"Could I have this dance for the rest of my life?" - Anne Murray

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Cathedral Valley...So Stuck

So, the really big adventure. About a week ago, as soon as we got to Torrey, we decided we would take a guided 4x4 tour of the backcountry where even the daring Ms. Subaru could not go.  We made a reservation with one of the two local outfitters for a photography tour either in the early morning or the evening - their choice. Our guide Julie contacted us a few days ago and told us we'd be going to Cathedral Valley for a sunset tour and we'd be leaving at 1:45 pm.

The day came, (we decided to leave Kona at home in the RV to spare her all the jostling and potential heat) we headed across the street to the Backcountry Outfitters office where we met Julie, and loaded up in their 1997 Chevy Tahoe. As advised, we brought along lots of water, had slathered up with sunscreen, and I had my cowboy hat, of course.

Off we went, east through Capitol Reef on 24, and left onto Cathedral Valley/Hartnet Rd.  Right away we bumped over a muddy wash and charged through the Fremont River Ford.  Definitely not somewhere Ms. Subaru wants to go.

In one side...

and out the other.

Sometimes the road followed some wash for awhile and other times it crossed the dry desert. 

After splashing through the Fremont River, the windows got a little messy.

Our guide Julie and the Tahoe.

In a particularly dry and flat part of what may have been the North Blue Flats (or maybe it was the Red Desert), is Truck Spring, named for the truck abandoned there long ago.

It's a pretty unusual truck, outfitted with old machinery on the back. It looks like it might have been used for well drilling. 

Right next to the truck is the spring that still runs clean water up to this trough for cattle.

A few miles further the Bentonite Hills came into view, 

and pretty soon we were driving right through them.

Bentonite is a kind of clay that when wet, is extremely difficult to navigate through, and when dry looks like clumps of worm castings. Its one of the primary ingredients in kitty litter.

Next we arrived at the Lower South Desert Overlook.  Notice there are no residences, or power lines. We hardly even saw any planes. It was really silent. We didn't see a soul all day. This area is one of the most remote in the lower 48.

These little mud headed gremlins were fun.

The light was gorgeous for our next stop at Upper South Desert Overlook. 
You can see how green the desert is at this time of year in this valley,

and in our destination - the Cathedral Valley.

It was getting close to sunset when we drove down into the Upper Cathedral Valley.  Julie was feeling a little pressed for time because she wanted to get to the Lower Cathedral Valley and the Temples of the Sun and the Moon before it was dark.

It was a race with the sun across the valley, and the sun was winning.  It was still light enough to get some interesting shots of this lava dike, and dark ridge splitting the tall red cathedralesque spires.

Moving along as quickly as one can under these conditions, we headed into this wash, that looked a little challenging....

...and guess what happened.

What everyone hopes won't - back right wheel spinning deep in the mud, front left wheel spinning in the air and rear end jammed in the dirt.  Julie was a real trooper. Out came the shovel, a couple of boards, flashlights, rocks, sand, and even dry desert vegetation to shove under the wheels.  The three of us spent the next few hours applying brawn and brains until Julie was finally able to back out of the mud.  By the time we got out it was pitch black.  Julie felt it was wiser to go back the long way we had come rather than complete the loop, (as we didn't want to try going across that wash again) so it was midnight by the time we got home.  

But the stars in the desert were amazing.

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