Best of Blanding, part 1: Edge of the Cedars State Park
Once we found our Utah vacation throttled in the grip of a government shutdown, we decided to pull up stakes from our location near Capitol Reef and make the drive down around the Colorado River crossing at Hite, and thence back northward towards Blanding, where we planned to spend the afternoon taking in a couple of non-federally-administered attractions.
The drive achieved added (and unwelcome) drama thanks to a glitch in the electrical and/or sensor system in our rental Mazda CX-5, which suddenly began showing us how ALL the idiot lights could come on at once (brakes, airbags, engine light- you name it) – along with the speedometer suddenly ceasing to function altogether. A google search on this model Mazda done later that day indicated that this problem was not unheard of amongst vehicle owners.
After making planned stops at the entrances to both Capitol Reef Natl. Park and Natural Bridges Natl. Monument to photograph the “closed” signs, we motored into Blanding in time for a late lunch, then secured our room for the evening at the Stone Lizard Lodge.
(Proprietor Craig Simpson is a great source of knowledge about hidden sites of interest in the region, which adds considerably to the appeal of his motor court-era establishment.)
We got directions to Edge of the Cedars State Park and drove there not knowing what to expect – it’s off a residential road on the western edge of town, at the – um – EDGE of the gully defined by Westwater Creek.
Area artist and sculptor Joe Pachak has contributed numerous petroglyph-inspired figures to the area outside the park’s museum. Some are spooky – some are whimsical – all are striking and well chosen for the venue, as a way of showing what a contemporary artist can produce by drawing on ancient forms.
The museum itself houses an astonishing collection of pre-anglo pottery, baskets, points – even antique ears of corn excavated from historical sites.
Behind the museum – just a stone’s throw away from nearby suburban homes – sits an ancestral Puebloan ruin, complete with kiva. There’s a newly-fabricated ladder for visitors to use to descend into the darkened interior. It’s as if a paleo-Indian family just pulled up stakes and left the place for cushier digs – which is, perhaps, exactly what happened hundreds of years ago, pre-restoration.
The $5 entrance fee seems like peanuts compared to the insight one achieves into the lifestyle and artistry of these mysterious ancient cultures of the American Southwest.