The Day the Desert Tried to Kill Me – Stories From the Front Seat

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6:15 PM sunburned, bitten, hungry, and parched. This is the only picture taken after my mom and I grounded our truck in Utah wilderness. I’m sure that I have mentioned a passionate hatred towards sand. It blows in your eyes, finds its way into places never imagined but, more importantly shipwrecks trucks. Here’s what happened:

Back track to 3:00 PM: “Oh! Look, there are eight hundred miles of trails back here” I pointed out to my mom. We were traveling through Utah, in normal fashion but, this time looking for new places to hike. We entered Nephi Pastures via Grand Escalante National Monument, eighteen miles off RT 89A. The road terrain was sandy, deep in parts but, it was easy to navigate with the truck. It was a grand ‘ole time navigating the technical drive. The windows were open and our dog was relaxing in the back seat. Nine miles in we realized we had a problem. The middle strip of the road was solid, compacted sand with loose pockets of deep sand on either side. It was impossible to tell how deep by looking at it. What grounded us was one tire spinning out and the axle of the truck hanging itself on the sand bar. Nothing dramatic so far and we had confidence in our digging skills.

“Ok, let’s dig out” which in hindsight was the worst idea possible. We dug with our hands for two hours since who brings shovels? We tried everything – sticking branches under the tires, digging, re-burying, pushing – nothing. The sand was burning from the afternoon sun, which made for more unpleasantness not to mention fun fact: spiders and cactus spines exist underground. I had a massive welt from a spider bite on my forearm – which I didn’t notice until later – also several spines in my leg and hands. It became clear that we weren’t going to break out of this situation ourselves. We abandoned the truck and set off on foot at about 5PM, hoping that we would run into other hikers or find cell reception. Before making the hike back we grabbed the essentials including an ID, my AAA card, headlamps, phone battery pack, two gallons of water and snacks.

Realize how far into bumblef*ck nowhere we were – eighteen miles off of 89A, which is ten miles from Kanab (the nearest town) and nine miles down the Bureau of Land Management road.

We were thirty seven miles from anywhere and it was nearing sundown.

Three miles into an uphill trudge in sand my phone miraculously receives service. Immediately, I contact AAA. I have never had a problem with AAA before, but, when I needed them to step up they dropped the ball. I was transferred to two different people whom could not understand my specific instructions as to where we were. It was simple – from 89A, Johnson Canyon Road, drive eighteen miles until you approach the Nephi Pasture trail head –we were nine miles in. I did everything short of giving the operator GPS coordinates. After repeating myself several times I was starting to lose my temper as I was losing service. Not long after she said she called the towing company, the line went dead. Without knowing if the tow truck would find us or not, we pressed on. If the tow truck was coming he wouldn’t miss us. There was only one way in, one way out.

Another mile up the road my mom and I heard ATVs coming out direction. We flagged them down as they approached, hoping they weren’t serial killers. They offered to drive us back to the trailhead without skipping a beat. Relieved we hopped in. Back at the trail head – nearing 6:45PM – the wait continued. Waited, waited, and waited. Still not tow truck. We pulled ourselves together and started walking again. The sun was set to go down within the next forty five minutes – we had a dog which would attract predators, we would have no source of ambient light other than headlamps and neither of our phones had service. It was getting dicey.

Twenty minutes later we heard the ATVers coming home. This time they offered to assist us back to their truck and pull us out. They were our saving grace! I always question the intentions of people and their kindness, but, this family was simply amazing. All it took was pulling our truck off of the sandbar. With little effort their truck pulled us out. I wish we could thank the ATVers who came through for us, but in all of the action we never stopped to ask a last name or a contact. We offered to treat them to dinner back in Kanab but, they wouldn’t accept – they told us to pay it forward. All I knew is that my mom, my dog and I would have been in real danger had they not been there.

We were back on the road to our hotel by 8PM

Check out : 11 Tips To Survive A Wilderness Emergency  for some advice on wilderness travel!

What is the stickiest situation you’ve been in?

Your Cobweb Clearer, Kate

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3 thoughts on “The Day the Desert Tried to Kill Me – Stories From the Front Seat

  1. Kate, This was scary ! Stuck on a road in a most unusual way. So glad the ATV people came & that they were so nice. love, Melanie

    “Sometimes leadership is planting trees under whose shade you will never sit.” Gov.Jennifer Granholm- Mich.

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