Monday, October 9, 2017

Southern Utah Jeeping, Mitchell Caverns, Mt. San Gorgonio (2002)

(February 22 to 23, 2002)

February 22, 2002 (Friday):

Andrew’s final campout as a Boy Scout (he turns 14 on Sunday and will go into the Teacher’s Quorum). We met at the Paxman’s and left about 5:00 p.m., up to Barstow, then out the I-40 to Essex Road, then northwest about 17 miles to the Providence Mountains. We arrived at our campground, at Mitchell Caverns, after 8:00 p.m., well after dark.

It took a long time to get the fire started, we had no kindling, only a large axe, and the best wood was damp. Andrew and I had foil dinners with cooked potatos and onion (mine was also heavy with garlic) and raw rib eye steak. We didn’t get it on the campfire, and that prematurely for lack of coals, until after 9:30. We finally did get them on and cooked and had a very good meal.

We put out a ground cloth in front of the Honda and slept under the stars. Andrew went to bed shortly after 10:00. I joined him about 11:00. We had no program and I did not attempt a blah story, it would have woken up our camping neighbors.

February 23, 2002 (Saturday):

We woke about 6:00 a.m. with a chorus of Jamison Sheffer and others singing America the Beautiful as the beautiful sunrise began in the eastern sky (my attempts to get them to be quiet were of no avail). Andrew and I had chocolate milk and Svenhard’s sweet rolls for breakfast. About 7:00 a.m., we decided to hike up to Crystal Spring, in a canyon above the ranger station. Andrew and Jamison primarily hiked together, but were also accompanied during part of the hike by D.J. and Josh Tallent.

We hiked a trail, starting near the ranger station at about 4,700 feet elevation, steadily up the canyon. Junipers began to appear and red rhyolite rock formations loomed above us. It was obvious water was in the canyon as the vegetation increased the further up we went. We ultimately crossed down into the canyon where the spring was. It was only a shallow, muddy pool, with a plastic hose going into it, which feeds water to the ranger station below. The ranger later said larger pools are down the canyon, but the stream mostly stays under ground.

The trail continued on the other side of the canyon and we followed it up, very spotty in places, until we reached a saddle over into the next canyon. Jamison and Andrew started to hike west higher onto the mountain and I hiked east up to the top of a spur overlooking the valley below, including the ranger station and our campground. A large red tailed hawk soared off of a dead tree as I reached the top, only about 20 feet from me. It was an incredible view.

The hike up to the saddle was full of cactus, much beavertail and barrel, often to the point of making it very difficult to find a path to walk. Lower on the mountain, an interesting type of cholla was everywhere, thicker than pencil cholla, also longer and with fewer branches, but not as thick as teddy bear and other cholla varieties. Toward the saddle, we discovered a barrel cactus that had been demolished by bighorn sheep, which had knocked off the top 3/4s to get to the water and meat inside. The surrounding area was full of black pellets and several areas that looked as though the bighorn sheep had wallowed in the dirt.

It was the kind of hiking I love, cross country with interesting vegetation. Someday I would love to go back and climb to the top of the Providence Mountains, which reach well over 7,000 feet in height.

We got to the campground about 9:20, in time for our 10:00 guided tour of Mitchell Caverns. Mitchell and his wife came to the area in the early 1930’s, shortly after losing their life savings and business after the stock market crash. They earned money by charging people a dollar for cave tours (shortly after Route 66 opened up about 17 miles to the south). The caves were originally used by Indians and the entrance of the first cave was black with soot from Indian fires.

In about 1969, the California State Park system dynamited a 100 foot tunnel to connect the two caves, Tecopa and _______. They also put in a nice trail to the caves, including cement walkways part of the way. These improvements have made the tours an hour or hour and a half, whereas they used to take ½ a day. The entrances are blocked by keyed gates.

The caves are basically dry, only in very wet years do drips come through the porous limestone to add to the stalactites and stalagmites within. There are some beautiful formations, but the caves are relatively small, particularly when compared to Timpanogas, Crystal, Lehman, Colossal and other caves we have visited. But, that aside, they are still spectacular and worth a visit.

