In Edward Abbey’s classic Desert Solitaire, about his experiences as a seasonal park ranger in then-Arches National Monument (now National Park) in the 1960s, he replied to visitors incensed at having to drive back out the same way they came in, saying “It looks better going the other way”.
Maybe it does and maybe it doesn’t. But the more time you spend somewhere the more you will notice, that’s for sure.
And soon after my most recent post “Hanksville to Hite”, I got another opportunity to drive the other way. From Hite to Hanksville. As always I enjoyed it.
Hite is where the Ranger Station is in Glen Canyon National Recreation Area. The very upper end of what had been Lake Powell. Now the lake is low enough that the Colorado River at Hite is free flowing again. Maybe always will be.
There is no open Visitor Center at Hite anymore. You might catch the National Park Service law enforcement ranger there, but probably not. He will usually be out patrolling his region of the park.
There is a convenience store there, open in the summer, and gas pumps open year around. If the pump isn’t hung up with no one there to reset it. I have seen that happen.
Hite is named for Cass Hite, a legendary explorer, prospector, and mining claims promoter who lived in, loved the area, and died there. The townsite named after him is beneath the waters of Lake Powell, even today. So is his grave, I believe, at Ticaboo.
Speaking of Edward Abbey, if you’ve read his novel The Monkey Wrench Gang, it’s all situated in this area. Smack dab right here, including the climax of the book. When I first read it, so long ago, I had no idea of where this locale was. Not like I do now.
I recently had to re-read the book after a visitor came in and asked: “Which site in your campground (in Natural Bridges) did Hayduke stay at?” I had to admit that I didn’t know. The answer: it doesn’t give a site number in the novel. Besides, it wasn’t just George Hayduke, it was all four members of the gang.
So Edward Abbey’s hilarious, violent, shocking, thought provoking, extremist story of eco-saboteurs (I am not a proponent of such) was on my mind even more on this drive.
The Gang was protesting the seemingly unbridled commercial development of the desert wilderness in general, and Glen Canyon in particular. They tried to stop the completion of Highway 95 from Blanding to the Colorado River. They tried to take out two of the three bridges crossing the canyon (at White Canyon, and on the other side of the Colorado River at the Dirty Devil River). But the law was closing in fast and they tried to make their escape up into the Maze district of Canyonlands National Park, one of the most rugged areas of desert canyon country on earth.
Highway 95 was completed (in reality) to Glen Canyon. A lot of vacationers, especially boaters, enjoyed the new marina facilities at Hite. For some decades. But then the projections of how much water the Colorado River really can provide turned out to be a pipe dream. The lake lowered and lowered. The Hite Marina was removed, and the area became almost as lonely as when Cass Hite lived there in the horse and buggy days. You might say things have come rather full circle. At least significantly so.
Highway 95 is still one of the most lonely areas in the state of Utah. Severe and stark, almost bare landscapes devoid of all but a few low growing shrubs once in a while. Wide open skies. Red rock canyons and deep blue skies. The snow capped peaks of the Henry Mountains to the northwest.
Utah canyon country. Abbey country.
Photo location: Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, southeast Utah.
© Copyright 2016 Stephen J. Krieg