Friday, February 2, 2007

The Blue Springs Files a blogsite

Monthly Magazine- a missive of mirth, madness, and Mayhem

Staff: Penny Scholten, geologist and outdoorswoman;

Dr. Chris Oravec, English at heart;

Harold L. Overton- earth critic and scientist; and

Col. Glenn Wasson, a Robert Service devotee’

Webmaster: Bob Pielage

Bob assures us that he will assiduously post at least one new magazine monthly (and we believe him). Here is Number One:

Contents: 1. A true tale of suffering on the trail to the Little Colorado;

2. The Golden Gastrolith- an event from the Mother Lode (Glenn Wasson)

The Blue Springs Files (Halloween, 03)

It was an ominous and threatening day, when the notorious Black Bart and his sidekick Fang set out on their mission into the bowels of the Little Colorado Canyon, in quest of the fabulous Blue Springs. I use the word bowels lightly, since they had been forewarned of the hex that the Geology God had placed upon them- when a spread-eagled pack rat had been discovered just inches below the limp extremities of Fang, as he lowered himself over the usually commodious seat for his early morning toilet.

“No normal-sized white-throated rat could penetrate this air-tight hovel, especially to inspect the water of your flushing tank” ejaculated Bart, as he poked the rib cage of the giant rodent. “He must have been blown off course by the almost gale-force winds which threatened to cancel our carefully crafted plans,” he whined. Indeed, they had had an abundance of “signs” warning them that they were trying to violate not only the Navajo Hozho, but the sacred emissions of the very base of the Colorado Plateau. It looked grim at the very outset of the descent into the almost one kilometer depths of the initial Waterhole canyon, but the two wily navigators had decided to ignore all premonitions.

Just a day before this fateful decision, the two explorers had had an encounter with One-Eyed Eloise- whose very presence had signaled that the demons of discord were nipping at their ankles. They had made a wrong turn to the medieval castle, called Arcosanti, and had been diverted into an inner sanctum of the most dire circumstances; they had been eerily inducted into the cult of the stilted students of the sterilized studios of stone steps and stained stables- which had slyly drawn them into ancient cultic rites. It just coincidentally had been the very night of the expression of Hallow-of-the-evening ceremonies, when all sort of evil ghouls and spirits were exuding their influences, and the two naïve natives were caught off guard. The stupefacient students had subtly regaled them with ribald tales, and had appointed one of their own- One-Eyed-Eloise- to carefully and slyly involve Black Bart (the credulous) into her bosom of ancient arts.

But I digress!

The two stalwart hikers gazed awkwardly into the inner recesses of the 1500 foot deep slot canyon, which would take them over a tortuous trail of miniscule proportions into the depths of the Kaibab, Coconino, and Supai red beds, when Black Bart the credulous made his prophetic remark: “It looks like something happened here!” Fang grunted at this emission of philosophic revelation, and grimaced as he realized that this would be a day of unrivalled pain and foreboding forbearance.

The niggardly navigators had just wandered some 50 kilometers from the Indian headquarters, where they were supposed to arrange the final details of the trek with a certain Ms. Yazzie, only to find that she was closed on Fridays. Peering through the locked door glass, they could see a terse message hung on the cork bulletin board to the effect that the hikers into the Blue Springs area had to obtain recent warnings (which were on the reverse side of the message). But there was no sign that Ms. Yazzie or anyone else had been at the hut for several days. It was out-to-lunch, dinner, and breakfast as well!

Not to be outdone by such maneuverings, Fang muttered “No Indian bureaucracy is going to frustrate me- I can do that any day of the week all by myself! And so off they went, into the interstices of the reservation, where no road is marked, and only the insouciant native possesses a sense of location. Various trails and two track striations departed the main road, and not a Hogan or other dwelling could be seen for some 20 km- it was unlike any other Arizona location! A place had been picked to relegate the ancient Athapascan, where only he had the time and inclination to determine where in space he would pursue his fortunes. Others, such as the diffident duo, would have to be content with pursuing Fortune’s daughter (misfortune), to locate the incipient canyons of the famed Little Colorado.

The hallucinating hikers launched out on their trek, after carefully strapping on their 40 pound loads- not realizing that it would be an excruciatingly long time before they would see any sign of the comforts of Man again. But manfully, they strode off into the bowels, not fully appreciating that they would soon appear like the flagging packrat –haggard and wan, just before final expiration. Down into the depths they strode, each level becoming more precipitous. It had seemed innocuous at first, with only 20-30 degree slopes- along which there were the inevitable horse apple piles, but now they were face-to-face with a sheer cliff of almost 100 meters drop. A slight indentation in the vertical walls showed that there was a transition from the vertical Kaibab limestone, just above the underlying Toroweep sandstone. “This was a horse trail?” I whimpered with incredulity. The thing was only two foot wide, and tortuously followed a ledge down into the box canyon. There was no other way into the chasm! Facing the almost gale force wind blowing up canyon, the hikers were pinned against the cliff face- if they had tripped and fallen into the gorge, the wind would have levitated them upward. However, the 40 pound loads they bore acted to stanchion them onto the narrow trail, and they persevered.