We left shortly before noon, ate at In n’ Out Burgers in Barstow (I had a 5 x 5) and arrived home between 3:00 and 3:30 p.m.

(March 30 to April 2, 2002)

March 30, 2002 (Saturday):             (Soldier Summit, Price, Green River, West of Canyonlands)

We woke at Mom and Dad’s and had a nice breakfast prepared by Mom, of ham loaf, biscuits and orange juice. We stopped by Rachael’s apartment to pick up some camping items that were stored there and Sam and I took the Jeep and headed south, with Sam at the wheel.

We headed toward Soldier Summit, and purchased some buffalo jerky to snack on along the way. In the town of Price, we stopped at Albertson’s and purchased some food (grapefruit, apples, potato chips, water). Further, south, in Wellington, we purchased some scented candles, at Castle Country Candles, for Judy’s birthday.

In Green River, after obtaining directions at a gas station, we started down a dirt road which initially went toward the Green River airport. Then we turned left and headed south. Not too far south of town we found a side dirt road that went to the edge of the Green River.  We took it and stopped briefly to get out for a look. The country was very plain, but the Green River was very wide and impressive. We continued south, with the country continuing to be pretty unspectacular (flat with small shrubs). The road was dirt, but smooth and good. Not much for what one would consider an off-roading adventure.

We turned off to go to Horseshoe Canyon, a separate unit of Canyonlands National Park. However, all it was was a trailhead for a 12 mile roundtrip hike in to see some pictographs. Sam spotted some chukar partridge near an outhouse and I got out of the Jeep and took many pictures. It was only the second time I have had a good look at a chukar, the first being when we saw some cross the road in the White Mountains.

We decided to backtrack about five miles toward Green River to take an off-shoot dirt road to the east toward the Green River (which was not visible to us on the dirt road except on a couple of occasions early on, just below the town of Green River). At a red sandstone, hilly area, about four miles east, the road started to double back. Sam spotted a faint dirt road going down into the canyon. We got out and traced the route for about 30 yards and determined that the Jeep could make it, although I had some trepidation as we were far away from any help and a break-down would be very difficult to extract ourselves from. We put the Jeep into four-wheel low and slowly made our way down, me driving, Sam outside guiding me down the route, at times over sandstone with no trace of a road. The road eventually got better (more dirt and less rock) and we traveled several more miles before spotting a deeper canyon to our left (the east). Sam pointed me to a faint track through the low lying bushes which we followed for about a quarter mile (at dusk) to the edge of a steep canyon below. We scramble out onto a sandstone outcropping to look for a view of the Green River. The canyon below was impressively wide and deep, but we could see no evidence of the river. We threw down our blue tarp and sleeping bags, at some dinner, and settled down to rest at about 8:00 p.m.

March 31, 2002 (Sunday):               (Goblin Valley, Hanksville, Poison Spring Canyon, Dirty Devil River, North Hatch Canyon)

I woke up about 7:00 a.m. Sam was up much earlier, roaming around. He did not sleep well. We had an Easter church service sitting on a slab of sandstone not far from where we slept. Mom had given each of us a copy of an Easter talk she had given in sacrament meeting in her ward the week before. Dad raved about the talk, saying it was one of the best he’d ever heard. I read the talk as part of our service. It discussed the pre-existence through to the millennium and resurrection. I got teary when she gave several stories about Layne. I shared my testimony with Sam and got teary again. I have been very emotional since Rachael’s wedding.

