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Wednesday, November 7, 2018

"Break on through to the other side," or, How To Lose Brand New Hiking Buddies

You know the day destroys the night
Night divides the day
Tried to run
Tried to hide
Break on through to the other side
Break on through to the other side

Break on through to the other side, yeah
Break on through to the other side...The Doors

What with generators, dust, and the late night comings and goings of obnoxious diesel engines and exhaust fumes, well, camp Virgin was getting a little too crowded, too noisy and too busy. Thus, Bobbie and I pulled a Self-Eviction and found a spot further west with less noise, better views and another bar of cell signal. Oh, and no dust. 

I tell ya, good boondocks are getting hard to find, and even harder to keep secret. Welcome to the west's new Full-time "Gold Rush," only instead of wagons it's motorhomes, trailers, vans, even cars...and, more and more, filled with entire families...including Fido and Kitty. Now this is America, where, so far, people are free to choose their own lifestyle. I just wish the "Boondock Gold Rush" wasn't getting so crowded so quickly. Here's a list of Full Timing Family Rv Youtube videos so you can all decide for yourselves. (And yes, blogs like this are part of the problem. I struggle to write about "other things," but with less and less success. Maybe it's time to pull a "Chinle," and lay down the trumpet).
Moving on to a recent adventure...   

Jim and Gayle hosted a happy hour before pulling the plug on this year's annual autumn meet up for our Gang of  Red Rock Loving Geezers. Imagine, a group of dedicated seniors hiking, biking and exploring off trail in Zion's backcountry. Like it says on my ball cap: Life is Good.

Sometimes you stumble across the nicest people on the road. With Jim and Gayle pulling up stakes for Yuma dental appointments and Chris moving on to commitments in Santa Fe, Bobbie and I found ourselves in need of some new playmates.   

Bobbie and Charmaine, gobsmacked by Zion's endless and empty backcountry. This is were we hatched a plan to fulfill Bobbie's wish...to find a way down into that humongous canyon, then route find our way around those two mountains at the far left, and come up and out on the other side.
So we were excited to meet up with a new couple who showed up at Jim and Gayle's Happy Hour, Full-Timer Rv'ers John and Charmaine. Turns out they are hikers and bikers and off-trail explorers like  the rest of us. John and Charmaine are also early risers, so we met up for a hike a little before 8 AM. (JIM! It's possible...you can do it). Of course it's cold out here in the high desert before the sun comes up, below freezing, actually. And me with no long pants (sigh). 

We were treated to a few roadside big horn sheep on the way to our hike  

We started hiking in the long, cool shadows of early morning, all bundled up in layers...hats, gloves and long pants (excepting me, of course). 

But honestly, it was worth every shiver to watch the sun rise up, anointing the summits of Zion's colorful ramparts and temples.

Even in shadow,  maples glowed with Ms Autumn's brushwork 

We gained elevation in haste, trusting rubber bottomed shoes to get us up an initial series of sheer sandstone cliffs toward a familiar (for Bobbie and I) notch between mountains. About halfway up, Old Sol finally shed a little love in the form of warmth and light. Suddenly, our sandstone surround came alive, vibrant with hues ranging from ochre to orange to crimson—all lit up as if someone flipped a switch. We could immediately see a radiant glow and feel the warmth. Having never hiked at this ungodly hour, I saw for the first time what I had been missing by sleeping in.

The east and west Temples greet the new day.

Bobbie and I had hiked to the above grand viewpoint a couple weeks before with Chris and Gayle. That's when we notice a small group of Geezers (or was it a group of small Geezers?) climbing up out of a deep dark canyon and invade our privacy. Curious, Gayle questioned the slower caboose hiker about their route. He pointed with his hiking pole: "We came in from over there, dropped down into that canyon, hiked clear around that mountain, and came out in that canyon below us." Hmmm. We were collectively intrigued. But, having neither the time nor the energy, we decided to save it for other day and made a vow to return. Enter John and Charmaine. 

Over a cliff-side lunch, we pointed out this possibility to John and Charmaine, and that we were itching to attempt duplicate the same, or similar type hike. After lunch, well, you know, it just started to happen. With John leading the way, we began working our way down, down, down into "the canyon," toward "the mountain."  Curiosity only kills cats, right? New territory equals new dots! 

Thus began an exciting, somewhat optimistic—if not misguided—totally gorgeous (pun intended) route finding adventure. And you lucky few get to come along for the hike from the comfort of your chair :).

Bobbie and Charmaine top out on one of the many Beehive formations (note John over Charmaine's shoulder. It's easy to get swallowed up in this Big Country)

We encountered colorful waves of sandstone everywhere we traipsed 

On the way to our cliff-side lunch spot

We need to get way over there...

John is a good route finder

Getting closer...

Only to be "cliffed-out." Time for lunch
Beehives everywhere

Needless to say, we got "cliffed-out," time after time after time, forced to seek alternate routes into "the canyon" in order to find a way around "the mountain." 
Eventually...probably frustrated by our lack of progress...Charmaine mentioned that maybe it isn't possible
Naw, I said. There's always a way. We just have to keep looking till we find it.
John and Bobbie seem to agree and we keep at it...getting stuck and cliffed out, but undeterred.  

