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Thursday, November 14, 2013

To Hellhole In A Handbasket Full Of Outdoor Enthusiasts (further revised)

Sometimes the logistics of group hikes and bike rides can be daunting. But efforts in that regard can often be remunerated with dividends greater than going it alone. Oh sure, there are times and places that call for solo's; we all need a day here and there to collect our thoughts—maybe wander off into wilderness all by ourselves and just listen to our heart beat—expunge the exhaust fumes of cars and yackety-yaks while sauntering along a trail without a dictated pace or destination.

But most of us have a "social chip" in our "hardware;" we enjoy/need contact and involvement with other people from time to time.  It often strains quiet types...pushes their limits, space, and comfort zones. In the gym we are told that gain comes from strain, and I think that's true socially as well as physically; pushing limits, space, and comfort zones are, after all, the building blocks of growth, knowledge, and bonding. There is a good reason for humans to be wired with "social chips," one might even go so far as to say our survival, as well as that of our planet, depends upon "team effort."

The Boonster and I have discussed these principles at length ever since meeting up on the road, way back in 2008. We both concluded that "pros" significantly outweigh "cons" when it comes to teaming up once in a while with like minded RV boondockers, especially solo RV'ers. Most RV Park's have business models that are built around the simple principle that people are, at heart, "social beings." It has worked pretty well; RV parks are generally full "in season," and this in spite of lack of privacy...rigs being packed like sardines, nuts to butts and slideout to slideout. Why? Because new friendships are often forged in RV parks, and since most fulltimers bid former friends goodbye when they hit the road, they need new friends and go to great lengths to find them. Groups often form around commonalities, like having the same brand of RV. I guess that's ok, but it doesn't seem to me to be a specific enough foundation for meeting like minded people. 
"Oh boy, Fred, how about our Lazy Daze RVs!"
"Yep, I got a mid-bath, myself."
"Is that right?"
"Nope, I'm a ford man."
"What year?"

I'm somewhat tongue in cheek there; who knows, eventually Fred and whats-his-name might learn that they are both rockhounds or geo-cachers...or maybe even mountain bikers with a passion for single tracks. Doubtful, but it could happen. There needs to be a better method, though, to narrow the "field" a little, don't you think?

Bobbie and I started out as members of Escapees...mostly because they had Birds of a Feather groups for hiking, biking, etc.. The problem we ran into was that most BOF's hung out in expensive RV parks which, for some God only knows reason, are notorious for being located smack in the city, beside freeways, and within earshot of railroad tracks. Without an RV park lifestyle, what's a lonely boondocker to do? 

Over the years Boonie and I made halfhearted attempts to resolve this problem by nurturing the formation of a subset group...boondocking types who enjoy active outdoor lifestyles...a group based around the simple and basic themes of "Outdoors" and "Active," anything from dog walks to hikes to bike rides...instead of the more typical and sedentary RV Park activities like bingo, pot lucks, and walking round around the outer loop...clockwise one day, counter clockwise the next, ad nauseam. Don't misunderstand, I'm not knocking personal choice, just saying there needs to be alternatives for those solos that feel like square plugs in round holes, as well as people like Bobbie and I...and The Boonster.

Look, there is nothing wrong with traditional RV park lifestyles. Likely, at some point in the (hopefully) distant future, age/health issues may dictate a park setting. Until that time comes, we believe that at least a part time boondocking lifestyle can bring a greater sense of adventure, peace and quiet, and a more realistic camping experience. An always RV Parks all the time lifestyle is akin to a kid camping in their own backyard. Fun? Sure, a little bit. Adventurous? Not really.

Our "Dream Team" is gaining traction...a diverse core group of outdoor oriented people who like to participate and share outdoor experiences.  Going forward, albeit at a snail's pace, we (The Boonster and I...and hopefully a few others) will continue our efforts to recreate in out of the way, weather and seasonally appropriate places. We invite like minded RV souls to join us and give it a try. It might only be once or twice a year to begin with, but it could grow more frequent as long as it is working well; we don't think it should become so frequent as to ruin the idea into a rut.

