This blog post is not about a recent painting or festival trip. It is about a recent experience (should I call it a ‘get to know the artist’ post?). Perhaps it is questionable that I am doing a post on the subject on my “business” website. I just can’t help myself because something stepped in three times on our trip. Some may call it luck or coincidence but I see it a little differently. Last week we traveled back to Park City, Utah for a little wedding planning and we also ventured down to Coyote Gulch in Escalante, Utah. This is a reflection on our time in southern Utah. I try to leave out irrelevant details. I cannot claim the artistic rights to the skull above; it was left behind by a talented hiker.

After 42 miles of driving on a pretty rough dirt/rock/sand road, our hike into the canyon started at 107 degrees. After hiking for a bit and lowering our packs with rope into the second level of the canyon (and scrambling through slot rocks) we crossed paths with two extremely dehydrated and exhausted hikers that had been in the exposed sun for somewhere between 5 and 7 hours. It really hit me later that the hikers had a good chance of dying if we didn’t cross paths. Upon my realization it almost felt as if I had the near death experience. They had conserved their water (yet only had a little left) rather than staying hydrated and were starting to become disoriented. They had given up mentally. Their bodies had given out. They had already ditched their packs as they could not carry the weight any longer. It was the end of the day and only one more group came into the canyon that day to cross paths with them (that was us). It felt weird being an angel. But we were there for a reason. Craig and Matt took the lead on helping those women out of the canyon by hoisted bags and the two ladies themselves up the slot canyons. They did an amazing job.

The following full day in the canyon was breathtaking; Coyote Gulch is an amazing wonderland. The beauty of it cannot be described. The hike out was the next time though. I don’t like heights but have done my share of climbing with ropes without a problem. I knew the hike out (or scramble out) was going to be a little sketchy. Unfortunately we took the wrong route and did not realize until it was too late. Jason had some webbing and we used it in one time. There wasn’t really an area that someone could safely belay anyone up anyway. I learned what “sewing machine leg” is firsthand (the uncontrollable twitching in the leg). Craig got it, too. One time I felt myself slipping and could not get a grip with my hands or feet (“trust your shoes” the guys said… which is great if your shoes are newer than my 2003 trailrunners). Panic started to take over; it is a feeling I am not familiar with. A fall would be debilitating if not worse. Jason was behind me to help, encourage and to try to “catch” me if something happened but I just knew if I slipped I would take him with me; I truly wanted to give up. I couldn’t breathe. I could only pray. The rest of the climb up the face was a blur. My leg would not stop trembling. But I made it up. I made it out of a panic that I have never experienced and I truly don’t know how. Jason was white as a ghost, too. Not for himself but for me.

First part above. Second part below.

The drive out of “40 mile road” is actually 42 miles as I said. It is hot, exposed and basically deserted. It is a two hour drive if a car is at hauling butt speed. Matt was spilling water in the back seat and laughing; I almost strangled him. I knew that extra water in the car is a necessity on a deserted desert road. We got a flat tire somewhere on the last half mile of the road. That’s right; the last 1/2 mile of 42 miles. We pulled out of “40 mile” road onto the paved turnout with the big Escalante sign on the main route. Our front passenger side tire fizzled flat. Our jack was bent and could not keep the car lifted to get the spare on (a great donut of a spare). We were just barely safe on the side of a well traveled road in a large turnout with cell coverage. How lucky (or blessed) can a group be? What if that happened halfway down the dirt road or worse? We didn’t even want to think about it. Our luck continued as a guy named Slim came as our tow truck hero to get our donut tire put on and drove ahead with our flat tire to his shop (which is Ruby’s Inn in Bryce and the ONLY shop open within a few hundred miles in Utah on Sunday. Our tire made it to his shop with about 30 minutes to spare before closing time). On another side note, Matt asked Slim if his gloves that said “Slim” belonged to the last guy he ate. Slim was not so slim and we ALL almost strangled Matt again. Luckily Slim didn’t judge us according to Matt’s smart a$$. And the luck kept going as the tire could be patched and Slim and his guys were good honest people. $23 and we’re on the road again. I told ol’ Slim I would like to have one of him in Georgia. He told me he would come with me. I told him that Jason might not be game for me bringing him back to Georgia with us. We laughed. He made me promise not to forget him. And I won’t.

41 miles to go…

An amazing trip. Three times. I am humbled and blessed. Thanks be…