Disappearing Into the Canyons
Just over an hour after first being spotted by Officer Claxton, at 10:25 a.m., the suspects were seen together for the final time by Hovenweep National Monument Superintendent Art Hutchinson as they sped by the park’s entrance. Hutchinson had been monitoring police radio transmissions. Being aware that the suspects may be heading towards Hovenweep, he had decided to close the entrance gates out of concern for his visitors. The trio fired approximately 30 rounds at Hutchinson as they passed by him at the entrance to Hovenweep. Hutchinson was not injured as the trio sped by, destined for an isolated, little-visited piece of wilderness known as Cross Canyon where they would ditch their stolen flatbed truck and set out on foot.
The exact sequence of events after the trio passed Hovenweep National Monument can only be surmised. After firing at Hutchinson the trio raced north on Pleasantview Road for about 2 ½ miles, to the turnoff onto Cross Canyon Road. Turning west onto Cross Canyon Road, the way is straight and fast for another ¾ of a mile, at which point you are forced to slow down for a series of switchbacks that drop you into the canyon about 400 feet below.
Once through the switchbacks and down in the canyon, Cross Canyon Road, during the summer at least, is well maintained and navigable. It is possible to cover the distance to West Cross Canyon Pond from Hovenweep National Monument, about 5 ½ miles, in about 17 minutes, especially if a person is familiar with the road and the necessary driving techniques under such conditions.
The photo above shows the "swinging bridge", east of Bluff, where Mason was spotted and eventually killed himself on 04 June, 1998. This is about 50 miles from where the trio abandoned the stolen flatbed truck in Cross Canyon. Mason's tracks were followed back up Montezuma Creek and into Cross Canyon. The bridge is no longer in place as of the spring of 2007.
The estimated 17 minute drive time from Hovenweep to West Cross Canyon Pond assumes they drove full speed. This estimate is based on the average of three timed runs from the entrance of Hovenweep to the drainage at West Cross Canyon Pond. All three test drives were done during mid-day, on hot, dry summer days. The runs were driven quickly, but safely and were begun from a dead stop. Assuming that the fugitives knew the road well, and knowing that they sped past the entrance to Hovenweep at full speed, it is likely that their drive time was much faster than the average seventeen minutes it took during the author’s various test drives.
From the time they fired on Hutchinson at 10:25 until the truck was located by San Juan County Deputies at 1 p.m., 2 hours and 35 minutes had elapsed. Subtract from the elapsed time the 17 minutes drive time and the fugitives had a 2 hour and 18 minute lead after abandoning the flatbed truck that allowed them to elude the largest and most extensive manhunt in the history of the Four Corners Region.
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Page 1- Introduction-
Page 2- The Crime- The Sequence of Events
Page 3- Disappearance
Page 4- The High Desert of the Colorado Plateau
Page 5- The Area Mapped by the Fugitives