Even though this part of our trip was a little off of the beaten path and perhaps just a bit disappointing, (compared to all the other things we had done) it was still kind of fun... at least for my part of the story. As the signs tell you as you approach to site, “The Navajo Nation cordially welcomes you to one of our most unique landmarks - The Four Corners.”
The fun part of this is that this is the only place in the United States where four states intersect at one point: Arizona, New Mexico, Utah and Colorado. This location is very remote as you will experience when visiting it. It seems like the only access to this place via road is controlled by one of the tribes and you have to pay on a per person basis to even keep going down the road to where the Four-Corners Monument is placed. The surrounding area around the monument itself seemed a little like a native American carnival or street fair to me. But… maybe I am just being a little cynical here?
The original marker was erected here in 1912 and was a simple cement pad, but has since been redone in granite and brass which you can see in the pictures. The Visitor Center is open year round, and features a Demonstration Center with Navajo artisans. Navajo vendors also sell handmade jewelry, crafts and traditional Navajo foods nearby. In fact there are people selling stuff all around here and the purchases can be from Navajo Tacos to Turquoise Jewelry and Ice Cream Bars. To me the commercialism here was just a little sad.
Picnic tables and self-contained restrooms were available. But overall, both services and accommodations around the Four Corners area are very limited to small cafes, grocery stores and self-service gasoline stations within a 30 mile radius of the Four Corners; but having looked at a map before venturing off there, I made sure I wouldn't really need any of those things while we were there.
If you ever visit there, I’d recommend that you have plenty of water, food, snacks, hand wipes and extra toiletries when visiting. The area is very remote, no running water, no real electricity, no telephones etc.
In fact the nearest Gas Stations are in: Teec Nos Pos, AZ - Shiprock, NM - Cortez, CO - Mexican Water, AZ - Bluff, UT.
Even though Teec Nos Pos, Az. is the nearest community (approx. 6 miles away). But as we left this Four Corners area (in the exact opposite way in which we had gotten there), the next big thing I saw was this huge rock extrusion which to me looked like a gigantic rocket ship out in the middle of “Nowhere Desert” (my description of the area) not really it’s name.
As we traveled closer to it and our angle of approach changed, it looked more like a sailing ship than it did like the rocket ship I had initially compared it to. It seemed a little hazy that day so I apologize for the shot here, but it was the best I could come up with at the time.
Guess what? This geographic feature is called (of all things) Shiprock! And the closest town to Shiprock is also called Shiprock, New Mexico. The town is located in northwestern part of the state of New Mexico, but it not really around the geographic feature. It (Sailrock the rock) was actually several miles from the city of Sailrock, but you could see it (the rock) for several miles after yolu could no longer see the city.
The Shiprock (the rock) feature itself is a most impressive example of a volcanic neck, or a central feeder pipe found anywhere around there. It is actually the remnant of an eruption around 30 million years ago (give or take a few days here or there) during the Oligocene era and it is actually the basalt core of an extinct volcano.
Near the main peak, you can see small pinnacles, the remains of smaller auxiliary volcanic vents. When the magma solidifies before ever reaching the surface, it is referred to as a "diatreme". The local Navajos consider it sacred, being a main character in their folklore. They call it Tse Bitai, meaning "the winged rock". Which, I suppose may be one reason the town is not very close to the Rock. It could be hallowed ground to the Indians?
The central part of Shiprock is visible from many miles away, and it is roughly 1,640 feet in diameter. Stretching almost 2,000 feet into the sky above the surrounding terrain, Shiprock is part of both the Navajo and Chuska volcanic fields in northeastern Arizona and northwestern New Mexico, extending north into Utah and Colorado. It is also within the boundaries of the vast Colorado Plateau, known (of course) as the Four-Corners area.This region of extinct volcanic features covers approximately 20,000 square km of this area.
Shiprock (both the city and the rock feature) were an unknown entity to us as we travelled away from the Four-Corners area, so it was kind of nice to see it and to learn all about it too. And, even though our side trip to the Four-Corners was less than I had expected, it was nice to get to make a fool of myself and have four bodily extremities in four different states (at the exact same time) and to be able to tell about it afterwards.
P.S. That cross is in Groom, Texas 40 miles East of Amarillo (off of I-40) and really should have been in the Route 66 post but I forgot it. It is actually over 150 feet tall. It was put up by a religious group in 1995 and can be seen for miles in any direction. It is made out of stainless steel.“Ancient Rome declined because it had a Senate, now what's going to happen to us with both a House and a Senate?”
~ Will Rogers