Thanksgiving Weekend | Cedar Mesa Chronicles: Chapter 2
Thursday – Sunday, November 26-29, 2020
This year for Thanksgiving we were originally thinking about changing up our typical plans and spending the long holiday weekend in northern New Mexico instead. However, with the pandemic essentially shutting down travel into New Mexico right now we decided it would be best for us to stay in southern Utah and return to Cedar Mesa like we usually do. While we would normally get a hotel room in Blanding for this annual trip, we were not really comfortable staying at a hotel this time around, so we decided to pack up our warmest gear and camp the entire weekend.
It’s been over a decade since I last visited The Citadel, and to be honest, that ruin has gotten so popular since then I really had no desire to return. However, I still wanted Diane to be able to see it at least once, so last year we had planned to hike out to it on Thanksgiving Day, thinking that it would be one of the least popular days of the year for people to hike it. Unfortunately, we never got to test that theory since a winter storm changed those plans for us. Since we never got the opportunity last year, I figured we would try again this year, even though I suspected there would probably be more people around with the way COVID has affected outdoor crowds this year.
We were in no hurry to get an early start on Thursday since I wanted to hike to The Citadel in the late afternoon to catch the sunset while we were there, so we slept in a little later and then left after breakfast. After making it up onto Cedar Mesa we first stopped by Natural Bridges National Monument to see if we would be able to find a campsite there. We have camped at Natural Bridges for Thanksgiving before, and the last time there was only one other occupied site in the campground. This time we set up in the only available campsite that was left when we arrived! Besides the campground being busier this time around, I guess you also now have to pay for campsites here in the off-season- the last time it was free camping during the winter. After getting camp set up for the weekend we hopped back in the Jeep and drove over to the trailhead for The Citadel.
When we arrived at the trailhead for The Citadel there were a couple vehicles parked in the area. It appeared that some were just camping and some were already out hiking. As we hiked out to the ruins we passed two groups coming back and then didn’t see anyone else the rest of the evening. Although it was overcast when we first reached the ruins, we stuck around and the sun did come back out in time for a beautiful sunset! It was a perfect way to spend our Thanksgiving together!
After spending our Thanksgiving at The Citadel we then spent the rest of the long weekend exploring other parts of Cedar Mesa. Temperatures during the day were excellent for hiking, but we did have to deal with the long cold nights at camp, but I think it was worth it. Enjoy the following photos taken during the rest of our weekend spent exploring Cedar Mesa In the Shadows of the Bears Ears!
This is such a great petroglyph panel!
Yellow Rock Ruin
While exploring a couple shallow alcoves, I came across this old kettle and coffee tin.
The roof of Box Ruin was in really good shape.
I don’t see this too often, but this wall has some very interesting design elements.
There’s even an impression of a corn cob.
I think this might be the largest petroglyph of an atlatl I have ever seen!
Navajo Rocks Ruin
We saw some really nice petroglyphs this weekend!
This is a ruin I’ve been trying to find for a while, and was happy to finally come across it.
It’s tucked away at the back of this alcove which also contains a nice arch. It appears there used to be a wall built up in the opening of the arch that has since fallen.
It has a very nice T-shaped door.
Looking inside it appears that this may have been a square kiva, which are common in this area.
Ruin In The Sun
A great view of Comb Ridge from the edge of Cedar Mesa.
We almost missed this petroglyph panel as we walked right by it. It was much harder to see when it was in direct sunlight.
This was our home for the weekend. Campsite #4 at Natural Bridges National Monument.
These are probably the best petroglyphs we saw all weekend!
While pictographs of hands are very common, petroglyphs of hands are not, and there were a bunch of them right here.
I climbed up to an alcove because I thought I had spotted some ruins inside, but all I found was some cool tafoni.
A lichen-covered design.
Tower At the Edge
These ruins were constructed with a mud mortar that is whiter than we usually see.
I like the little paw print in this petroglyph panel.
The following six photos were all taken in the same area and show petroglyphs where the creator utilized natural features in the rock as part of the final image. We thought this was really unusual and cool.