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Saturday, May 21, 2011

Rattlesnake Canyon or Gilligan's Island?

I tried to prepare this post yesterday but I felt like I couldn't think straight. For some reason, I didn't make the connection between my mental fuzziness and the noxious odor of the glue that had just been used to install our new tile floor in the basement. By dinnertime, I was feeling truly awful and finally figured out why. We opened all the windows despite the freezing temperature and aired out the house. Now I can think again. After reading the disjointed story that I wrote yesterday, I'm glad that I didn't post it!

Here it is but hopefully I've made it clearer than it was...

It keeps snowing here, as I'm sifting through my photos from our desert trip. Early one recent morning, a pair of coyotes visited our snow-laden clearing. The wildlife are having a tough time with our seemingly endless May snow. R found a baby rabbit floundering in deep snow. He picked it up with his soft Labrador mouth and released it unharmed. I'm glad that it was R and not one of these hungry coyotes who found the baby rabbit.
At the end of my previous post, we had arrived at Rattlesnake Canyon hoping to hike/bike to see ten fabulous arches about 2.5 miles away from our campsite. However, we were in a deluge of rain. We hoped that the next morning would dawn sunny and warm. Alas, our hopes were dashed as we heard the rat-a-tat-tat of freezing rain on the van's roof the next morning.

We slowly ate breakfast while gazing out the windows hoping for a break in the weather. Indeed, the rain stopped around mid-morning. R and the Runner started a run and disappeared in the direction of the the fabled arches. K and I started in the same direction with me on my mountain bike. Believe it or not, I made it only 20 yards. In that short distance, the mud coated my tires so thickly that they would not turn within my bike frame. I stopped and tried to roll my bike back to the van but the bike wouldn't roll due to the dastardly mud. I tried carrying my bike but the mud must have weighed 100 lbs. My elegant solution was to drag my bike on its side, leaving a deep furrow in the mud road. I spent the next hour cleaning the mud off my bike, making it functional (although certainly not "clean"). I failed to take a photo of my mud-caked bike because my mood was horrendous at that time.

After cleaning my bike, K and I wandered around near the van. We could only walk a quarter mile from it without my shoes become 2 ton clown shoes with huge wads of mud stuck to them. I kept wondering how R and the Runner were faring in their quest to see the arches. I had a bleak vision of them stuck in the mud somewhere down in the canyon. I was also starting to ponder the notion that the roads were truly impassable and that we might be stranded in that place for a long time. Visions of "Gilligan's Island" were dancing through my head.

Despite being landlocked by a sea of mud, K and I enjoyed wandering in a brief sunny moment.
We saw vivaciously colored flowers. These "Four O'clock" flowers were blooming in the morning. These flowers open in the late afternoon and stay open all night, in contrast to most flowers. The reason is that Hawk Moths are their primary pollinators, and they're nocturnal.
Bluebirds flitted nearby with the skies darkening behind them.
I thought that the weather pattern had changed until we descended to the best lookout point for gazing over the plains and into the canyon. Oh my.
Almost immediately, another round of thunder, lightning, and a pelting rain engulfed our world. I could barely walk the 100 yards up the muddy hill to the safe haven of the van because my feet slipped back down the hill by at least 6" for each step. At one point, I left the trail, and started using my arms to pull me up the hill by grabbing boulders as I crawled. I was starting to understand what "impassable when wet" meant. I was also regretting the time I'd spent cleaning the inside of the van before our trip. It was rapidly becoming a mud-fest.

The two R's were still down in the canyon. I was starting to worry about them. K and I hung out in the van waiting for them.
They finally returned, having evaded the lightning and slipped all over the slick mud trail. The Runner sported the muddiest shoes that I've ever seen. Before the lightning forced them to turn back, they'd made it to the first of the ten arches rumored to be in the canyon.
Soon, we had another period of calm weather. My back was starting to scream in pain from being sedentary in the van too much. So, I pedaled my bike in the opposite direction from the arches. I discovered that I could ride 0.33 miles in that direction without hitting impassable mud.

