A couple of weeks ago, Steve’s column examined whether Bluff is actually in the middle of nowhere (or in the middle of everywhere). He quoted eminent authors like Wallace Stegner and Frank Waters who described our region as one of the most barren and isolated untamed lands in the world. This is a legitimate fact, since Bluff is three hours away from the nearest interstate highways or railway service. When visitors come into Twin Rocks Trading Post, we commonly ask what destinations they are between, because we recognize most of our 258 Bluffoon neighbors.
Well, now the question of Bluff’s standing in the Cosmo sphere has been resolved by the world’s leading authority on travel. BLUFF, AND THE NEIGHBORING BEARS EARS NATIONAL MONUMENT, ARE OFFICIALLY THE CENTER OF THE UNIVERSE. This designation comes from no one less than Fodor’s Travel Guides, the world’s most respected tour guide publication since its inception in 1936. Each year, Fodor chooses their “To Go” list of 52 exotic locations around the globe that travelers need to seek out and experience. Number One on the 2019 Fodor’s To Go list is . . . Bears Ears National Monument and the only town in the area, the hamlet of Bluff.
Fodor’s designation posits “Why It’s Wonderful” and points out the stunning sacred landscape harboring thousands of years of Native American history; the inky night skies in the Valley of the Gods; and the tens of thousands of prehistoric sites in the Monument area. It also has kind words for “[T]he handsome resort the Desert Rose Inn.” These are things Bluffoons take for granted and the world is beginning to discover.
The folks at Bluff Fort keep accurate counts of the number and origin of the visitors to their skillful reproduction of pioneer life in the Bears Ears region. In 2018, they welcomed 46,430 visitors of which 42% were foreigners. In July and August, foreign visitors outnumbered American, with the greatest number coming from France, Germany, Canada, and Italy. Those numbers can be expected to grow dramatically in the very near future.
The recent November 2018 edition of National Geographic Magazine is also bound to fan the flames of our newly found international reputation. They featured a 25-page cover story on “The Battle for the American West” focused on the Bears Ears controversy and displayed glorious images by photographer Aaron Huey. A fold-out night photo of the nearby Procession Panel petroglyphs, with a billion stars in the background, will certainly attract hordes of visitors in the next few seasons. Some of my old friends at National Geographic say that the magazine is retained in homes and offices for an average of five years. There are some people who actually believe it is against the law to throw out an old National Geographic issue.
About two and a half years ago, Susie and I were determined to move back to the Four Corners region we learned to love during our 10 years in Cortez, Colorado. After a fifteen-year interval back home in Louisville, Kentucky, to take care of aging parents, we were determined to return. Susie had worked at Twin Rocks, alongside Steve and Priscilla, more than twenty-five years ago designing weavings. After a brief discussion with Steve and Barry, we quit our jobs, sold our house, and packed up our estate and headed back to the Orange World of southern San Juan County, Utah.
. . . and little did we suspect we were actually moving to the Center of the Universe.