Sam, following our track from the night before, got us out to the dirt road. We stopped and walked 100 yards or so to the rim of the canyon. Sam hiked to the top of a knob high above the canyon below, stood tall and stretched out his arms for a picture I was taking of him (one I knew would not make his mother happy). From this vantage point, we could see the Green River, several miles in the distance. Sam continued to drive, stopping at the sandstone portions of our route up to the main dirt road so that I could get out and take pictures of him driving. We got back to the main dirt road leading south of Green River and followed it south, until a turn-off to the Hans Flat Ranger Station (another 20 miles or so south), then west toward the paved SR 24. A number of miles before the paved road, we ran across a formation that was a precursor to the formations in Goblin Valley. Sam climbed up a weirdly sculpted rock formation with a much larger rock formation in the background. We took some pictures and continued on. The land was flat, without much interest, except for the occasional formation. We reached SR 24, turned right, and about 100 yards later turned left. We traveled for 12 miles, first west, then south, until we reached Goblin Valley State Park. We had no money and they would not take a Visa card. I offered the ranger buffalo jerkey and grapefruit, in kind. He showed mercy on us and told us he would let us in if we would send a check for $5.00 to the park office in Green River (on the way out, realizing I had a checkbook, I wrote the check and gave it to them). I visited Goblin Valley in the early 60’s with Dad when he took a group of scouts by bus to Southern Utah. This was before it became a state park, it was not designated so until August 24, 1964.  We drove to an observation point at the end of the road, parked, and hiked into the goblins. Sam immediately started climbing goblins, first the smaller ones and then ultimately the larger formations in the side of a mountain a quarter mile distant. I sat, waited and watched, glad he could enjoy himself. 

We left Goblin Valley the same way we arrived, to SR 24, then turned south toward Hanksville, 22 miles away. A mile north of Hanksville, near the Dirty Devil River, we stopped at a trading post to look around. The proprietor suggested a place for us to eat as well as a good dirt road to take with the Jeep. We drove to the Red Rock Restaurant in Hanksville (as previously recommended), connected to an RV camping ground, for lunch. We waited forever to get our food, and it was poor at best. I had a couple of pork chops and Sam had a hamburger and we both had milk shakes. After gassing up at a Phillip’s 66, we headed south 17 miles on SR 95 (just past the 17 mile marker) and turned east onto the Poison Spring Canyon (dirt) Road. The road was uninteresting for several miles, then entered a canyon which got more and more interesting: side canyons of sandstone, with interesting twists, and lush vegetation and trees. We hit water, small puddles at first, then more of what looked like a stream. We eventually hit an ominous looking section of mud about 50 yards long. It looked several feet deep and treacherous. I was concerned about getting stuck. Fortunately, we had the foresight to zip up our side windows before entering and punched it through. We took several large bumps and bounced around a lot, mud was flying everywhere. We emerged coated in a thick layer of mud. From there on out we viewed each section of water as an opportunity to wash mud of the Jeep. We hit the water fast and let the water cascade over the top of the Jeep. It did a good job of cleaning the front hood and windshield, but did little to remove the mud from our doors or the sides or back.

We found another section of heavy mud, although not as long. It was downhill. We punched it and hit a large bump which really jolted us, sending the cooler in the back seat flying. We eventually climbed up and out of the canyon, going up one steep section that concerned me some, then back down into the Dirty Devil River Gorge. At the Dirty Devil River we stopped and assessed our situation. The fellow who told us of the road indicated that the River was 16 miles in from SR 95. He cautioned us about getting up the opposite bank without a winch. He said conditions varied, but that the mud often got thick on the other side and would bog the Jeep in. He suggested we not cross unless someone else was nearby with a winch. I rolled up my pants and waded across the River. The Dirty Devil was not much more than knee depth, although it was wide, about 15 yards. The mud on the other side did not seem too bad to me, so I suggested Sam drive across, punching it in four wheel low, second gear, while I took pictures.  He did so, with a big splash, and came out successfully on the other side. That is one of the moments I was concerned: concerned about getting stuck so far from civilization and help (although we had passed quite a few vehicles and tent campers in Poison Spring Canyon on the way in). Sam continued to drive, switch backing a road up the other side of the Dirty Devil River Gorge. After awhile, the road got quite steep in sections, very narrow and with little between us and the River below. It was nerve-wracking being in the car without control of the steering wheel. I am very thankful we did not run into anyone coming the opposite direction. There are sections where passing would have been very scary and dangerous. We ultimately traveled south before heading west into North Hatch Canyon. We stopped to view the winding Dirty Devil River Gorge head south toward Lake Powell. The shadows of late afternoon were beginning to fall and the view was limited, but the view was still spectacular: a wild and unforgiving wilderness. North Hatch Canyon was not particularly interesting. The road undulated in and out of the gullies along the canyon wall like the coils of a snake. The views were interesting, but not spectacular. The exposure was not as great as in the Dirty Devil River Gorge, but there were spots where the drop-offs were significant. One section did provide a challenge. Sam went down and up a steep hill, lugging to a stop about three-fourths of the way up. I had him back down to the bottom, put it into four wheel low and attempt it again, this time successfully.