Some 4 hours into this lovely, but potentially disastrous circumferential attempt around "the mountain," at yet another seeming impasse, I thought it was time to have "the talk." Like, how deep do we want do dig this "hole," you know, before coming to our senses and admitting defeat?  There is often a fine line between persistence and stupidity—heroic and futile—victory and defeat...especially when in unfamiliar mountains and wilderness, or both. If we cross "the line," we'll have to deal with the consequence. I, for one, preferred to sleep in my Rv bed, as opposed to being wide awake, huddled by a campfire, trying to sleep on cold, hard sandstone. 

I air my thoughts regarding how long we've been trying to get around "the mountain," and, even though we can see from where we are where we need to be, that, well, if history is a valid indicator as they say, we might be facing a 4 hour backtrack to get the Hell back to our beds. 

I could see that my speech was wasted on John. He kept scanning the horizon, calculating possible routes, not ready to admit defeat. To be honest, we were close...so close we could see it, so close we could almost taste it! 

Opinions varied so we compromised, deciding to give it one more try before backtracking...which, given what we had to come down to get to this point, was no slam dunk. We decided that John would try to find a safe route down the sketchy precipice below, while I climbed up "the mountain" in search of another route. I scrambled up sandstone ledges that turned out to be steeper than they looked from below. But it was all for naught, I struck out. I down-climbed back to the gals, and we anxiously awaited John's route assessment. Good news.  I think we can do it! he shouts.

It took a while to safely negotiate our way down to about the halfway point of our sandstone precipice, where we had to traverse alongside "the mountain," up and down, up and down, until we reached a rather long drainage that John thought would prove to be our escape hatch. The further we descended the more apparent it became that, hidden in shadow, was a narrow slot canyon chasm. Indeed, it blocked us from breaking through to the other side. That's when I noticed the pit in my stomach sprouting into a full fledged lemon tree. Time for another confab. Time. It was slipping away, no longer on our side and soon to be "the enemy." I thought we needed to turn around.

Howsomeever, as Cowboy Brian likes to say, we found ourselves climbing back out of the drainage up to a hilltop in hopes of a genuine freaking miracle...er, I mean, a way out of our predicament. Tick Tock.

Following John, out of earshot, I turned to Bobbie and whispered, And you wonder why we lose all our friends??? This has happened before how many times?     

When you can't go up, can't go down,  traverse your way to the "other side."

To be concluded...


  1. Do you carry any GPS equipment, compasses or just the sky and horizon to lead you back to your starting point?? That is quite a hike you described and I look forward to reading the next post. Ara told me to tell you and Bobbie he says hi.

    1. No GPS yet. No "In Reach." Just paying attention and "letting the chips fall..."
      PS Hey to Ara! He and Spirit paid us a visit in Ouray many years ago. Fond memories...

  2. Sure hate I missed that one! I don't think John and Charmaine will be "unfriending" you :-)

  3. Now I'm intrigued. Want to know more. But don't even have a trailhead of compass bearing to start the quest ........

  4. Jeez..that's a lot of rv family YouTube channels. I never did come to the end of them. Looking forward to the conclusion.

  5. Now this kind of stuff is whats bringing those "wanttobe RV'ers " out of the closet and on our all ready to crowed inter Mt West roads......but this is why we are here, exciting stuff to us arm chair explorers.....Excitement is back on the BCB ,move over Murphy Brown & Masterpiece Theater :)
    Our fireplace is roaring tonight down in the 30's again, fall colors are coming on strong, life is good. Could almost feel that sunrise over Zion in those pictures Mark, would have loved to been with you all.
    Stay Thirsty you two

  6. I'm chained to my desk for another year and a half. You're killing me with these beautiful pictures!

  7. Is there anything more beautiful than Zion in Autumn

  8. And it is exactly this kind of predicament that prompted Doug to buy me my very own GPS. (https://www.rei.com/product/111457/garmin-oregon-750t-gps). I think he was afraid I'd be forever walking around in circles in the San Juans! :)

    1. Perhaps you have hiked Bridge of Heaven and know the trail and route, so this may be out of line. I thought I would send along my response to your recent comment on my blog:

      And so "armed,” (GPS) you are off to tackle Bridge of Heaven tomorrow. Wow. Just know There are some "sketchy" spots so please exercise caution. Everything will be frozen in the morning on the way up and that is good, but in the afternoon, as it warms into the 40's, rocks can loosen and rain down mountain and across the trail. I don't want to be a killjoy, but it's a shooting gallery in a couple of places when that happens... and, if you've never been up there toward the top when snow blankets the trail, well, the route is not obvious. It's supposed to be a nice day, so you will have your tracks and GPS to guide you back down. Just be cautious through the "shooting gallery." I'd hate for you to miss "happy hour." :)


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