In a pickle...


Upon awaking this morning in Fredonia, I had an unsettled feeling. I could not figure what might be happening subconsciously or otherwise. It did concern me about driving all the way back into the backcountry of the Arizona Strip to stay at the Bar 10 Ranch.  While I had planned to take the route to Toroweap part of the way, then cut over on another route, the rains that had chased me out from Paiute Cave, were falling precisely over those areas I planned to travel. What concerned me was that with the rain the day before, I thought the roads may be impassable and I would so dislike being stranded out there in the boonies. My confirmed reservations say no refunds 30 days prior, so that concerned me too. If, for some reason I could not reach the ranch, I would likely lose all my money.

To help relieve my troubled mind, I called the ranch. Sarah, hearing of my concerns on road conditions, suggested I drive to St. George, UT, and take that road directly down to the ranch. She said one of their vans had driven it the night before and had no trouble spots along the 70+ drive. OK, that would be an option, but I'd need to hustle since St. George is 66 miles from Fredonia. With everything packed in the car, I set out for St. George. All along the way, I still was feeling unsettled. Once in St. George, I called Sarah again at about 10:30 telling her I was on the way. They were going to save lunch for me and might expect me around 1 pm.

The road out from St. George is paved until the AZ state line, then the gravel begins. But, surprising to me, the surface was reasonably well graded, had frequent use and travel on it was faster than I had imagined. In the best spots (ie, there were some bad spots too), I was going nearly 55 mph. As I drove, my uneasiness drifted away, much like all the dust billowing behind my car. There is the Mt. Trumbull schoolhouse that sits at a crossroads just 14 miles from the ranch. This was to be my landmark for taking the correct road to the ranch. While Sarah had said a van had come in on that road the night before, I saw no tire tracks whatsoever. But I continued, thinking I had made very good time, and it was then a bit past noon. Not far up the road, I hit a wet spot with mud, but enough dry ground to the side allowed me to smush through. Then another. This one was not nice, at all, but I barely managed to keep the Santa Fe moving through the mire and the tires grabbed enough to hit dry ground and pull us right on through. Whew, that was nerve jangling for several seconds. I then thought, well, if this is the worse of the mud and wet spots, I feel good about getting out to the ranch without much more ado. 


This photo may not seem like it's as bad as I say, but the cuts were a foot or more deep, and it was still wet and muddy. Water was flowing, as an be seen and the ditches were soft with with mud too. Being pre-occupied with my digging out, I forgot to take photos of my car in the mud.

Not more that 50 feet ahead, however, lay a much more disturbing disruption in the road. I should say, WHERE the road used to be. Not even getting close to it, I stopped and investigated. This is what I think is a washout. No Way, No How would I even consider attempting a crossing - even with a  4 wheel drive and high clearance vehicle. The washed out areas were deep, wet, and allowed no way to cross safely. My car would have been so badly mired in the mess, it would need to be winched out. 

I wondered about that van that was supposed to have driven this road (the only road to Bar 10 Ranch) the night before. Apparently more rain had fallen over night and flash flooded and washed out this part of the road. 

Standing for awhile, thinking about my predicament, I decided to just park the car on the road and hike in to the ranch. With water, snacks, backpack, water and hat I set out down the road. Not much more that a quarter mile it began to rain, though the sun was shining. Only that one dark rain cloud hovered above me. Hummmm, did my previous nervousness foretell this outcome and this rain cloud is hanging over me like an omen?? Despite it being sunny, otherwise, this was unsettling. I could not walk far in the rain with the road conditions as they were, so I stopped and decided to go back and drive away. Being only 1 mile in from the schoolhouse, I figured I'd park there and wait for them to come check my whereabouts. SURELY, they would come, since I had called and told them I was on the way…

Carefully getting my car turned around on the narrow road, I avoided backing into the water filled side ditches and stayed on dry ground. Up ahead lay that challenging mud puddle, but, hey I made it through coming in, I certainly can handle it once more.


Smack dab, right in the middle of the muck, the Santa Fe's tires began to spin and then we stopped dead in our muddy tracks. Now this is a pickle, I thought. Just SO, SO close to getting to the ranch on one hand and then so close to good, solid ground at the old schoolhouse and I'm motionless. Stepping out of the car, I sunk in the gooey slop up to my ankles. Slip, sliding around, I examined the car and how badly we might be stuck. Not good, but not quite dire either. I knew what I could do to try to get us out of the mess. Lots of dead sage brush branches lay along the fence rows and on the road where the water had carried them in the heavy rains. I started to gather up the brush and stuff it in front and back of the front tires (front wheel drive). I was sweating tremendously already but continued my efforts to help provide some traction for the tires. Of course, in my endeavors, I sunk deep in the mud as I gathered my materials, then had to try to scoop out mud from under the car, splattering mud on myself, shoes chocked full of red, wet, sticky mud. Getting in the car then to try to get it moving, I dragged all that mud in with me, brake pedal slimed with mud, the accelerator, the carpet mat, the steering wheel and gear shift from my hands. Heck, no way I could avoid any of the mess I created. 

First attempt to move failed. Hardly any forward or backward movement. Back in to the mud and gather up more branches up the road, sinking in more muck as I had to cross a ditch, sinking in, shoes coated in heavy, red mud. Another attempt and I got some movement, but the front wanted to slide to the side and not grab onto the branches. I tried to stuff them tighter under the tires and for about two feet fore and aft of the tires. After about the third or fourth try, I got her moving. But the darn car wanted to grab to the left, right toward the water filled ditch. Oh please good Lord, help me keep this thing moving forward and let her grab more dry ground. With ever so tender coaxing, I did manage to finally get enough momentum to get the tires grabbing solid earth and drag us out of the filthy mess. With that final grabbing hold, mud was slinging all around, including through the open window and onto me. But who cares, just keep slogging forward to higher, drier ground. Once on the move, I didn't stop until the mile away at the schoolhouse. 

What a sorry mess I was. Tired, dirty, sweaty, shoes with five pounds of mud on them, the car covered inside with all the dust from the roads and now mud everywhere I stepped or touched inside. Using the water from one of my water containers, I washed off my muddy shoes and changed to wearing my sandals. Cleaning my hands, arms and face at least made me feel a little better. Now, I thought I will wait for awhile and see if anyone tries to find me.

Mt. Trumbull schoolhouse is not in use but is open to see inside, so I wandered in and checked out all the photos of families from long ago who were the pioneers and settlers in the area. I got stuck in the mud at 12.24 p.m. It took more than an hour to dig out, so I thought that by 2 pm I'd leave if no one came by.


No one came, so after 2 p.m. I drove away toward St. George. I took my time. But I had not eaten, was hungry, dirty and very tired. I knew I'd not have any cell phone service until St. George, but I wanted to let the ranch know what had happened. Several miles from town I got cell service and called Sarah. She wondered what had happened to me and I told her my woeful tale. None of them had left the ranch on that road, so they didn't know it's condition. She asked if I had passed any of her people on my way out. I did see a van coming in about half way out, which she said would be theirs. I suspect, the timing of my call to the ranch may have gotten them to go out and see about the road conditions, since that van certainly would not be able to drive through either. 


The view coming down toward St. George, Ut, from the Arizona Strip.

Tonight I am staying in Hurricane, UT. I am undecided what my agenda will be for Tuesday, maybe Bryce Canyon...

Isn't it funny how I can keep topping my adventures with more odd and unusual misadventures? © Donald E. Kline 2012                                         Disqus Comments