Tuesday, October 1
We awoke early on the morning of October 1. Hoping that the federal shutdown drama had been an unpleasant dream and that everything was ok, I checked the news websites. But nope, it was real - the US federal government had shut down and only a few essential services were still open. All National Parks - CLOSED. We went up to the campground entrance, where a National Park Service employee was busy replacing the "Possible Closure" sign with a "Federal Government Shutdown" sign. Sigh.
Signs of a shutdown
We had gotten up early on the chance that we'd still be able to start out on our exciting descent of Orderville Canyon, but it was now fairly clear that that would not come to pass. We briefly toyed with idea of defiantly doing the canyon anyway, but after a bit of thought realized the difficulties were too hard to surmount: the end point of the Orderville Canyon descent was at the Temple of Sinawava, far down at the end of the shuttle-access-only Zion Canyon Road. Clearly the shuttles wouldn't be running today, so if we showed up after a long day of canyoneering at that point, we'd be stranded. We would have to walk all the distance down Zion Canyon on foot. Assuming that we didn't get stopped and ticketed for violating the park closure.
So, that was it. No Zion canyoneering for us. Foiled by politics, we were. Permits and politics.
The question now was, what were we going to do? Our carefully-laid plans had completely unravelled. We weren't sure how seriously or strictly the park closure rules would be enforced. In the heat of the moment, officials may say one thing but the actual on-the-ground situation may be different.
Zion is a highly-managed, very busy park. We decided that it would be in our best interest to go somewhere that was less busy and less managed. Our original schedule had us transferring over to the Escalante region in a couple of days, and we thought that we perhaps should just go there immediately. The Escalante area, part of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, is a large and very loosely managed area. Much less visitation, hardly any actual trails. Just big lands, wild country. Probably our best shot if we were going to find a federal land area in which we could actually do some recreating.
So, we packed up our stuff and off we went. Fortunately, scenic UT-9 through Zion was still open, allowing us to use the shortest route eastwards. Despite what I had seen quoted of Zion's superintendent the day before, no enforcement officials jumped out from behind bushes and arrested us when we stopped to take a few scenic pictures before leaving the park boundaries.
Once out of Zion, we headed north on highway 89, the principle route the connects the Zion area with points east (such as Bryce Canyon and the Escalante). Along the way, we stopped and made phone contact with work colleague Chris Hatko. He and his family were also in the desert southwest vacationing, and we had made tentative plans to meet up in Zion later in the week (in fact, he and his wife were possibly going to join us on our descent of The Subway).
After briefly confirming with Chris that all of this disruption meant that we would no longer be meeting with him, we continued on. Soon we turned east onto UT-12, a very scenic highway that leads past and through all sorts of beautiful central Colorado Plateau scenery, heading towards the Escalante.