Our “hiking around the government shutdown” vacation had been going wonderfully. We had enjoyed near perfect weather for five days of hiking (see previous posts). Then, on the sixth day, we awoke to the loudest and longest rumble of thunder I think I had ever heard. It was still pitch black outside our Cortez, Colorado hotel room and pouring rain.
The weather forecast was not encouraging—it was going to be an ugly morning. The thunder and lightning let up, but it was still pouring rain when we left Cortez and hit highway 491 northwest toward Monticello, Utah. We turned south on highway 191 and headed toward Blanding. Soon, the temperature dropped to near freezing and the rain was falling as slush.
It was clear our activities for the day would revolve around the storm. Fortunately, I always have a backup plan. At Blanding, we pulled into Edge of the Cedars State Park where we spent the morning observing ancient artifacts. I could have stayed in there all day—their Anasazi collection was remarkable.
We left Blanding late in the morning and started our trip NW toward Hanksville on UT-95. Just before the roadside Mule Canyon Ruins stop on Cedar Mesa, we pulled off on a side road and parked the Pilot. We then made the short hike out to Tower Ruins. There were several towers in varying stages of decay as well as some ruins tucked into an alcove below the canyon rim. This was a very scenic location at the head of an impressive Cedar Mesa canyon.
By the time we reached the upper stretches of Lake Powell, it was partly sunny and there was some nice light on the rocks above the bridge over the Colorado River. I took the opportunity to get some shots and stretch the legs a bit.
We then continued up 95, stopping at a couple more Lake Powell overlooks. At the entrance to one of the side roads, there was a cement barrier blocking half the road with a sign saying the area was closed due to the government shutdown. I appreciated the graffiti here—“We the People” and “This land is MY land, this land is YOUR land” had been added to the barrier. Since they had only blocked half the road, I felt zero guilt when I drove past the barricade and up to the viewpoint.
Colorado River flowing into Lake Powell
Our next stop was the Hog Springs Rest Area where we hiked part of the trail up canyon to get some shots of the red rock and fall colors. I also managed to find a nice area pictograph panel that had been on my bucket list.
We ended the day with burgers and shakes at Stan’s in Hanksville. In our hotel that evening, we learned that the governor of Utah was close to signing a deal for the state of Utah to pay the federal government to open the parks back up. The shutdown was having a crippling effect on the southern Utah economy which is highly dependent on the National Parks and Monuments. Our plans for the following day depended on the outcome of the evening’s negotiations.