About 16 miles in past the Dirty Devil River (34 miles from SR 95) we camped on a saddle between two canyons under a large red knob. The last portion of the ride was while the sun set leaving the sandstone walls of the canyon a fantastic orange and yellow color. To get to the saddle, the road switch-backed up some extremely steep grades, with significant exposure. The very worst section was right before the lip of the saddle. Several large rocks and ruts provided excitement as we ground and bounced over them to the top. I was very concerned that we would lug to a stop and be forced to start again on a very steep grade, while below us was a significant cliff. However, four wheel low carried us admirably. We threw the blue tarp out on the flat ground near a juniper tree, laid out our sleeping bags, and went to sleep.

April 1, 2002 (Monday):       (Orange Cliffs, Colorado River Gorge, Hite, Bullfrog Bay, Capital Reef National Park, Waterpocket Fold, Escalante)

I woke up with a sore back, about 5:30 a.m. Sam took an early morning hike about half way up the red knob or chimney to the northeast. The rock was very loose and I worried about his footing, but he did fine. I hiked to the north along the west base of the knob, examining the interesting rock (and ultimately looking for a place to “see a man about a horse” in private). One section had very crumbly purple rock, the consistency of heavy clay or very soft rock (much like what was in Goblin Valley). The sandstone was very soft and was easy to break into pieces.

I started out driving initially, down the saddle into the next valley and towards the saddle on the other side of the valley. The road dipped and turned, following washes and up and over ridges. At the saddle on the other side of the valley, about three miles from where we camped, we found a sign identifying the area as Sunrise Summit. This was part of the Orange Cliffs as became readily apparent when we traveled further east and could look back and see the reddish/orange (depending upon the light) sandstone cliffs forming a spectacular backdrop that went north/south for miles. Two miles from Sunrise Summit we intersected the main north/south dirt road where a sign gave directions and mileage to various destinations. South led to Hite (about 35 miles) and north to the Maze Overlook (about 21 miles) and the Hans Flat Ranger Station (about 24 miles). The road also went straight ahead, but I don’t recall the destination or mileage.

We turned left (north), up and over another fairly serious ridge (with one steep section requiring four wheel low for some distance) and then followed a scary road which hugged a cliff overlooking a beautiful jumble of trees and rocks, probably 1,000 feet below. Several miles later we reached another sign indicating the Maze was 13 miles (our intended destination), making our travel 11 miles since the fork in the road. We traveled about another mile and Sam registered reservations about continuing on, fearful we would run out of gas and not be able to get back out. I had been going over our mileage and the gas situation in my mind all morning and felt we had plenty of gas to make it. We continued on about a mile and Sam registered the concern again. I stopped the Jeep, got out and wondered off, reviewing the mileage and gas factors in my mind, and considering the six gallon spare gas can we had full of gas. I knelt and said a word of prayer, letting Heavenly Father know I felt we were o.k. to continue on and asking for confirmation. I got the confirmation. I went back to the Jeep, got in and continued forward. We started going down a hairy looking road as Sam registered his concerns more forcefully. Without telling him about my prayer, and partially out of fear over what we were headed down, I turned around to go back and turned the driving over to Sam.

