Bluff, Utah is a fun small town, perfectly situated for exploring SE Utah. The Cottonwood Steakhouse was a big draw for us road weary travelers. The outdoor sitting was unbeatable - huge cottonwood, western décor, country music & hummingbirds! We have had better steaks, but never better pie & the atmosphere was splendid. Hovenweep National Monument was our first destination. It is part of a series of Pueblo ruins that run from Utah to Colorado. People began settling here about 700 AD. They became expert stone crafters & around 1200 began building larger settlement groups around canyon water sources. We loved viewing the ruins up close & had lots of fun chatting with a very informative ranger whose job of the day was watching a cooper hawk nest! Driving anywhere in Utah involves great distances through the open range. If you are unfamiliar with the public lands, it is truly amazing. Cattle & horse wandering near the roads really gives it a wild west feel! Sunday was going to be a slow day but…..one thing lead to another. We started out to Edge of Cedars in Blanding, then decided to head another 30 miles to Natural Bridges National Monument. Along the way, we enjoyed another stop at Mule Canyon to view more Pueblo ruins. This one had a reconstructed kiva which was cool. Guess what else was along the road? The now famously controversial Bears Ears!!!! Who could resist? The sign said Bears Ears was just 6 miles so we headed up the mt. Little did we know that those six miles traversed a one lane dirt tract built by the CCC up 2000 feet on the side of a cliff. Once started, it was impossible to turn around. Imagine blind curves with a sheer washed out edges. Edward thought it more harrowing than any road we have every been on. It was beautiful but neither of us could appreciate the dramatic valley vistas. It was too intense! Finally, we made it to the beautiful alpine valley at the base of the ears where we revived ourselves with a picnic. Gracious, there is no need to worry about protecting this part of the world. It is too hard to reach! Having talked with lots of locals, this is a very complicated issue. San Juan county has been protecting Bears Ears for decades & wants to continue the job. Locals think it will be in the courts for decades, but meanwhile, the ears will stay the same. The descent didn’t seem quite as dangerous & we did not meet any oncoming traffic. We were both pretty happy to see the asphalt. Natural Bridges was designated Utah’s first national monument in 1908 by my favorite president, Teddy Roosevelt. Bridges differ from arches in that they were carved by flowing water that meanders around, eroding the rock from both sides. Arches are formed mainly by frost action & seeping moisture. The Sipapu Bridge is one of the largest in the world- 220 ft high & 268 ft long. That is nearly as long as a football field! At one of the overlooks, we noticed a group of motorcyclists with Argentina plates! We had to ask. They drove from Argentina to Columbia where they shipped their bikes to Cancun to continue their bike trip. Their final destination is Alaska! Wow, what a road trip! The world is full of adventurers & we love hearing other people’s stories. We ended our stay in Bluff by touring Fort Bluff, a reconstruction of the Mormon settlement in the 1880’s. It was an amazing story. In 1880, 258 Mormon pioneers (120 were children) began a 250 mile journey that would take them six months to complete, surviving impossible odds. Their biggest obstacle was the Hole in the Wall trail. The men spent five months hacking a passageway that remains the most preserved wagon road in the West. Many of the most challenging sites along the trail are virtually untouched from the path they cut & blasted from the stone. By the time they reached the valley at Bluff, neither they nor the poor horses could go any further. The Mormons are great with history & the homes of the original wagon party are filled with heirlooms & furniture from the individual families. We were quite impressed with the journey & the settlement!