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UT: Cedar Mesa Canyon Trip Interuptus - Nov. 10th-11th

Discussion in 'Trip Reports' started by Ram, Nov 15, 2016.

  1. Ram

    Ram

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    It was Thursday, November the 11th, 2016 and I was finally off to start my 13 day canyon trip. First up was meeting the gang at Page Arizona. I love the 4 AM start for the long drive from Fort Collins,, Colorado. But last minute work intercedes and I now stare at Denver rush hour if I leave at 7 AM, after my tasks are done, I decide to take a nap and wait a few hours. Good plan....that does not work. Leaving before 11 AM all is well until the back up on the interstate, due to an accident. An hour plus disappears, as we wait at full stop, the 75 MPH speed limit sign mocking me. Tick, tick, tick, goes the time bomb.

    I am through Moab and get the call from Brett. We were to caravan, if we could. He is an hour ahead of me. Day slips into evening and I am below Bluff, on 191, going south, less than 10 miles from Arizona. Another car comes northbound. Both of us are going the speed limit, perhaps a bit slower than that. Our duel headlights show the outline of.....what? It's big, that is for sure. It is in my lane, right of center. Time slows down and clarity is at hand. As I brake hard, the choice is clear. Go left and hit the oncoming car head on....or plow through whatever is blocking the light ahead. I see the reflection of an eye. If I could just move 2-3 feet left, I could miss whatever it is. But the option is likely suicide. I am under 30 miles an hour now, slowing quickly when the THUD and the impact occurs. Was that a burro? A BIG burro? The hood flies open, all the way to vertical. I can not see a thing, as I slow further. I open the window and lean out and try to find the shoulder, but not the drop a few feet beyond it. I am stopped. I get out and look quickly. The car is still a few feet out, in the road. I glance at the shoulder, jump back in the car and ease it over to safety on the shoulder.

    Hazard lights get switched on. I breath. I know.....in an instant, all my preparations and plans are out the door. A new "route find" and "exploration" awaits. I needed this trip so badly. The stress in my life had been huge. But it is moot. I grab the headlamp and go appraise reality. I am sure it is bad. I am right. The right head light area is GONE.The radiator is missed by an inch, but the battery....the battery occupies less than a 1/4 of the space it is suppose to. The smell of anti-freeze wafts in, along with battery acid. I feel like I am shaking. I look at my hands. They feel like they are trembling. They are not. On the outside anyway. I note the tiny bit of shock I think I am experiencing.. This I take into account as I process a plan. It is 7:30 PM

    First, I pull the hood down a bit. Then sit in the drivers seat and turn the key. The car starts. Well that is a surprise! Then I look at the phone. Very little cell service down this way. Not even a light from a home or anything. I look. Two to three bars. WOW! How can that be? I call Brett and tell him that my trip joining him and the others is over and wish him well. The car that had been going the other way when I hit the......burro?... pulls up along side,. I meet Matt. Nice fellow, full of compassion and offering support. It is hard to think as clearly as I think I should be, but the pieces fall together. I call AAA Colorado. The put me in touch with AAA Utah. I am smack in between tow zones. Keyenta or Monticello? I am closer to Keyenta by a few miles. I BEG to stay in Utah, They are kind enough to allow this. They promise to call back. I notify several folks, some by voicemail, others directly. I call my buddy Jarad, sheriff in San Juan County, where I am presently marooned. Get his answering machine. He will call back a little latter. I say good-bye to Matt. He would have stayed, Wanted to stay, but I shoo him along. Nothing to do but wait. After all I have survival gear for over two weeks, without rationing ;-).

    Cars were 5 to 10 minutes apart. And about every other one of them stops, asks if I am OK, if I need anything, offer to help. All sorts of folks, men, women, big, small, white, brown, young and old. It is the highlight of this journey and I feel connected to something bigger...better. The lift from this is mattered and has a sweet aftertaste. I wander down to the impact sight. It is easy to tell where it is. The debris stream on the road ends. I have kicked the larger debris to the side of the road, on the way over. I scan the side of the road. I see nothing. Could the big burro be OK? Off back into the night? Then I see it. No, the burro is along the side of the road, quite still....but wait....That ain't no burro! I have killed a horse. I come closer and the smell! GAWD! I hold my nose and look. No brand to be seen. A wild horse. Sigh!

    [​IMG]

    The sheriff comes and then the highway patrol. They both know Jarad. I am name dropping. I pick their brain for "what they would do, if they were me." We laugh, chat, review the accident, take notes and they give me the report, for my insurance company, before they take off. It is 9 PM and they report that there was a totaled car from a deer north of Monticello, a totaled car from a cow, west of Blanding and a single car roll over fatality out Montezuma way, already tonight. Canyoneering is not dangerous. At least not as much as driving anyway. I wait for my ride. AAA Plus rocks! One hundred miles of free towing! A good deal.

