Heading Into the Boonies Alone

On April 29, 2014, I was in the Kanab area of Utah. I had to go there to get a haircut as I was three weeks overdue for one, and my head was beginning to look like an old, worn-out, grey mop. I had enquired in Escalante, about the possibility of getting a haircut, but the only lady anyone knew that cut hair, was out-of-town.

I don’t know if everyone understands how far it is from one town to another out here (very remote), how few towns there are, how small they are, and how little some of them offer in terms of services, groceries etc. This area of the world is (thankfully) minimally populated compared to many other parts of the United States. I think it mostly sees tourists from Europe, who stay in nice hotels, eat in restaurants,  and travel in coaches or rented cars, and rarely have to actually visit the grocery store, re-supply water for several days at a time, and figure out the back road system. They fly along the highways from one National Park to another doing the Grand Circle and only catch glimpses of everything in-between.


I, on the other hand, prefer the everything in between part (I do visit National Parks, but don’t enjoy the crowds).

So while in Kanab, I figured I may as well do a couple of hikes here. One of them is called Red Canyon or Peek-a-Boo (not to be confused with the Peek-a-Boo at Zion, or the one along Hole-In-The-Rock Road, and not to be confused with another Red Canyon between Bryce NP and Zion NP). Phew!

First I made an appearance at the BLM Visitor Center at 8:30 AM to try to win a permit for The Wave (a breathtaking and very photogenic sandstone wave which can only be accessed by permit, and there are only 20-permits issued a day. Ten online and ten at the Kanab BLM office, both as a raffle). There were 127 other people trying to get one of the ten permits, in forty-three different groups on this day, and my number wasn’t drawn, so I decided to attempt my chosen hike instead.

There were three different roads in (probably more, but these were the ones I had info on), and I decided to try the one that was supposed to be the easiest, even though it was very long. The other two were very sandy, and although Mitzi is 4×4 high clearance, sand is not something I have the skills with or equipment for getting myself out of it if I were to get stuck.

The first part wasn’t bad; nine miles along BLM Route 100 (narrow, sandy, with occasional sand-drifts – I could drive 15-20 mph, and even touched 25 mph for about one-minute), then one-mile on route 102A, which took me to route 102. I was supposed to travel along this road for ten-miles, and the first three weren’t too bad (I used 4×4 low once on a steep, rough hill), but then the road started to get narrower, and more sandy, and then started to head downhill, with steep curvy bends, and the occasional drop off or wash on the outside of a curve. The juniper bushes were catching the side of Mitzi, and pinion pines were catching the top (the part I call the attic).

If you’ve never driven in the sand, you should try it. It can be fun given the right circumstances. It’s a bit like driving in deep snow, and it pulls your steering anyway it wants to. The sand might be directing you towards a drop-off or a tree, and the only way you can avoid it is by letting up on the gas and coming to a stop. It’s good to have it in 4×4 low at this point so you don’t have to hit the brakes, because who knows what that will do! (I’m no expert on this subject, this is just my experience today, so don’t take this as advice on how to drive in sand).

It was about now that I started to hold the steering wheel tighter than I needed to, and it wasn’t to control the steering. I also started to feel a knot form in my stomach. I was getting nervous. Fourteen-miles in, with no signs that anyone else had driven on that road that day, not a soul for who knew how many miles, no shovel to dig myself out, and the handle for my car-jack missing. I finally decided to turn around with only seven miles to go. Except there was nowhere to turn around. I ended up going down a steep hill that was no wider than Mitzi, with sand pitching me from left to right, squirrely and a little scary.

Eventually, I managed to turn around, and on my return trip I felt the knot in my stomach ease as the miles receded behind me, and the paved road came closer. Only 11 miles to hike for help…only 6, 4, 1.

I was bummed that I didn’t make it to my goal. It’s a bit like climbing for seven-hours to gain the summit of a mountain, then having to turn around just 100-feet from the summit because of the risk of getting struck by lightning (yes, been there, done that). It sucks, but it’s the safe thing to do.

So now I’m parked at the trailhead for Lick Wash, along Skutumpah Road (a dirt, kinda graveled, but regularly used road) and will do a nice hike in the morning, and head to another trailhead to sleep tomorrow night).

This is what happens when one goes into the boonies as a female, alone (at least for myself). I suppose in choosing to live in my car and travel alone, I have to accept that there are some things I simply will not be able to do.

So be it.

Until next time…better to have tried and failed, then never to have tried at all…

Roxy ~ A Nomad for Nature (Originally posted on my (then) blog, A Free-Spirited Woman)

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