It was time to bring my winter travels to a close, and get back to work in Estes Park, Colorado. A had a job lined up which started in May, but first I had arranged to meet a friend in Utah with the intention of doing some exploring.
My friend and I wanted to do a slot canyon in The Waterpocket Fold that normally has water in it, but then it rained and the wind blew, and it was cold, and we decided against doing this particular canyon.
So we went to plan number two. That was to hike down Little Death Hollow Canyon instead. We decided to wait a couple of days, and then do it, but we figured we could at least camp out there and explore the area nearby. So we drove out to the trail head and found a camp spot. However, the weather was not in our favor because it snowed. So the next morning we high-tailed it out of there, because we were aware that Wolverine Loop Road has patches of bentonite clay, and we didn’t want to get stuck out there if the bad weather lasted for long. We couldn’t get a radio station to listen to the weather forecast, so we didn’t really know how long it would last.
On our drive out we hit a patch of wet bentonite clay.
I’ve always avoided it like the plague before (except when it’s dry), preferring to do anything it takes to avoid having to drive on it when its wet (I’d paid attention to all the warnings) and after this experience I hope I never have to drive on this stuff when wet again for the rest of my life. It is just plain scary! It doesn’t matter what kind of tires you have, or whether you are in four-wheel drive or not, the driver just plain and simply has no control of their vehicle at all. This clay is so slick you just slide as though you are driving on grease, and if there is a cliff nearby all you can do is take a deep breath and try to relax for the potential impact. We got lucky, by some miracle my friend managed to steer the wheels so the vehicle slid away from the drop off. I was the one looking down the cliff, and my heart was quite literally in my throat. I closed my eyes so as not to see the end, but it didn’t happen.
What is the lesson here…I’ll make it clear DO NOT EVER DRIVE ON WET BENTONITE CLAY! Learn about it, learn to recognize it, and avoid it like the plague.
Anyway, we made it out alive, and drove to the small town of Escalante to decide what to do. We camped there for a couple of nights, and visited a museum and the local restaurant. When the roads dried up, we drove out to the trail head for Little Death Hollow and Wolverine Canyon again. However, it was still cold, and we didn’t feel comfortable going into the canyon now, so we explored the cliffs around the area instead and discovered that the rocky slopes were littered in petrified wood.
The Wolverine Petrified Wood Natural area has at times ten to twenty foot petrified logs simply lying around at the surface and are quite common. The Chinle formation, sitting stratigraphically one rock unit below the Wingate Sandstone was formed at a time when large swampy forests dominated the landscape. As geologic time progressed, these swampy forests were buried and became petrified. This rock unit was buried under thousands of feet of other rock layers until the Laramide uplift that caused erosion of many overlaying layers and exposing the large petrified logs at the surface. This is the largest collection of petrified wood in the country except for the Petrified Forest in Arizona.
While I was exploring these cliff sides I saw several snakes, we had also seen a couple while driving in on Wolverine Loop Road. Even so, I wasn’t being quite as careful as I should have been, and then a series of events led to a very close call ~ Here is the post I wrote about it back in April 2016: Complacency Can Kill.
The post I wrote goes into a bit more detail about this area, and more…
Oh, and here is the snake:
Ultimately we survived the bentonite clay, and the snakes, and we made it out alive. We didn’t get to explore any of the canyons, but sometimes just the getting to a place and camping there can be adventure enough.
After this, my friend took me back to my vehicle which was parked in Moab, and he returned to Colorado. I also had to return to Colorado, but I went a different route, and a little slower.
I didn’t really want to return to Estes Park, but a job awaited and at least I knew I had a nice boss, so it wouldn’t be too bad. LOL.
And yep, it was still winter in Estes Park.
In my next post I’ll tell you how much it cost me to travel to all the places I did for almost six months, and the figure will include food, gas, and everything except auto insurance. In the meantime, perhaps you’d like to re-visit my travels through the winter of 2015/2016, by choosing the appropriate folders under categories in the right hand column of the home page.
Until then…enjoy the adventure, even if you don’t reach your goal.
Roxy ~ A Nomad for Nature