March 5, 2023
Mud season is just about upon us as our weather has shifted from cold snow storms to warm days of melting over the past week. This all brings us to what I hear is called mud season. Wikipedia says that this term is usually used most commonly in the Great Lakes region and in northern New England, but I don’t recall hearing it often in Massachusetts. Perhaps because most of the places I inhabited there were paved. The mud is no joke so if you live in a place that celebrates this season, think twice before traveling on a dirt road. Respect the mud. That evil temptress will suck you in and put up a fight to let you go.
Here is our story about how we learned to respect the mud and travel warnings on our dirt roads here. Our friend Elbert Baez came out here while on his southwestern road trip vacation. Elbert is a very skilled photographer. We met him a few years ago when we started attending photography meet-ups with the Creative Collaborative out of Rhode Island. He has been traveling lately for the purpose of taking excellent photos. His last last trip was to Iceland and his photos are remarkable. Before this he went to Machu Picchu. Soon he will be posting photos from this trip including his 20 mile hike in the Grand Canyon which he did all in one day. This guy has amazing determination to do difficult things that offer great reward. You can check out his work on Instagram. Looking at his work produces feelings of awe and makes you want to visit all of the magical places that he goes. Thank you Elbert for being a wonderful human who captures this beauty to share with others. Here is Elbert, a super cool guy.
He was only here for a couple of days at the end of his trip and we were determined to try to show him some sights. Of course, the weather had other plans. We awoke early to try to capture a stunning sunrise. It almost looked like it was going to be glorious, but dark clouds prevented us from seeing much color. Here you can see a little red peeking out at us in the distance.
We drove him out on Burr Trail road until it turned to dirt at the back entrance to Capitol Reef National Park and then we smartly turned around. We were able to show him the wrinkle in the earth that is the waterpocket fold in Capitol Reef.
Our plan after this was to stop in town for refreshments and then bring him to Devil’s Garden down Hole in the Rock road and maybe other places depending on how our experience was on that road. However, driving back from Boulder Luke had the inspiration to try Hell’s Backbone road. I agreed that it was worth trying and off we went. About a quarter mile past the sign warning us that the road was impassable we had some doubts. At that point we didn’t see any other tire tracks and we noticed that the snow was getting deeper as the road began to climb the mountain. We decided we should be smart and turn around so we didn’t end up stuck too far up the mountain where the road gets cliffy. If we had reversed and stayed in our tire tracks, we may have been alright, but that’s not what we did. The only really helpful tool we had for this situation was a tiny camp shovel. We did get out though…the first time.
Believe it or not, we were still not facing forward so we reversed until the snow was a little less deep and then tried to turn around again. We went just a foot too far forward and right into the ditchy soft shoulder of mud. I had heard stories of people becoming high centered and getting stuck. This is when you get stuck in a position in which all of your wheels are off the ground. We had maybe two wheels on the ground, but they just spun in the ice and mud uselessly. Of course this area has no reception and no one was answering on the ham radio. Before trying to call for help on the satelite phone, we made valiant efforts to get ourselves out of this mess. Elbert remembered a video he saw where someone was able to get traction by tying a towel around the tire. We didn’t have a towel, but we did have a nylon inflatable seat that we had never used so we tried that. We also tried shoving all manner of things under tires such as Luke’s water shoes, branches, and dirt. Mostly we got a good dirty workout.
None of our efforts worked. Pushing was completely useless though we tried several times. We sure were thankful for the satellite phone. It was the first time we really needed it and we were glad it worked. We texted a few friends locally until someone responded and called a tow truck for us. I should also mention that we were low on fuel and neglected to bring water with us. Within an hour our rescuers had arrived. It took them a bit to get into position as they got stuck turning around as well and had to use chains on their tires. However, once we were roped to them it just took one quick tug and we were out of the ditch. They instructed us to back up for the whole 4.5 miles to the paved road and to be sure to stay inside our tire tracks on the way out. They waited to make sure we made it OK. We felt silly and apologized profusely to Elbert who was quite the good sport about it. Luke joked about how if we couldn’t get a rescue we may have to eat Elbert, but in reality I’m sure Elbert with his military background would have easily taken us out instead. There are a few lessons here. When the BLM designates a road as impassable, they really mean it. Also, if you’re going to travel on questionable roads, carry a decent shovel. We went and bought one to keep in the truck the next day. When headed into remote areas always bring plenty of water and snacks in case you get stuck there and if you can, get yourself a satellite phone.
Elbert found his rental car smashed up when we finally returned him safely to his hotel and I thought he would never want to visit Escalante again. However, the good people of this town came through and the person who owns the car that hit him came to find him just before he checked out to leave the next morning. His mother-in-law had borrowed his car while she stayed at the same hotel as Elbert and returned it with a dented bumper and a made up story about hitting a pole. Elbert does promise to return when we are ready to plan an overnight hike to Reflection Canyon to take photos so we just have to wait for the seasons to change and figure out our dog care to do this. It’s a long hike around steep canyons so neither of our dogs would do well on this adventure. Sophie is 15 years old now and Dobby loves to run off the edge of cliffs without looking at what is below. He’s a wild and crazy guy when he gets out in the wilderness.
We moved back to our campground this week and said our farewells to our beautiful room at Entrada. The day after we moved we got a whole bunch of snow. It was about 8”, the most snow we’ve had at once all winter. I spruced up our yard by building a snow person.
I did mention blood in the title again and this time there actually is blood in my story. The Red Cross came to town to collect and I went to donate. I was a little nervous. For various reasons I don’t think I’ve ever donated before, but it was easy and painless. I even got some gummy snacks and apple juice for my efforts. If you have not donated blood and are able to, I recommend doing it. Not scary or painful at all.
I was able to do a shoot for the Loubird Inn here in Escalante. They are a sweet family that runs this small inn and they had recently worked hard to renovate it. Each room has it’s own theme and unique art and decor. It is my kind of place and I enjoyed taking photos of it. It also feels good to expand my experience and confidence as a professional photographer. When they post any of my photos on their website I will share the link. I think they will offer us repeat business which I am excited for.
I was reminded this weekend that life is unpredictable and so we should always enjoy what we have. One of my friends from home who is a genius substance use counselor with Mr. Roger’s level empathy had a heart attack and is in the ICU. We are all hoping he makes it through this alright. Then, a tree fell on my condo and broke an interior wall. My tenants are OK, but were understandably shaken by this middle of the night disruption.
I still found moments of beauty though as I reflected on how fortunate we all are to be surviving crazy events. I found this strange pattern of ice outside someone’s leaking hose at the campground while walking the dogs. I think it looks like fungus or cave stalagmites.
Our cover photo this week is my latest creation with the lizard eye outside of the visitor center. Luke helped me navigate photo shop on this one. Tonight I plan to attend a ceremonial burning event in Boulder. It seems a very pagan thing for a fairly mormon area which makes it intriguing.
Jennifer MacNeil is currently traveling the US with her husband and two dogs. She loves to have adventures, explore, meet fascinating people, and see amazing places. She strives to learn every day and spread kindness to others. She documents her journey through her photography and blog to share with others.