UTAH/COLORADO/ARIZONA/NEW MEXICO — For a place as well connected as this, it does require some work to get here.
The fabled Four Corners, with the exception of a few very remote ranches, is not on the way to, or from, anywhere. There is no direct route from Utah. You have to drive through Colorado or Arizona to get to the entrance, which is in New Mexico.
And once you finally arrive, you're greeted by a sign in front of the monument that reads: DEAD END.
But, still, there's nowhere else in America that you can place a body part in four states all at the same time.
And, as an added bonus, you're also in the Navajo Nation, the massive Native American reservation that has jurisdiction over the area and runs the Four Corners Monument Tribal Park.
The park's $3 entrance fee covers a lot of territory.
So people find their way here, even in the dead of winter, and soak in the remoteness, along with maybe a Navajo taco or some fry bread at the concession trailer.
And most days, you'll get a friendly Ya'at'eeh — hello in Navajo — from Alice Toney and her daughter, Katherine.
The Toneys man a couple of souvenir booths on the northwestern, or Utah, side of the park. Daily, they back their car up to the booth, raise the trunk, and set up their displays of bracelets, charms, necklaces, pins and other jewelry that they make by hand at their homestead, a ranch located outside Montezuma Creek, Utah.
Alice has made the 37-mile commute to the Four Corners since the 1970s.
"It takes me three states to get here," she says. She pulls out of her driveway in Utah, shoots down U.S. Highway 191 into Arizona and than takes U.S. Highway 160 across to New Mexico.
The scenery never varies, but the clientele is ever-changing. Says Alice, "We come every day, and every day we meet new people."
Alice's mother, also named Alice, started bringing the family artwork here in 1966 when she retired. The family tradition has carried on ever since. There's no telling how many tourists in how many countries around the world have a turquoise/silver authentic Toney family Navajo heirloom tucked away in their jewelry box.
The Toneys' booths are part of a new brick-and-stone structure that has the official Four Corners intersection surrounded. It's a far cry, they'll tell you, from the days when Grandma Alice first started coming to the Four Corners and all they did was lower the tailgate on the pickup and sold from there. Later, they hung their wares over guardrails.
The monument was only recently remodeled to its modern state, although there's still no running water or electricity. (But, yes, you can charge those four-corner earrings. Alice runs credit cards through her cellphone.)
In the summer, Alice says the booths on all four sides are typically up and running. Today, only a handful are open for business. On the Utah side, it's just the Toneys.
More booths are open on the opposite side of the square. That's the New Mexico side, the side where visitors enter the park — and New Mexico artisans get to display their wares.
It's only 150 feet away, but even here where all states come together, location is everything.2 comments on this story
Alice smiles a patient smile, the kind of patient smile you'd expect from someone who has been coming to the middle of everywhere and the middle of nowhere almost every day for the last 40 years.
"That's OK," she shrugs as she watches tourists walk through the gate and linger on the New Mexico side. "They'll be over eventually. The good things are over here."
Lee Benson's About Utah column runs Monday and Friday.