After re-tracing our route 11 miles back to the intersection and then continuing south toward Hite, we continued on until we left the Orange Cliffs area. We passed an area below a beautiful cliff, with multi-hued rock, juniper trees and other vegetation that made the area a nice photo shoot. We stopped and ate lunch (Lunchable Munchables purchased in Hanksville) while I took some pictures. Eventually, to our left (the east), we could see a deep canyon and a dirt road leading in that direction. I directed Sam to follow it and it took us to the edge of the canyon. From where we parked, we could not see the Colorado River, but hiking down some rocks to a lower ledge, we got a sliver of a view of the Colorado, thousands of feet below. This area of the Colorado is known as Cataract Canyon, which I believe has some formidable rapids for those traveling the river. It appeared to me that a trail led down to a ledge below which would provide an even better view of the river. I called up to Sam and indicated I was going to go lower. It looked like an easy trail was available. An easy trail did lead part way down, but then more ledges prevented an easy further descent. By this time Sam had joined me and traveled along the ledge looking for a spot to descend further. He went quite a ways to the southeast and ultimately found a way down through a ravine. He guided me over to where he had descended and I decided, at one point to turn back, the footing looked too tentative with loose gravel and the consequences of a fall at that point looked too grave. Sam looked further and guided me to another descent spot, not too far distant, which was much easier and safer. As I descended, I stepped on a loose rock which gave way under me and sent me sprawling on my side and rung my bell a little bit. I got a nasty bruise on my thigh which I felt for days. I eventually joined Sam and we walked to a ledge for which there truly was no descent, short of a suicide fall several thousand feet into the canyon below. We got a much better look at the Colorado, although ledges further down still partially obscured the view. The depth of the canyon was awe inspiring and humbling. We turned around and retraced our steps back up the ledges and to the Jeep, and then back up to the main dirt road. We continued south.

The country leveled out and got less interesting. The road was an easy dirt road with very little difficulty. Several large rock formations came into view that reminded me of Monument Valley, although not quite as spectacular. The road doubled back a significant distance to get around a large ravine and ultimately I spotted Lake Powell in the distance and the Hite Marina. I pointed it out to Sam, who was driving, and he said he had spotted it earlier and thought he was looking at a mirage. We ultimately got to SR 95 and turned left. Not too far distant we spotted a large suspension bridge over what turned out to be the Colorado River. We turned off the road right before the bridge and Sam hopped out of the Jeep, intent to find a way down to the water for a swim. About one-half to one mile past the bridge to the southwest, the Colorado River emptied into Lake Powell (this is the beginning or upper end of Lake Powell – my first time here, at least to the best of my recollection). Sam walked a quarter mile to a spot where he could reach the river. He discovered thick mud near the edge and yelled that it was “quicksand.” He got mud up most of the length of his legs and arms attempting to get to the river before he finally extracted himself and abandoned his attempt. He eventually made his way back to the Jeep, cleaned himself off somewhat, and we drove to Hite Marina where I got gas in the Jeep and bought some food. Sam headed off, cross country, to Lake Powell about, a half mile to three-fourths mile distant, to go swimming and wash himself off. I waited a long while for someone on the one payphone, outside the closed park ranger station, and finally got the chance to call Judy. She wasn’t in. I waited for Sam to come back and he did not arrive. I finally decided to head out to find him, although there were a myriad of cross country routes that led to the Lake, any one of which would lead to a different part of the shoreline. As I hiked, I had to decide on routes over and through ravines and up and over rocks. The futility of trying to find Sam in a short period of time became very apparent. I eventually gave up and started back. When I arrived at the Jeep, fortunately Sam was there (I would have been angry if he hadn’t as I was concerned about finding him).

