Saturday, May 29, 2021

Unexpected discoveries and changed plans

(This post was written earlier in the week, but I was out of cell range. Then Blogger said there was trouble posting the photos. Then I was out of cell range again. Life.)

On the map, the stretch of US-95 between Hanksville and Hite Crossing looks like just another stretch of desolate Utah. No one had told me otherwise. Man, was I surprised! Miles of tall, sheer red sandstone cliffs. Exactly the kind of scenery I love.

The story goes that back in the 1930s a rancher borrowed a bulldozer from the government and started turning the old animal/foot/horse/wagon trail through North Wash into a proper road. The government finally took over the project and the highway was finished in 1976, earning it the name Bicentennial Highway. (Back then they were naming all sorts of things in honor of the Bicentennial.)

I saw a picnic area ahead—Hog Springs—and pulled in so I could enjoy my surroundings longer. Oh, what’s this? A trail up the canyon? Let me see what this is about. Curiosity turned into an impromptu hour long hike. And muddy sneakers, because the bottom of the canyon is marshy in spots, fed by the eponymous springs. I imagine this was the type of place the Southwest Basketmaker peoples got the reeds for their baskets.

I continued on to Hite Overlook and, okay, a sweeping view from a cliff edge, Colorado River below, but it didn’t speak to me.

Natural Bridges National Monument was my goal. I had been there before but only saw it from the ridge. This time I would hike into the canyon.

But first there was a 20-minute road construction delay. I was first in line and got thinking about the woman holding the stop sign. Unlike others assigned this duty, she didn’t have a cooler, radio, walkie-talkie, chair or anything else. It was just her and her sign, and a small water bottle in the pocket of her safety vest, on the side of the road. At least it was overcast instead of horrible summer heat. I wondered what she thought about while standing there alone. How boring the job was? How well or poorly she was getting paid to do it? Was she thinking about friends and family? Humming to herself? Doing complex math in her head? When the pilot car finally arrived, another sign holder got out of the passenger seat and traded places. Ah, okay, it’s not as dismal as it could be.

I had decided I’d stay at the Natural Bridges campground if a spot were available, or develop Plan B if it weren’t. But plan B—or whatever comes before Plan A—presented itself almost immediately after turning off the highway. Oh, a road up to Bears Ears National Monument. With dispersed camping spots. Excellent!

That night I realized Memorial Day Weekend was impending. Aw crap, crowds. I also realized my supplies were too low to stay put. Hmmmm… Hike then go to Blanding for supplies, or Blanding then hike. The second option meant backtracking, which part of me hates doing. I decided on Blanding first. Then I could check out the ruins along Comb Ridge before returning to Natural Bridges.

So here I am, in the parking lot of a fairly nice grocery, writing this post. I figure I’ll do laundry while I’m in town, maybe even wash the Rolling Steel Tent.


  1. Ah, yes. The things one might as well do while in town. Mine was often eat pizza then put the leftover pizza in the fridge to eat over the next couple of days. That's a type of grocery shopping, right?

  2. I'm surprised that I never told you about that drive on highway 95 that's called the Bicentennial Highway. It is truly stunning.

  3. ... I miss the Bicentennial... Billy beer...peanut farming...inflation