The Year in Review: 2019: It’s time again to present our annual feature, Rick Bell’s Year in Review, for your viewing pleasure. This year’s focus is on our namesake and logo, the Twin Rocks, which happen to be our closest neighbor. Living above the Trading Post, Susie and I watch the Rocks from early morning until late at night, and the great stone pillars seem to change with the weather, seasons, and lighting conditions. Here’s a collection from the last twelve months under the Twin Rocks.
Bluff’s International Balloon Festival occurs every January, and it is just around the corner again. From January 17 through 19, 2020, we will see more than twenty balloon crews in town for the 22nd Annual Festival. Many of the balloons are inflated in the Twin Rocks Trading Post parking lot and drift over our trademark stone sentinels.
Anytime during the year, we see things fly around the Twin Rocks. They are usually the ravens that inhabit our world, but sometimes an annoying clone will buzz around for a while. A pilot in his powered parachute circled and circled last February in the clear winter air.
Most visitors to the trading post view the Twin Rocks’ east face from the parking lot and café. A short three-minute walk around the monuments reveal a lovely little box canyon and an entirely different view, the west side of the Twin Rocks. The narrow gap separating the great stone pillars, only about 18 inches apart at the bottom, is clearly visible.
Popcorn clouds provide a lacy backdrop for the Twin Rocks. The time of day and season dictates the visual effect, dramatic whether in sunshine or shadow. April in Bluff brings wonderful weather and many more visitors to the area. There is perhaps no place in the Four Corners that inspires as many selfies as the Twin Rocks.
If you approach directly from the south, only one Twin is visible, giving the impression that is all there is. When you move a few yards east or west, the second Twin emerges out of hiding from behind the first. We typically see several cars a day stop on the south side and take photos of the seemingly solitary Twin.
We have very few flowering plants in the area, but there is a nice little blossoming tree in the backyard come summer. It seems that nobody around here can identify the little tree, not even Priscilla. For a few months each year, we get to enjoy its bright white blossoms outside our bedroom window.
In Bluff when we have clouds in the late afternoon, we get some pretty glorious sunsets. Depending upon the atmospheric conditions, the colors can range from pale pink to spectacular swirls of dark purple and red. The best place to view sunsets is from the Bluff Cemetery, located high above town, but a close second is right behind the Twin Rocks Trading Post and Café.
In most years, August brings the annual monsoons coming up from the southwest. Dramatic dark-cloud banks rise from the west and provide an unusual backdrop for the Twins. To the Navajo people, the Twin Rocks represent the feathered prayer sticks, called k’eet’a’an, placed there by the Holy People to bless the Hero Twins, “Monster Slayer” and “Child Born for Water.”
An unusual early morning rainbow arrived just as dawn began to illuminate the tips of the Twin Rocks. Bluff averages only about 6 inches of moisture a year with most of it arriving during the monsoon season. In 2019, only .02 inches of rain fell during the “rainy season,” but fortunately the skies have opened up lately, and we have exceeded our normal annual rainfall.
The Twin Rocks were formed by layers of compacted Summerville Formation shale, capped by a harder layer of Bluff Sandstone, forming stratified tiers of stone. This entire area was a vast inland sea during the Late Jurassic period, more than 150 million years ago. As the waters receded, great layers of sand were deposited and solidified. Later, hard-limestone caps formed and prevented the layers beneath it from eroding as millenniums of wind sculpted the monuments.
When November arrives, the days grow shorter and the direction of the sun moves decidedly to the south. For a brief few minutes each morning, only one of the great monuments catches the rising sun, creating the unusual view of one Twin in brilliant sunshine and the other in deep shadow.
Heavy snowfalls are relatively rare here, but Christmas night saw a light dusting. Every season is different, and the low winter sun paints its own subdued portrait of the Navajo Holy Twins in our side yard. Either in the brightest direct sunlight, or the soft silvery light of evening, the Twin Rocks are constant companions and silent next-door neighbors.
It would be remiss not to report a conversation that is repeated daily here at the Trading Post during tourist season. Several times a day, some variation of this conversation takes place:
Visitor: “Aren’t you worried?”
Rick: “Worried about what?”
Visitor: “Worried about those rocks falling down.”
Rick: “No. I figure if they fall, there’s a 50-50 chance they fall in the opposite direction.”
Susie: “And if they do fall this way, we won’t even know it. They can just place a nice bronze plaque on the rubble which says, ‘Here Lies . . . ’”