September 29, 2013 – The Do-Over, Navajo Trail

Long story short, a little over twenty years ago John and I got our rental car stuck in the sand after trying to cross an impassable wash. We were rescued by some BLM guys. We were really lucky.

Today is the do-over of that trip. Both stories unfold together.

In the 1993 version we leave from a hotel around Bryce Canyon National Park. Our idea is to hit Pink Coral Sand Dunes State Park and then go to the airport for our trip back to the Bay Area. I cannot abide by going all the way back through Hurricane and St. George. I find a road. It’s just a faint squiggle on the map but nonetheless it will provide waaaay more adventure and clip a corner off our trip to Las Vegas for the flight home.

Today we leave from our place in St. George. Along the way I stop at an overlook and take a picture of St. George.

A almost birds-eye-view of St. George. The churchy looking place is the Mormon Cathedral.

A almost birds-eye-view of St. George. The churchy looking place is the Mormon Cathedral.

Perhaps John and I didn’t eat back in those days but we found that today we needed fuel for both ourselves and the car.

John fills up the car before we both head in for an Egg McMuffin, no cheese.

John fills up the car before we both head in for an Egg McMuffin, no cheese.

Our 1993 selves walk around Pink Coral Sand Dunes State Park. We are glad that we’ve started early since it is Memorial Day Weekend and the temperatures here are already starting to rise. We drive our rented Cadillac to the starting point of our great adventure.

Our 2014 selves fill the car, eat our breakfast and use the restrooms for the last time before our adventure. At 64 years old we need to make sure that creature comforts are taken care of. We arrive at the starting point.

Our starting point!

Our starting point!

But signs are ominous!

The sun is shining and all is good.

The sun is shining and all is good.


No doubt this road must be less primitive than 20 years ago!

No doubt this road must be less primitive than 20 years ago!

So both times we start out across the flat Uinikaret Plateau. I never understood how the cowboys of my youthful westerns on TV would be galloping along and come all of a sudden to the end of land. Seeing these great plateaus of the American West have brought me a better understanding.

The flat Uinikaret Plateau shich extends for the first 27 miles of our trip.

The flat Uinikaret Plateau which extends for the first 27 miles of our trip.

At mile 27 the flat land ends and descends rapidly down the Hurricane Cliffs.

Leaving the plateau

Leaving the plateau


The Hurricane Cliffs

The Hurricane Cliffs

For the next 15 miles both our old and new selves travel through rolling land. We have yet to meet a car.

Main Street Valley

Main Street Valley

Finally at mile 49 we reach the turnoff of doom.

Road of doom

Road of doom

We travel along. Our current selves enter the Grand Canyon-Parashant National Monument at mile 56.6. In 1993 this was all just wilderness.

John and the sign

John and the sign


Oh what’s this? At mile 57.9 we encounter our first sign of humans. They appear to be a family trying to get in a last visit to a National Monument before the shut down on Tuesday. There is a lot of frantic tourism out here where many national parks and monuments abut. Even so, we have driven almost 60 miles without seeing anyone. Back in 1993 we traveled past this point never seeing anyone else.

Getting back to 1993, we kept driving although the road conditions were getting worse. Our rented Cadillac made the ride quite cushy. At one point we pass a BLM crew grading the road. There had been a recent rain storm and the road was full of large rocks and bolders. We waved as we passed by. These men were instrumental in our rescue.

The fork in the road where ultimately we were able to flag down the BLM crew at mile 63.3.

The fork in the road where ultimately we were able to flag down the BLM crew at mile 63.3.

In 1993 before the National Monument, the roads were even less well kept than they are now. Our rental car began having trouble in the sand as we negotiated several washes. Finally we came to one where the bank was quite high on the other side and there was water in the wash. Over we zoomed trying to keep momentum. No luck. We backed up and tried again. This time we hit the bank so hard on the other side that we broke off the license plate. We decide to give up. During our K-turn we get the back wheels stuck in the sand. It is a rear wheel drive car. We gather brush to put under the wheels. But it is no use. We get what water we have out of the car and I use an old t=shirt as a bandanna and we start walking. John thinks that maybe we can get back to the BLM guys we saw a while ago.

Up and down hills we walk. We start making other plans. If we walk 15 miles back to the last intersection maybe we will find some traffic. However, we know that we have not seen a single car all day. We will have to walk all night to get to somewhere that there are people unless a car comes along.

About 2 1/2 miles into our walk we hear a sound. It sounds like heavy equipment! Maybe it’s the BLM crew. Yes, it is! The BLM guys are happy to help us. They tell us we might not see another car for two or three weeks. Their four wheel drive truck hooks our car and pulls it out of the sand. We are saved!!!

The old wash site has been upgraded with a culvert and an at grade crossing,

The old wash site has been upgraded with a culvert and an at grade crossing,

The height of the west bank of the wash before renovations

The height of the west bank of the wash before renovations

At this point in 1993 we had missed our flight home and ended up in the creepy city of Hildale, UT which is populated by a fundamentalist sect of polygamist Mormons. Filthy and exhausted we ended up in a restaurant there where we ordered orange juice and an appetizer sampler. We drove back to St. George and washed our rental car and finally stayed the night in Mesquite, NV before heading back to Las Vegas to catch a new flight the next day.

Our 2013 selves continued the drive across the Virgin Mountains and into Mesquite, NV. Due to my finding “a shortcut” in 1993 I managed to make and hour and a half drive of 85 miles into a 2013 drive of 100 miles and 4 hours. We learned a lot that day.