It will be a casual gathering...extremely informal...participate only in what you want, when you want to. Check either my blog or Boonie's blog for upcoming gatherings. Via our blogs, you already know what we enjoy doing and where we like doing it. If you want to join us, well, hey...we're just boondocking; no reservations required...no dress code, no mandatory participation, just friendly people with friendly doggies...and if you haven't converted to solar yet, quiet generators :)  

What say you? If this kind of gathering interests anyone please do send an email to either The Boonster or the Box Canyon Blogger; email addresses are on our respective blog's Home Page. This will help us gauge the demand. If nobody is interested, that's ok, we'll just keep doing what we're doing.
Now go take a hike, or ride a bike, or walk your dog :)

Stay tuned...
The Outdoor Gang.


Now, as promised, to Hellhole with friends...

Chilly mornings, warm afternoons...guess when this photo was taken...

The trail to Hellhole is a wash...which is to say, there is no trail 

Desert Marigolds 

A thin layer of Tilted sedimentary rock

It is hard to beat Mother Nature's palette in Utah, the golds, the greens, the sage...all against red backdrops

And what about the gorgeous lichen that sprouts and thrives in a dry, dry land...

and the pink sandstone boulders, so smooth and inviting you can't keep from reaching down and stroking them like a pet. Pet Rocks, now there's an idea

The wash to Hellhole eventually becomes awash with boulders...each unique and beautiful...some layered, some not, but all variations on the theme of RED. They catch our eye, slow us down...which is good because there is an Art to navigating through marbles

Nearing Hellhole: navigating the wash becomes unmanageable...like begging for a twisted ankle. We pop out and traverse desert sage...so blue, or is it green? It's sage, my favorite color in the world, especially when it grows from red soil, or is it orange?

Looking south into Arizona Strip country

Marching North, into Hellhole...

I've been told numerous times by a number of people, that the area near Hellhole teams with rattlesnakes on warm days. A shed skin clings to a bush as a reminder, and it grows warmer by the minute.

Boonie and Gayle lead the way, seemingly shrinking with each step...or is Hellhole Canyon getting larger?

I wanted to warn Debbie to watch where she puts her hands...a fear my dear departed mother instilled in me..."snakes and scorpions will get you." I bite my tongue, tho, feeling for my Snake Bite Kit in the side pocket of my pack...

The view south, as Hellhole begins to swallow us up

Museum worthy Lichen on Boulders...

Hellhole Canyon narrows...onward Gayle, onward Bobbie
Boulders, some as big as houses, tumbled down from overhead...as if trying to block entry. We risk angering the spirits, and continue...

I remember Gayle mentioning that a major fault line runs through the Saint George area. We find small cracks and openings and continue. It's amazing...the random landings of falling boulders...how smaller rocks like the one over Bobbies head somehow get wedged in most unlikely, inexplicable places...supporting so much weight. No earthquakes, Lord...if you don't mind.

I couldn't believe it when Gayle continued beyond this point...I don't think she's as claustrophobic as she thinks she is, and based on what I've seen her climb, I don't think she's all that acrophobic either.

Curious Jim leads the way...a tree branch becomes a ladder

As walls close in, every thing and every one takes on a pink glow. It penetrates to the bone...warm...a soft easy feeling for such a precarious place.

The sky overhead becomes a slot of blue

Curious Jim, undeterred...

The access to the next level is another tree branch...wedged in place. It grants access to the inner chambers of Hellhole

Getting tougher now, a random tumble of gigantic boulders blocks our route...light shines at the end of one black hole behind Jim. The boulder appears to be firmly wedged...but what if it isn't? And what if there is a tremor while we are under its weight? Gravity, oh gravity...

Curiosity is a powerful force. It has been known to kill cats, but they have nine lives. We have but one life, and still, these three choose to go on. We take a photo: this is how we want to be remembered.