We traveled north, northwest, up SR 95  to a junction with SR 276, well below Hanksville, then traveled south, southwest down SR 276 toward Bullfrog. About six miles outside Bullfrog, we stopped at the Horny Toad (a restaurant) for dinner. I had a six ounce rib eye steak and two eggs, over easy. The steak was actually rare, as requested, and was very tender. This was one of those nice surprise restaurants where the food is much better than anticipated. Sam had a hamburger with a weird, but good, kind of onion rings. I would go back to eat there again without hesitation. The drive in was quite spectacular, as the snowy Henry Mountains, with heights over 10,000 feet, loomed off in the near distance, in contrast to the red rock country we were driving through. We turned west, northwest, up SR 531, traveling past the upper reaches of Bullfrog Bay and up over Big Thompson Mesa. We hit a junction, which ended our paved road and was the start of a good, graded, dirt road. We turned left (west). We traveled north, northwest, and eventually entered Capital Reef National Park. The Waterpocket Fold, a large ridge of multi-hued rock (yellows, reds, whites), running the length of the park, loomed ahead. We passed a hike into a canyon that looked spectacular (maybe Secret Canyon?). Sam suggested we stop for the night and hike it in the morning. I should  have listened to him. Instead I wanted to see what was ahead. We eventually decided we had gone too far to turn back. At this point I started to think about how nice it would be to get a hotel room and take a bath and to sleep in a nice bed and not aggravate my sore back. My inclinations turned toward driving to Escalante for the night. The road switch-backed up the Waterpocket Fold. Unfortunately, it was dusk, and the full impact of the views and colors we were seeing was muted. However, the drive was spectacular, even somewhat scary in parts, because the road was narrow, very steep and had no guardrails or curbing. This was part of the Burr Trail. Dusk turned into night as we left Capital Reef National Park. The road began a steady ascent, through thick forests of juniper. Numerous large jack rabbits bounded off the road in front of us. Eventually, pine trees appeared and the road continued on and on, much longer than I anticipated, until we eventually reached Boulder. At Boulder, we turned left on SR 12 and eventually traveled the 28 miles to Escalante where we stayed at the Prospector Inn (the third year in a row we have stayed a night at the Prospector Inn over spring break). I settled in for a wonderful shower and then we the second half of the movie, Shenandoah, with Jimmy Stewart, on A&E, before going to bed.

April 2, 2002 (Tuesday):                  (Escalante, Hole-in-the-Rock)

The next morning we watched the first part of Shenandoah, until it reached the point we had started watching the night before. It was hokey, by today’s standards, but Sam absolutely loved it (for that reason). He said it was now one of his favorite movies. He particularly liked the platitudes which were a regular part of the dialogue (I noted, with interest, that Pres. Monson used a quote from Shenandoah in his talk in General Conference the next weekend). We checked out of the hotel and went to the Golden Loop Café for breakfast, also for the third year in a row (I had eggs, over easy, hash browns, pancakes and grapefruit juice). As usual the waitress was surly. A French family were the only other people in the café. We got gas at Amaco on the far east side of Escalante, then headed for the Hole-in-the-Rock road (several miles east of Escalante on SR 12), that goes southeast, roughly parallel to the Escalante River, until it reaches Lake Powell.

We have been part-way down the Hole-in-the-Rock road each of the past two years, as far as the Fortymile Ridge road (where we hiked through Crack-in-the-Wall into Coyote Gulch), 37.1 miles down the dirt road. Therefore, the first two-thirds of the road was over familiar territory. After Fortymile Ridge, in 1.7 miles, we passed Dance Hall Rock (where the Mormon pioneers of the San Juan Mission danced on sandstone rock while figuring out a way across the Colorado River in 1879 and 1880). In another 2.7 miles, we passed through Carcass Wash, named after the cattle that died trying to cross this chasm. At the bottom is a recently constructed (1993) sandstone monument with a bronze plaque, honoring the seven LDS Boy Scouts and six adult leaders that died on June 10, 1963 when the truck they were in lost its brakes and rolled backward down the embankment (making the name of Carcass Wash even more applicable and a little morbid).

The road started to get more difficult. We hit sections that were entirely over rutted sandstone, where the colors of silver and black (scraping metal and tires) were visible on the rock, a testament to the difficulty of the route and the clearance needed by the vehicle to make it.  Over one section (Sam was driving) the undercarriage of the Jeep scraped several times as we passed down over some rock (a vehicle had parked off to the side, the occupants electing to avoid the route and to walk the remainder of the way). Sam was getting tired of the driving and the bouncing. He was getting ornery and I was responding, impatiently, in kind. As we went up a section of sandstone, we encountered a large step/ledge in the rock road, partially filled in with medium sized rocks to reduce the clearance necessary to get up and over it. Sam refused to go further, exclaiming, “I’m not going up that thing.” I testily told him to get out of the drivers seat, got in myself, got the Jeep in four-wheel low, and slowly went up and over the ledge while Sam watched from outside the Jeep nearby. This completed the worst of the road, and several miles later we arrived at Hole-in-the-Rock, 57.5 miles down the dirt road according to Rudi Lambrechtse in “Hiking the Escalante,” although the Jeep odometer recorded a distance of 55.5 miles from Escalante, several of the miles of which are on paved SR 12.