Once into the box canyon, they were to encounter house-sized boulders, around which they would have to wend their way or surmount. This was exasperating- they would require 5 hours just to negotiate the chasm, just to reach the Little Colorado, which was only three miles distant! But with dogged determination, they placed one foot in front of the other, and amazingly they confronted only three of the accursed sheer cliffs over which they had to de-levitate. Almost ten pounds of water had been carried for drinking, and it was maddening to see pools of crystal-clear water along the creek bed from an evident recent rain.

Finally, they were almost to the Little Colorado, but no- there was another 30 meter drop into the main creek, without any visual path which could be followed to the sluggishly flowing river below. The only sign that anyone could negotiate the final cliff, was the occurrence of an ancient ruin, with smoked walls- indicating that ancient man had found a way. Feverishly the duo combed every inch of the ruin, only to discover that a house-sized slab of Supai rock had slid over the ancient path to the river. But wait- there was a crack under the rubble pile below the 100 ton boulder. Crawling like a reptile, Fang was able to emerge, as from a Sipapu, into a breathless path down to the river. He had made the first hurdle, on the way to the Blue Springs- but without his pack, which carried his camping gear for a subsequent night. Deterred by all of this additional mole-like activity, Bart hung back, exclaiming “You may think that you are a donkey, but for me this is a pain in the ass!” And with that he capitulated, withdrawing to the sanctuary of the ancient petroglyphs, where the faint flute-like sounds of the wind conjured visions of the ones who came before- the anasazi.

Upon reaching the Little Colorado, which flowed in two channels around numerous islands, Fang found that the conductivity of the water indicated a highly mineralized water- that of 4 ohm-meters, or greater than 1000 ppm of dissolved material. This was barely drinkable water, and had flowed somehow from the Supai and Coconino formations along the 15 miles, since it was seen at the town of Cameron, where there was a dry creek bed. The canyon had morphed from a small wide arroyo of about 20 meters depth to a greater than 500 meters deep major canyon in that short distance of 15 miles, and all of the water had to be augmented by springs. There must have been saturated CaSO4 (gypsum) in the water in the springs to get this large mineralization. These would not have been the coveted Blue Springs, but brown, iron-bearing, unpalatable, and muddy water!

Retracing his tracks to the anasazi ruin, the intrepid hydrologist found that Bart was intractable- he would not proceed on his belly like a reptile to attain the long-sought elixir from the notorious springs. He would ever remain unenlightened, just as he was, unwashed and de-spiritualized. He would not go on! Fang would have to act alone, to acquire whatever of value could be gleaned from this remote corner of the Colorado Plateau.

With a note of sadness, and since Fang could not carry his pack and other gear past the unyielding red stone, the mission was abandoned. The de-commissioned mission was left to the mysterious winds which forever haunt the lonely canyons, and the disillusioned duo returned to the comforts of the white man.

Harold L. Overton


Many tall tales are told, in the old Mother Lode

From the pens of Bret Harte and Mark Twain;

To this treasure of lore upon us bestowed

Is another I’ll attempt to explain.

One Boisterous nignt in the Murphy’s Hotel

As the patrons lined up at the bar,

An event took place too dubious to tell-

Twas unseemly, quite gross and bizarre.

A miner walked in with an envious grin,

Ordering drinks for the roistering crowd.

The bar settled down to let him begin

Which he did with a manner quite proud.

From out of his pocket, a nugget he’d panned

Was placed where everyone saw

To be fondled and hefted in each heavy hand,

An object of envy and awe.

As the drinkers inquired where the miner had dug it,

A patron slipped it into his beer-

Thinking, “I’ll have me that nugget, I’ll just chug-a-lug it”

And with a gulp made the piece disappear.


The barroom was stunned, but the miner was cool;

From out of his belt came a knife-

He said “Cough up the nugget, you guzzling fool,

If you want to enjoy further life”.

The swallower coughed and inhaled, but utterly failed

To force a timely regurgence.

So they slapped him in jail without any bail,

To wait for the nugget’s emergence.

A three day transition from mouth to emission

Is a well-known medical fact,

Or so it is said by the local physician,

Of a normal intestinal tract.

But three days passed by and filed to expel

And this measurably heightened the tension.

A watch was put on to the prisoner’s cell,

Now the focus of growing attention.

I cannot unveil in graphic detail

The nugget’s final appearance;

Decorum in poetry must prevail,

Lest we offend its cultured adherents.

But it came to pass on the seventh day

When the guard heard the prisoner shout

“Unlock my cell, I’m on my way

That damnable nugget came out!”

The authorities gathered to examine the stool,

A procedure I could not recommend;

Not the normal discovery of Gold as a rule-

But all‘s well that comes out in the End.

Glenn Wasson