Somehow... we managed to get around the jumble of boulders; it literally required sucking in our tummies and squeezing along a precipice on tiptoes (sorry, no photos...my hands were quite busy). We reached a deep hole with water, surrounded by mud. Beyond, it looked impossible to continue...but the "cat" is curious. A narrow slit, wedged with rockfall becomes a barricade to those without ropes. Besides, to get slippery mud on our shoes now might endanger our safe return...  Still, Curious Jim schemes...eyes darting, wheels turning, neurons firing. He tests the traction on a near vertical side wall...smearing his rubber soled boots into the rock's surface. But there is sand on it from previous schemers, it is slick. My mother suddenly shouts from the grave using my vocal cords, "Jim, NO! It's too slick!"
He's disappointed, but turns around. Down we go.

I look back and snap one last photo. Thanks to Curious Jim, this is our deepest penetration yet into Hellhole. It's mesmerizing; I don't want to leave.

Putting asses to good use...

Isn't it odd, that "Hell" could be so near Heaven. It reminds me of a song from the 70's by the Ozark Mountain Daredevils; It goes something like this:

if you want to see an angel

you got to find it where it fell

and if you want to get to heaven

you got to raise a little hell
Here's a link I stole from Life's Little Adventurers. It shows a flash flood pouring out of Hellhole...
 FlashFood in Hellhole


  1. "My mother suddenly shouts from the grave using my vocal cords" - LOL, too funny.

    Looks like an awesome hike.

    1. It's not the first time that she's done that...Mom continues to look out for people, I'm just her instrument now that she's gone. Wish you were here, Chinle.

  2. Whoa!!...Nice waterfalls, thanks for the video link. I for one hope to join you folks in the near future. I have to fix this sy-at-i-ka that just decided to visit 4 weeks ago...

    1. Sorry about the back stab...you'll know where to find us by staying tuned. Could be another "Wildflower Festival" in Lovely Ouray next July...and next November, well, we'll likely return here to Virgin. Jan. Feb. and March... don't know yet. Some new explorations in So Cal, and of course the Tucson area of Az.

  3. Another wonderful scenic hike thanks for sharing this adventure with us!

  4. Well, this post strikes a cord in me on so many levels. I think I may be the "exception" to every generality you stated. Although I stay in city RV Parks (currently "slide to slide" in Little Rock,) I do so not for the camaraderie, but because I need some kind of nighttime diversion to get me out of the rig after sitting here tied to the IM / email leash for 8 hours a day. Having "urban infrastructure" nearby helps take the edge off cabin fever after a day of work, especially when darkness falls before the five o'clock whistle blows.

    No matter how crowded the gravel lot gets, though, it still beats a cubicle, or even the "virtual office" in the old sticks and bricks. At least here, no one is suggesting I need to mow the grass. And at times, in comparison, on a weekend it can even seem a little "adventurous." ;-)

    If I ever get the courage to free myself from the corporate handcuffs, I hope to join ranks and become an "Official RV Boondocker," at which time I will be emailing you for coordinates that very same day! Your stunning photos make me hope that day comes sooner than later...

    ("We are so free, we can choose bondage")

    1. Well your comment gave me pause...thus the revision, plus further clarification to Allison's comment. You are an exception to my drivel in that you (lucky you) are making your living on the road...and it requires a solid internet connection and nearness to urban areas. I think it was a bold, extremely adventurous move on your part to exchange the cube for an RV office! There are certainly more kinds of "adventure" than just boondocking, climbing, and slot canyoneering.
      And that you are doing Life your way...solo...Well, that's plenty adventurous, too. You didn't wait for your dream to come to you...you made it happen NOW. Hat's off.
      We'll be waiting when you finally "unplug." Great comment.

  5. I'm glad we didn't get hung up on whether our groupsters camp in an RV park or dispersed camp. You can't win on everything. I am happy to have somebody to mountain bike with. Who cares what box they sleep in at night? And it is usually pretty easy for a boondocker to camp with 5 miles of somebody in an RV park.