Several people were at the top of Hole-in-the-Rock, contemplating a descent to Lake Powell below. At the beginning of the notch, many names were carved in the sandstone, some from the late 1800s. In the increasing heat of the day, Lake Powell beckoned to us from below. Sam took one look, his attitude immediately becoming more positive, and he started down. From the top, Lake Powell looks deceptively close. After descending over slick rock, negotiating loose boulders, moving through the cool shadows and into the hot sun, an appreciation for the difficulty of the route and the persistence of the pioneers gradually increases. We ran into an extended family of boaters from Arizona climbing up from Lake Powell. Sam beat me by quite a distance and I could see him checking out a jump from a large cliff over the lake. The built-up heat from the hike down overcame any concern about the cold lake water and Sam made a series of jumps into the water. I arrived at the bottom, sweating profusely. I was not dressed for a swim and mixed company would not allow less formal attire. I had to reduce the heat by taking off my boots and socks, rolling up my pants and wading into the water up to my thighs. I also splashed the cold lake water onto my face. After a half hour or so at the lake, we began the ascent up. Like the hike down, Sam quickly left me behind and went out of my sight. I stopped at regular intervals and admired my elevation gains. After what seemed like a very long time, I made it to the top to find Sam chasing after lizards. He continued this activity while I went to the Jeep, quickly drank down two cold sodas (Squirts) and a substantial amount of cold water.

On the drive back, we negotiated the rough, rock road with more confidence. Sam took pictures of the Jeep over some of the tough spots and we fairly flew over the dirt road back to the main road. It helped that several road graders had leveled out many of the washboard ruts that plagued us on the way down.

We had contemplated taking the Smoky Mountain Road from Escalante, down the Kaiparowits Plateau, to Big Water, outside Wahweap at the southwest end of Lake Powell. We didn’t have to be home until the next night. However, the Hole-in-the-Rock road had taken much longer than I anticipated and it was getting to be mid-afternoon. Sam suggested we drive home. I didn’t have to think about it too long before I agreed. I had a hankering to stop at Western Town (for the third year in a row) for dinner. We drove through Cannonville, Tropic, past Bryce Canyon National Park and out to the junction of Hwy 89. We were too early in the afternoon to justify a stop for dinner. Here I made a mistake (the result of going off the top of my head and not looking at a map). Instead of turning left and taking SR 14 over the mountains to Cedar City, I turned right to go to Panguitch where we got gas. Then we took SR 143 over the mountains, past Brian Head, to the I-15 at Parowan. I did not fully realize my error until we passed the turnoff for Cedar Breaks National Monument, which looked much different than the turnoff I remembered from previous trips. This set us back at least 20 minutes, possibly longer. We never did stop to eat. We got gas and called Judy from a gas station near the Oasis in Mesquite (just a few days before my Uncle Stan would take his own life in a trailer park behind the Oasis). We arrived home in Redlands about 11:30 or midnight.

August 17, 2002 (Saturday):                        (San Gorgonio via Vivian Creek)

The Teacher’s Quorum met at our home at 5:00 a.m. to climb San Gorgonio. Al Sonne organized the hike and Craig Wright was another other adult that came along. The boys participating were Andrew, Brian Wright, Brent Wright, Jeff Paxman and David Paxman. We drove past Forest Falls to the end of the rode and started hiking about 6:00 a.m. The trail goes east up Millcreek Canyon, then left across the boulder strewn wash (Millcreek was dry) and then switch-backs steeply up the side of the mountain for a mile to Vivian Creek (which had some water). I led the way up to Vivian Creek and I felt pretty good. At Vivian Creek, Andrew and Brent went into the lead and we caught only glimpses of them occasionally. They stopped at Halfway Camp, 2.5 miles in, to get directions from us and took off again. At High Creek, 4.8 miles in, we took a good break. We had traveled almost 5 miles in under three hours. Following High Creek, we had 3 miles to reach the summit of San Gorgonio. As we began switch-backing up the side of the mountain, my thighs started to burn mightily and I started to run out of gas. The boys were all ahead, and I was behind with Craig and Al. As time went on, I began to lag behind even Al and Craig. We found the boys under a large tree at the top of the first ridge. After another good rest, we started again, this time up another hill, and then into a prolonged 45 degree haul, with little or no switch-backing, up to the Sky-High Trail.