    George from Monticello comes and we load my former ride up on the flat bed. I jump in and he takes me the 55 miles north to Draper's Towing and Repair, in Monticello. It is 11:30 PM. George heads home. He says Steve the owner will be in early the next day. There is a motor lodge next door. There is a motel across the street. Occupancy looks to be less than a quarter at both. I crawl into the back of my wrecked vehicle and chase sleep. I only catch it occasionally, as my mind tries to wrap around what has happened and what there is to do.

    At 6:45 the next morning, Steve comes in. For the next hour, I will ask him various questions, one at a time, as I slowly piece together a plan. He is very kind and very patient with this stranger loitering around his shop. I turn the key and the car STILL starts. Pieces are just shedding off the thing and it's still drive-able! My insurance company had been notified the night before and it seems likely that the vehicle will be totaled. Just in case not, I leave the car be. The only rent-a-car outfit for many, many, many miles in any direction, is Enterprise in Moab. They open at 8AM. Two blocks away is a bus station and Greyhound heads north to Moab, leaving at 8:13 AM. I mull over what to take with me IF a car is available. If they have a drive-away option. IF they won't put me in the poorhouse. The window is narrow. I call Enterprise and get Kim. Yes they have a car. Yes they do drive-away and yes it is reasonably priced. I sprint to the bus station and an hour and a half later I am in Moab, getting fitted out with new wheels, temporary as they may be. The bus driver was just another of those people you likely never meet. From a different world and slipstream. A retired construction worker, who upon retirement, adopted several kids, literally a rainbow of backgrounds. This fellow walks the walk. I hope he overcomes the return of cancer. People, living their lives. Makes a crashed car seem....well, what it is. Trivial. First off, is the 55 mile drive, in the wrong direction, back to Monticello, to my car. It must be emptied of everything that is mine. As I sort stuff, the insurance company calls. It is official. Totaled. I finish the stripping of my ride for the last 4 years. It has been a good vehicle. My first and only new car in my life. It has almost 109,000 miles on it, as we say good-bye. One transfer case was all that I put into it....except for the new struts and shocks the DAY BEFORE the crash. LOL! That $750 was not well spent.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    I thank Steve Draper and head north. I strongly consider doing a solo in Pleiades, already thinking it would make this story, into a trip report and add levity to the whole affair. But I am a tad shook, to be honest. I want home before driving the mountains, in the dark, dodging deer. Or maybe I am just getting staid, in my old age. I let this opportunity go, and today I feel some regret, for doing so. I arrive home 23 hours and 23 minutes after the accident. This seems remarkable to me. I take satisfaction in that.

    [​IMG]

    I have been home 67 hours, at the time of this writing. Not sure what the insurance company will compensate me for, but they say I have the same rate on the next Pathfinder, number 4, that I have in my possession, for the last 28 hours. And yes, I am packing, to reinsert into the later part of this interrupted trip. Forecast for the passes is snow. I will try to get through before it hits hard. No surrender!
    Ram
    danf, carol, Alane Urban and 11 others like this.
  2. Kevin

    Kevin

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    That was a good read, glad you are alright Ram could have been far worse.
    Ram, Rapterman and Kuenn like this.
  3. Dan Ransom

    Dan Ransom Staff Member

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    Wow dude. Glad you are ok, but sorry to hear of the mayhem.
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  4. Bootboy

    Bootboy Atwood Gear

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    Well written.

    Back in black!


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
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  5. spinesnaper

    spinesnaper

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    Pretty sure it is the drive that is the most dangerous part of canyoneering. Stay safe out there.

    Ken
    John Styrnol, Ram and Rapterman like this.
  6. Mike Zampino

    Mike Zampino Canyon season never ends.

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    Wow! Glad you are alright. I was luckier than you with a similar situation driving through South Dakota over the weekend. Three Elk on the the road (one in my lane) just as I was approaching another car coming the other direction. Luckily I had room on the right hand shoulder. Phew!!!
    Rapterman likes this.
  7. Downward Bound

    Downward Bound

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    I was on that same stretch of road that same night around 7:45 pm, heading north into Bluff. I hate driving the res at night, too many animals on the wrong side of the fence.
    Ram likes this.
  8. John Styrnol

    John Styrnol

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    I remember a few years back and the cow's on 24/95 (on the way to Hanksville) were a problem.
  9. Melanie Neale

    Melanie Neale

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    Life! Best laid plans.....I am here in London UK, thanks for the story, glad you survived. I did The Wave a couple of years back, starting in Denver so I could "run" with your trip. I am sure you will be back
    Ram likes this.
  10. Ram

    Ram

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    Still are...members of the community have totaled trucks, cars and SUV's there. One got totaled the night I hit the horse. FreezeFest sees many a black cow wandering the road, after dark, every year. If you hit um, they make you pay for um. WHY are the ranchers not required to put reflective tags on the beasties ears or something? I don't want to think they WANT you to hit them, but....
  11. John Styrnol

    John Styrnol

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    Kinda sounds like they do.:eek:
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