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F.U.Rain Day 13 - Our Dangerous Move Into Capitol Reef National Park

October 11, 2018.

It rained on and off through the night. We were more sheltered though, so it wasn't too bad - and I'd definitely prefer rain at night to rain during the day. Well, assuming it stops early enough to dry out the tent!

I woke up around 7:30am, the rain still coming down and decided there was no reason to rush out of bed - so I didn't. Instead, I read the last of my book for an hour, waiting for the rain to let up. Coincidentally, just as I finished the last page, the rain stopped and I hurried to get my clothes on and get myself out and about to investigate the situation around camp.

No surprises here - it was cloudy and wet, the wash in the canyon behind us now running, where it hadn't been the night before.

Of course, what I really should have been doing was putting away the tent, even though it was wet - because it's always better to put away a tent when it's not actively raining on you! I wasn't the only one who made this miscalculation however, and as the rain started to fall again, Monte @Blackdawg, Mike @Digiratus, and I all gathered under Mike's awning to wait it out.

His awning really had been a lifesaver this trip.

After an hour, we finally decided that we'd stood around long enough - it was time to get going, despite the rain. So we each headed out, donned our gloves, and attacked our tents, trying to get them folded up as quickly as possible while keeping everything inside as dry as possible. Obviously. Dare I say we packed up in record time.

Having opted to stay aired down on the way back to the highway from our camp site, once we hit the highway we found the first big pull-out where we could air up our tires - we had some pavement to hit today, our route taking us to Halls Crossing, then across Lake Powell on a Ferry that only ran every two hours, off the ferry and through the town of Bullfrog, and finally north into Capitol Reef National Park where we hoped we wouldn't get stopped by snow.

But I'm getting ahead of myself, and plans never unfold as expected. So we were aired up and headed west towards Halls Crossing and the ferry - the next departure scheduled for 12:00pm. We had 75 minutes to make it 65 miles, and we had to fill up with fuel before boarding the ferry. It was going to be close.

As we drove, the rain slowed and stopped, eventually the sun starting to poke through.

With no traffic along the way, we made good time - enjoying the views of Glen Canyon National Recreation Area yet again - eventually arriving at Halls Crossing around 11:45am. Plenty of time to refuel and head down to the dock, where we got in line for ferry, this it's last week in operation before shutting down for the winter.

Within minutes they had us all loaded up on the ferry, our mud-covered trucks catching the eye of several other passengers and prompting several conversations during our 45-minute crossing of Lake Powell.

As we did, the sun continued it's attempts to break through the clouds - spots of light illuminating distant shores. It was just a matter of time really - the rain clearly done for the day in this neck of the woods - to our delight.

It wasn't long before we approached the Bullfrog marina, home to hundreds of houseboats - several of which we'd seen on the lake as we'd camped along it's northern shore, all of them clearly competing in a water slide competition. "They keep having to rebuild this marina." a local told us, "The water level is now down 64 feet from it's normal levels and 38 feet from one year ago." Holy smokes, guess that explains why we were driving off onto a temporary ramp - the concrete boat ramp was no longer long enough to reach the water.

Off the boat, we made our way into town and to a picnic area for lunch and a flushable bathroom break. And, an hour later, we were on our way north towards Capitol Reef National Park. Our plan was to take what we thought was a a lower-elevation route through the park, making our way north towards I-70.

We didn't make it far - in fact, we were still aired up and on pavement - before we came to a major wash. Now, I think that most days, this was is totally dry, but today it was by far the fullest, deepest, fastest-moving wash we'd encountered. As a BLM ranger pulled up behind us, Monte tentatively ventured in.

Moving slowly, it was quickly apparent to him that he'd perhaps made a poor decision. From shore, it was apparent that there was no "perhaps" in that equation - the upstream water halfway up his door, and nearly spilling into the bed as he pulled out of the wash.

And, while he had to stop in the wash to shift into 4Lo, he made it - the only casualty his passenger foot well, now saturated with water that'd made it's way around the door seal.

It was Mike's turn next. As he dropped into the wash, two cameras clicked away, catching him from each direction - the danger we were in more apparent now that we'd seen Monte make the crossing.