Along this stretch I seriously considered quitting several times: telling Al and Craig that I would wait at High Creek. My thighs were so burning and tired, and the time was flying by so quickly that I felt I would be a drag to the group and end up making them wait for me at the bottom. I considered the impact of my quitting and what it might mean psychologically to myself and the boys and men: as for me, I had climbed San Gorgonio seven times previously, but it just did not seem right to quit so close to the summit. As for the others, I selfishly considered that they would devalue their opinion of me. I kept going.

We finally reached the summit at 12:20, 3 hours and 20 minutes past High Creek. It took us over an hour a mile over the last stretch. I dropped my pack near the summit register, while most of the boys parked among a ring of perimeter rocks about thirty yards from the summit. On the way up, Al asked me what the most difficult hike I’d ever done was. I described my climb of Mount Rainier six or seven years previous. At the summit, a fellow came up who had just climbed Rainier in July. He described his disappointment that it had been a mediocre climb, not anywhere as difficult as he had imagined. That burst my bubble, it shows that skill and physical conditioning are relative. He was way beyond anything I have ever been.

After a 30 minute rest, Al, Craig and I set off. Al told the boys to give us a 30 minute head start. With the rest, and the downhill, we set a very good pace. The boys did not catch up to us until we got to below the bottom of the 45 degree angle section (and they’d run to catch us). We rested at the same spot, under the same tree as on the way up, then mercifully cut the switch-backs down the last ridge to High Creek. It took us one and a half hours on the way down, less than half the time of the way up. We stopped where High Creek cascades in a water fall down a cliff (although it is now just a small trickle, nothing like what I have seen in the past). After a good long rest, we started out again, with a very good stride. On the way back, Al and I led the group most of the way. I was doing fine so long as we were not going up hill.

Fine, that is, until the last stretch of switchbacks down from Vivian Creek. It has been my un-doing in the past, and was again. I could feel my toes slamming against the toes of my tennis shoes on my left foot, and a blister sloshing against the sole of the shoe on the right side. My knees, particularly the left one, began to hurt significantly. We reached the car at 5:00 p.m., 11 hours after starting. It took us 6 hours and 20 minutes to summit and 4 hours and 10 minutes to get back down.

We stopped at A&W in Yucaipa on the way home and Al treated us each to a root beer or root beer float. At home I took off my tennis shoes and found my left big toe nail completely black with blood blisters underneath and some blood blisters above the nail where the nail had jammed into the toe (I popped the blisters with a needle later to relieve the pressure and got a fair amount of blood out). The underside of my right big toe was completely blistered. We cut the skin off and it left a large swathe of exposed red flesh. I took a long bath, soaking my sore muscles.

Andrew’s cross country training paid off. He kept a great pace, although he felt some knee pain as well. Fortunately, I weighed about 180 pounds, 40 pounds lighter than I was when I first started losing weight about three months ago, although I am currently out of shape. The weight loss is the only thing that gave me energy to keep going despite my poor shape.

This was Andrew’s second time to summit San Gorgonio (his first time was in 1997, five years earlier via Fish Creek). This was my eighth time to the top of San Gorgonio. My first trip up San Gorgonio was in 1991 with the Third Ward Teachers. We went up past Dollar Lake and turned back not too far short of the summit, due to a snow storm. Subsequently, I have summited three times from Vivian Creek, three times from Fish Creek and twice from Mount San Bernardino as part of our nine peak hikes. It was nice to get up it again. 

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