The first adventure outing of mine during my solo stay in Cortez, Colorado was to Sheiks Canyon out in Cedar Mesa. Truthfully, this hike was a backup plan – decided upon at the very last moment. My original plans were to join a guided hike in the Needles District of Canyonlands, but a bad winter storm rolled through. I was staying in Monticello, and decided to hunker down the night before the hike in a warm hotel. When I woke up before dawn to head north on U.S. Highway 191, I found a line of semi trucks parked on slick and iced over roads. They were so icy that I almost spun out on control going only twenty or so miles per hour.

Remnants of green foliage at the bottom of the canyon

Many things seemed against me that Friday, as I had just left a two-month stay in Ouray the day before, only to drop off my things at my next lodging place in Cortez, and then head to Monticello for one chilly night. With the inclement weather, it felt like the universe was conspiring against me to miss this guided hike. Not wanting to give up, I waited in my car a bit to give the trucks some time to move. Five, and ten, and then fifteen minutes past without an inch of progress. My window to make it to the trailhead on time began to dwindle, so my best option was to turn around. Looking at Google Maps on my phone, I thought about potential hikes that could be reached by going south on the highway. This direction (thankfully) led to Cedar Mesa and Bears Ears, and I had one hike favorited in this region: Sheiks Canyon.

I am thankful that I had no issues traveling in this direction, as after the sun rose I started to see the winter wonderland of snow that had blanketed the region. I was atop Cedar Mesa, and the landscape in all direction was white in snow. I took out the drone for a quick moment to get some aerial views, and it was absolutely gorgeous seeing this region covered in snow; a stark contrast to the warmness I had witnessed the past Spring during a camping trip at Comb Wash. It was a lovely drive, and I passed not a soul on my way to the trailhead at Bullet Canyon. My spirits were still a bit dampened from having to bail on my original plans (and letting the park ranger who invited me down), and the absolutely frigid morning only annoyed me further. I wondered if I would be able to enjoy this in such cold weather, and I wish I had pushed those worries aside, as it was an amazing one.

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