Mike made it across with liberal use of the skinny pedal, his bow wave spilling up and over his hood as he rushed to exit the raging water. "Nervous Mike?" joked Monte.

And then it was my turn. Having watched the two guys in front of me, I picked my line and watched my speed. Halfway across, I could feel the water rushing down the wash, the truck slipping ever-so-slightly downstream as it fought for traction. And then, I was out!

As the water drained from my skid plates I evaluated the situation. Engine still running - check; passenger foot well dry - check; AC idler pulley still silent - nope. It'd been less than a week and apparently I'd toasted another bearing. Yay.

We all chatted for a while on the far side of the wash, as the BLM ranger turned his truck around and drove away - the three of us safely across. "Well, that was definitely the most dangerous thing we've done so far." said Monte. "Probably pretty dumb, actually."

"Maybe it's a good thing we hadn't aired down - that got us an extra inch clearance." I added. "And I bet Mike's glad the Redhead weighs so much now!"

Unsure what lay ahead, we decided the worst case would be that we had to drive back through, and so we pushed on - up in elevation and finally into Capitol Reef. I was excited.

The going here was reasonably quick - the road having been graded recently, mud therefore at a minimum. It's not that we didn't hit stretches of it, but for the most part the mud here was sandy rather than sticky - something I especially was extremely grateful for.

The colors were amazing. Capitol Reef is named capitol for the white domes of Navajo Sandstone that resemble capitol building domes, and reef for the rocky cliffs which are a barrier to travel, like a coral reef. The rocks here range in age from Permian (as old as 270 million years old) to Cretaceous (as young as 80 million years old), the 200+ layers of sediment deposited when the area was at much lower elevations that it is today.

Then, between 50 and 70 million years ago a major mountain building event occurred when the Laramide Orogeny reactivated an ancient buried fault in the region. Movement along the fault caused the west side to fold and shift upwards 7,000 feet relative to the east side. It's only been in the last 15-20 million years that erosion has started to expose this fold, best along the 100-mile long Capitol Reef National Park.

As we traveled through the afternoon, it became obvious that the white sandstone was our preferred driving surface. It seemed to dry out quickly and didn't stick to the trucks in the same way as the red clay that hid underneath. And that clay got everywhere, and quickly. At some point, I just gave up trying to keep it off even the windshield.

Photo pivot!

By late afternoon we hit pavement again, on our way to Utah 24. Just as we did, a couple of Nissan Xterra's pulled up behind us, said their hello's, chatted for a few moments to learn where we'd been over the last couple weeks, and then carried on - the first other adventurers we'd seen the entire trip. And it wouldn't be the last time we'd run into them!

Now, we were on the hunt for a camp site. We explored several places along the highway - none of them what we were looking for. The first was only a couple feet above a major wash, the next was completely unsheltered from the wind. We'd learned our lessons in those situations over the last few days, so we continued on.

But eventually we found a good spot - only a few hundred feet off the trail we'd be taking the next day anyway. The ground was composed largely of white sandstone, and the trucks were sheltered in the shadow of the ridge. It was the perfect spot.

As the sun began to set, we setup camp. And that's when Monte noticed a buzzing coming from his ham radio antenna. And CB antenna. Unsure what it was from, we all checked our respective antennas to find that they too were buzzing away. And then in the distance - lightning. What we were hearing was an electrical storm, telegraphed through or equipment.

Cool stuff to discover as the clouds are turning color in the sky above, but not cool to have it start raining a few minutes later - sending us all to the safety of our cabs, where we hung out for half an hour until the storm cell passed and the sunset continued.

As the sun set we gathered around the camp fire to enjoy one of our last dinners together. And what a dinner it was - at least as far as I was concerned. Mike made guacamole (for something like the 9th time this trip). That, in addition to a dessert of cookies was the perfect cap to a fun day.

Knowing we didn't have many fires left, we stayed up until midnight, recounting not just the day but the entire trip. Favorite moments, tense times - all of them memories we'd remember for years. We had one more day - and little did we know now, but that last day would be the one that would finally force us to turn around and go back - something we'd escaped so far.

But now we're getting ahead of ourselves... because when we went to bed, we were looking forward to completing our trek through Capitol Reef National Park.

 

 

 

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