I'm sure that the next part of the story will teach you that I am truly nuts. I proceeded to ride back and forth on the 0.33 miles of passable road for more than an hour. The Runner sat outside the van and shouted out my "splits" as if I was doing a high intensity workout. My best split was 3:26 for a 0.66 mile "lap" on the rough dirt road. In the end, what could have been a dismal ride was hilarious with me sprinting back and forth like a maniac, and my coach shouting encouragement. Even enticing birds watched me sprinting back and forth like this spotted towhee.
By dinnertime, it hadn't rained for a few hours. We hiked out the road in the "escape" direction to test the mud. The ground felt almost solid under our feet so we decided to seize the moment to try to flee.
Based on the weather forecast, we knew that we had no choice but to seize even the tiniest of dry weather windows to try to drive out of there. Otherwise, we might spend our entire trip in a 0.33 mile radius. It was a beautiful little area but we had planned to travel much further!
The start of our escape drive was on perfectly flat and easy roads through sagebrush plains. Yet, at times, we fishtailed as if we were negotiating black ice on a steep road. After slip-sliding for miles on flat roads, we made it to a junction where we knew that we had a very tough, but short, descent over steep and muddy roads. Darkness had fallen so we decided to sleep by the side of the road and wait for daylight to try to negotiate the final part of our escape. In the morning, I looked back at our tracks from the night before. You can see how deeply we were sinking into the jelly-like mud on the easy road.
You can also see that the storms stilled chased us. So, we immediately hightailed it down the boulder-pocked precarious hill. Within less than a mile, we were in trouble, mired in the mud. Thanks to the Runner's driving skills and the bull-moose power of our diesel 4wd van, we backed out of the mud.

After discussion, we decided to barge through a private road with huge signs screaming "no trespassing" guarding its entrance. Our map showed that it was an easy route back to civilization. We created an elaborate story of a "female" medical drama requiring us to rush to the hospital in case anyone tried to stop us. Thankfully, we didn't see a soul while committing our misdemeanor.

We made it out, with the Runner having seen only one arch and me seeing none. But, I've never been so happy to see a paved road and the cliffs that it overlooked, especially with the angry storms still circling us!
We'll go back to Rattlesnake Canyon someday. The photos of the arches there have convinced us that it would a perfect spot to enjoy nature's beauty in total solitude. However, we will choose a window of time when there is ZERO percent chance of rain.


  1. Hi Y'all,

    Y'all had us on pins and needles reading your adventures!

    As the waterways are filling with boats in anticipation of the holiday and temperatures soar into the 90's, the thought of snow still falling anywhere seems mind boggling!

    Y'all come by now,
    Hawk aka BrownDog

  2. Snow??? We need to come' amazing to think of it snowing elsewhere. Great coyote pics. Enjoy the snow. Hey, can you save some in the freezer for five Siberian Huskies??? ;-)

  3. Wow, you really had quite the adventure. Glad you made it out of there safely. Despite all the muddy trials and tribulations, you still managed to capture some awesome photos.

  4. wow, so glad I found your blog. Love your wildlife camera set ups. Can't wait to see more.

    Lookin forward to readin more about your adventures.


  5. Khyra is khurled in her chair dreaming of your snow!

    What great pics!

    Thanks for sharing them -

    Of course, we'd love to see the glue induced post ;-)

  6. Oh man! I'm so glad it all turned out okay! It's too bad you didn't get a picture of the muddy bike. If it was anything like the shoes, it was quite a sight!

    Funny how the general consensus today was that the dogs all become "ours" when misdeeds occur! lol

  7. That last photo is beautiful! I almost wrote "worth it all" but that's probably not quite true from your perspective. I hope your "sprints" worked some of the pain out!

  8. What a muddy adventure you had! I'm glad you didn't get stuck back there. I love the Bluebird on the curving limb. (Lucinda says R is her hero.)

  9. Why is ti that the most beautiful light , and photos , are always found immediately after a storm ? Must be something in that old line about 'clearing the air ' .

  10. That's an adventure that is better as a memory than it was to live through. Glad you all made it out in one piece. Bet the vehicle was also ready for a nice snow bath by the time you got home.

