alex pullen - cedar mesa, Utah

Sunday afternoon I drove out La Posta Road to my good buddies house. I’d been marinating in both passion and frustration for days. I knew I needed to get out of town. Like others here in Durango, the desert was screaming my name. I needed to feel the sun on my skin, breath in a deep blue sky and get lost in the red rock. The day prior, I called a half dozen friends asking around to find someone to go camping with. No success, and after going on three solo trips this year already, I wasn’t in quite the mood to brave the field alone.

So on Sunday afternoon, I cruised south of town for a cold brew and to vent off some steam with one of my best amigos. Some talk, and a few games of horse shoes next to the river, lead us back to the house where we began talking about dinner. Walking past the garden I told him how much I wanted to get out to the desert. He looked at me, glanced at the sun low in the horizon and says, “If I pack now, could we leave now?” Befuddled at first, by this awesome question I responded, “yeah…”

We arrived close to midnight, just west of Comb Ridge and unpacked our dusty gear. Enthusiastic and tired, we rolled out our sleeping bags by moonlight, laughing at our chosen good fortune. Waking well rested and well after sunrise the next morning, we began to tally the things we had forgotten to pack. No coffee. Yes, we had tea, but no containers of any sort to drink it out of. The stove and fuel, awesome… All of the essentials we there. Not bad for leaving town within an hour of deciding to. Some scrambled eggs, tortillas and guac. Boom… Breakfast has been served.

Alex Pullen Cedar Mesa Cliff dwellingMonday our work week began with the sun glaring at us through the fledgling cotton wood leaves. Making jokes about ditching work, and then realizing we’re both self employed… We embarked into the canyon on foot, grateful for the intensity and the warm rock walls.

Heading into the canyons of Cedar Mesa we conversed about the trials of winter, and our plans for spring. The blue sky and silence offered us everything we needed as we searched for dwellings in the pocketed cliffs. This part of the Colorado/Utah desert was more populated 800 years ago than it is today. It’s an honor to be a part of the vistas that our predecessors once gazed upon, and ponder the rich human story inseparable from the landscape of the Utah desert.  Following a sandy jeep trail we explored all the canyon had to offer, and took in the spring breeze.

Alex Pullen and James Mirabal - Cedar MesaThe second night we camped alone on the canyon edge. This was my comrade’s first time to Utah. I was unpacking gear at the truck and I heard him causing all kinds of a ruckus off in the distance. Hooting and hollering off the canyon edge… Laughing, I put out my half-cigarette and walk to the point where I find him and his guitar singing good good songs to the land.

Cedar Mesa, UT Alex PullenAbout a month ago the Durango Herald published a pertinent yet limp article on Cedar Mesa , “Is the Window to the Past Closing“. Ever since reading this I’ve been wanting to get back out there. It’s beautiful and rich country. I’d been out to Cedar Mesa and the surrounding BLM a few times, and yes, this article brings up a legitimate concern. This area is incredibly rich in cultural history.

Identifying ways to deal with more hikers and jeepers is definitely something to think about, and educating all recreationalists on ways to respect, not diminish the value of the bountiful and often subtle cultural sites. What is concerning is this article doesn’t mention that there is talk of issuing permits for oil and gas exploration. I have a feeling the trucks, road builders and drilling rigs, would be even less concerned with respecting this cultural hot spot. I say that, as usually these people are not there to appreciate the land, they are paid to get the job done, quickly.

Friends of Cedar Mesa, and other groups have apparently stalled the lease of these parcels as they have not been properly surveyed. “These parcels are located amidst one of the densest concentrations of cultural resources in Utah, if not the American Southwest.” –  states the Salt Lake Tribune.

cedar mesa-8824The value of these (and similar) areas is immense. Mesa Verde is the largest tourist attraction in Southwest Colorado (yup, beats the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad). Culture is a beautiful thing, and can vanish quickly, if not sought out and respected.

What’s the value and cost putting in the road infrastructure necessary to drilling in this area? The cost to the precious and finite water table? The benefit of making some quick cash, and the cost of permanently scaring the face of this public asset and communal heritage?

It’s unclear how the communities around Cedar Mesa will choose to vocalize themselves. As of now it’s an open and beautiful story in the process of being written.

Waking well rested Tuesday morning we left the desert intact, satisfied and sunburned. My compadre and I were in high spirits and grateful for this rough and gorgeous adventure.

For more information on Cedar Mesa or if you’d like to get involved contact the Friends of Cedar Mesa

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Check back again for more update’s by Alex. To see more of his work visit him at alexpullen.com