    The real problem with the RV park is that it might cause people to think they need reservations. This might be OK, but it goes a long way towards demobilizing the mobile lifestyle; or creates calendar and logistical complexity; or causes you to get stuck with freakish weather. Otherwise we could just change our climate by adjusting the altitude.

    1. Thanks for that BB. We're always looking for people in our age bracket for the mountain biking. My spousal unit and I are still liking the full hookups, but if we could hookup with you guys for riding that would be spectacular.

    2. Hope you recover quickly from your operation, Allison, and join us someday.

    3. Hope you recover from your operation quickly, Allison, and you and your spousal unit join us.

    4. RV Parks are NOT a "deal breaker;" we are staying in an RV park right now...for the whole month of November. It just happens to be one of those parks that's located in a tiny, nondescript town and surrounded by thousands of acres of BLM, Beauty, and hemmed by Almighty Zion.

      To be clearer...Bobbie and I make considerable use of Forest Service campgrounds, too. They are generally only 5 bucks a night with a Geezer card. Boondocking, for us, is an option we exercise under certain conditions...when we want to be alone, when other camping options are full, too crowded, too noisy, ill located, and so on. Maybe I didn't make that clear enough...

      Moab is a good example of a place where we prefer to boondocks. Now that we have found superb boondocking options around here in Virgin, the RV park may become an unnecessary luxury that can be done without next year. Regardless, the main point is getting out and enjoying good outdoor country with good outdoor people, no matter where they camp :))
      Thanks, Allison!

  6. Love this hike! This is our kind of adventure. We love seeing how far we can push into those canyons. Thank goodness for the butt and slickrock for coming and going in these areas.

  7. There's a balance between RV park and boondock and for everyone different. I need a toy RV so I can go out and not have to move my home. It will come. Then I'd happily join you somewhere for a hike on the red rock, but maybe not too much of a climb.

    1. Yes...a smaller camper for less complicated explorations. One does need two RV's if they are full timers :)) A hike it is...

  8. No doubt - Utah is the most beautiful State of the U.S. We love it to death!

    1. The most diverse state, that's for sure. A little bit of everything...

  9. Tremendous hike and great photos. For me going into places like this is certainly best done in a group, and your comment about being careful where you put your hands and having the snakebite kit ready, reinforced the group walking bit.

    1. There is safety in numbers...whether hiking or boon docking. :))

  10. Utah...can't wait to get back there! We love hikes like Hellhole...

  11. Looks like my kind of hike, lots of exploring. Love the marigolds and the lichens.

    1. Like Colorado, we'll never get Utah completely explored...not even southwest Utah :)) But it's so much fun trying :)

  12. If we could have left Ontario on the early side this year Utah for sure would have been on our route My favorite State. So much to see, so much to do. Don't know if & when we'll ever get back over that way but if we do......count us in:))

    1. That would be terrific! Coffee Girl would love another play pal :)) and so would the boondockers :).

  13. I may join you for the dog walk/runs as I have the Boonster on a couple occasions.
    I am one of those RV Park people that is "walking round around the outer loop...clockwise one day, counter clockwise the next, ad nauseam". However, that is usually in the morning while it is still dark. The afternoon walks tend to be on roads, streets or field around the Park that offer some visual change from day to day. If there are filed available then my dog get the additional treat of running off leash. Maybe not adventurous but a satisfying life for an old man that is getting older.

    1. "...a satisfying life for an old man that is getting older." And what else could one hope for, really. There is only one way to escape "old and getting older," and that is to die younger. To me, a "satisfied life? means you have hit most of your "targets." To others it might mean that "targets" don't matter...hit or miss. Either way, it's all good.
      Thanks Ed, we'd be happy to have you along for dog walks and philosophizing :)

  14. Count me in for one of the informal gatherings in 2014 or 2015!

    1. Jeanne Marie,
      Stay tuned...I hope it's 2014 :).
      thanks, mark


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