    Jed & Abby

  11. Goodness Gracious! And we thought having mud splatters was bad! That is some serious mud! But we are also glad that you have a gluey mind no longer and that (fingers and paws crossed) you are happy after your mud adventure!

    Great K Snooter shot!

    Keep well
    Koda & Kate

  12. Wow! We are totally out of breath from reading the post! How do you do it?!

  13. R hads a bunny in his mouth????? And then he let it go???? Now dat is rather amazing he didn't harm it! What a good dog!

    Gosh, I'm a little pooped out from just reading what ya'll did and went therough. You has more energies than ME!

    I am so glad ya'll is back...I missed ya'll tons!


  14. What a crazy trip!

    Be careful with that glue - the odors can make the dogs pretty sick too!


  15. Ah the many moons ago (from your post on Berts Blog) sounds familiar. My Vickie is only half as active in the SAR work as I wish we could be.

    What department did you work with. do you remember working with Rocky Mountain SAR Dogs at all.

    Thats who my vickie was with many moons ago. Maybe you guys met.

    She says your life looks way more exciting now. She is very very jelouse


  16. I am exhausted just reading about your adventures. I suspect this is one vacation you will use as a benchmark in the future. Glad everyone is safe and sound and hope you finally are rid of the mud.

  17. We are well beyond any thought of snow here and are rapidly approaching the heat of summer.

    Your story of the mud was fascinating (primarily because I was the reader and the teller).

  18. Wow, that is an adventure! So many experiences and views. Gorgeous photos and mud caked shoes.

    Yes glue and so much more can be so toxic to us and the world around us.

  19. Mud= mother's natures version of added weights for those die hard adventurers.
    Does Runner keep R on a leash or let him run free?
    Does R respond to Runner's recalls as well as he does to yours?
    Glad they came back safe and sound even if a bit muddy!!

  20. Fanastic landscape shots.

  21. Oh my gosh I laughed so hard at your sprints up and down the road :) Glad it didn't turn into a three hour tour of sorts!

  22. This should be on the National geographic Channel or Discovery...fascinating...even if you are daredevils. Yes another time when rain is not forecasted would be ideal. Love the pic of dead trees and dark foreboding sky!

  23. What an adventure!! When you first wrote that you could ride .33 miles in one direction, I thought to myself, "I bet she went back and forth because that's not much of a ride for her." Sure enough!! I'm glad you made it back to paved roads. That mud definitely posed too many challenges.

  24. Oh R is so sweet,,, to pick the baby bunny up and let it go!

    Also glad you knew the smelly glue was the problem (with your thinking.

    Your camping adventure made for some adrenalin rushes,,,? Right?
    At times like that - stuck in the mud,, and when things seem to get out of control.. it sure can be a relief to get back to a normal old routine...
    The photos were awsome.. I loved the twisted tree.

  25. Good grief! What a vacation! Those last 4 photos are gorgeous, even if they depict less than gorgeous travel conditions. I especially like the blue and orange sky colors of the first of the four and how the ground vegetation is darkened by the cloud cover. Very moody. I'm glad you all made it out of there okay.

  26. What a bummmer! I'm sorry your trip was less than you'd hoped for...but maybe a good survival exercise? ;)

  27. Hi HisQueen,

    The Runner usually lets R off-leash and R responds beautifully to his recalls. However, on this trip, we kept the dogs on leash for a lot of our outings because of the hazards of an unknown place and a desert environment - snakes, scorpions, cactus spines, you-name-it.

  28. Whew... glad everyone was okay!

  29. What an adventure!!! That clay mud! Have definitely performed the back and forth bike or run technique to get moving, and work with the circumstances!
    During this trip, my folks were in their Sportsmobile in Eastern Oregon, where at their campground one morning at 5am everyone was asked to pack up and drive out, as the campground was flooding.
    Wild spring!
    Sweet hugs,
    Sierra Rose & KN

  30. Nothing like southwest mud... and unintentionally bringing home samples!

    Love Rattlesnake Canyon, but haven't been in a couple of years. Even though your visit wasn't what you'd planned, you've still increased my yearning to go back... soon!


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