a couple years ago and made themselves at home.

Susie spends a great deal of her time feeding them, two ancient feral cats, and lots of birds in the backyard.

Although the kittens have been provided with heated condos, they seem to enjoy the indoor life more.

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