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Southwest Sampler: The Lost and Hungry Scouts

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© Andrew Gulliford
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Near Christmas in 1879 lost and hungry Mormon scouts tried to find a way across the sandstone canyons of the Bears Ears region to get to the San Juan River to start a new town and settlement. George Hobbs, one of the scouts, spent a cold night without food in this Ancestral Puebloan ruin that now bears his name.

Southwest Sampler debuts this week on Four Corners Edition as a new regular series. It features the audio essays of Andrew Gulliford, author and professor of history and environmental studies at Fort Lewis College.

With Southwest Sampler, Gulliford presents original works about the history, landscape, culture, and people of the American Southwest.

It actually marks a return of Southwest Sampler to KSUT. We aired some of Gulliford's essays under that name in 2016 and 2017.

This essay, "The Lost and Hungry Scouts: A Mormon Christmas Tale," is set in the Utah canyon country near the Bear's Ears during the cold holiday season of 1879.


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On a cold winter day Mule Canyon looks like a formidable adversary to any kind of travel by horse or wagon. Settlers from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints had to find a way through these Cedar Mesa canyons to arrive at the San Juan River.

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Scout George Hobbs had been to Montezuma Creek and the San Juan River once before, so he knew the importance of the Abajo or Blue Mountains as a local landmark. As he climbed up and out of the pinyons and junipers on Cedar Mesa and he could see the Abajos he knew generally where he was and where to lead the Mormon settlers.

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Salvation or Christmas Knoll on U.S. highway 95 west of Blanding, Utah has interpretive panels along the highway and a trail to the top. Climbing this knoll Mormon scout George Hobbs could see the Abajo Mountains and Comb Ridge stretching south to the San Juan River. After being lost for days, he now understood his location, hence the name Salvation Knoll.

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