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Thursday, September 13, 2007

The Deathmarch - Prequel pt. 2

You would think with the trouble we had on day one we would have learned our lesson. You would think that I would know better than to hike with Dan. You might also think we would be tired enough to take the day off....well, you would be wrong. The next morning we woke up bright and early, and headed up to the Squeeze in Segers Hole. The day started out well. We packed up camp, I drank enough water to fill a small lake. I packed as much as I could carry without feeling like I was carrying a water bed on my back. We were both anticipating the day ahead. Dan was excited because this was the hike that he broke his leg on, in a previous attempt. I was excited because I was clear headed and not a bit thirsty (and looking back maybe a little delirious).

The drive down to the trail head was scenic. As we drove the dusty roads to get there, we had to make the decision where to get out and start walking. There were two options available. The first stopping point was for non 4x4 vehicles and the second about two miles further down could only be taken with 4x4. It was an easy choice, we had a Jeep, and the drive down looked exciting. As we made our descent it was obvious why this was 4x4 only. The road (and I use the term road loosely) was a narrow track with a sheer cliff face on one side, and a 50 ft drop off on the other. To make it worse there were ruts large enough to swallow the Jeep whole, and we didn't have any fancy rock climbing suspension on the vehicle. We cruised down some sandy dunes, and slowly made it down the worst part of the road to our stopping point.

The first part of the hike was OK, but Dan said the good stuff wasn't until later into the canyon. Strangely about an hour into the hike I started feeling bad. I am still not sure what was wrong but my head was pounding and It was just getting worse. I had enough water, and wasn't showing any other signs of dehydration. I wasn't fatigued, I didn't know what was going on. Just as we got to the "Good Part" as Dan calls it, I told him we have to turn back. I could tell he wasn't happy about it, but I was determined that we needed to head back. With my perfect 20/20 hindsight I am sure glad I did.

We got back to the Jeep about midday and almost instantly I began feeling better. I didn't mention this to Dan because we had bigger fish to fry. The semi-difficult drive down the mountain was now a near impossible drive back up. We had to deal with the ruts going down but now without gravity on our side we needed the four wheel drive, which in that moment decided that it didn't want to work anymore. Difficult though this seemed we persevered...that is until the Jeep started over heating and stalling out. we began pouring any and all water we could find into the radiator only saving the milk left from breakfast (we didn't want to make the situation worse). Slowly we crawled back up the rutted area filling in the ruts with boulders and and zig zagging back and forth just to not get high centered. This process took us several hours and when we got past this part we thought we were home free...until we hit the sand dunes again.

We flew down these so fast coming down we didn't even consider what going up them would be like. Our first attempt was comical, we hit the dune and the tires just started spinning and spraying sand everywhere. We tried different angles of attack, still worried the Jeep would over heat. Nothing was working. I know I had been praying before trying to get out of the ruts, and Dan said he had been also, but we finally decided to formalize it and ask God for help. We said a prayer, and then went on our separate ways to see if we could figure out how to get out of this bowl. Dan hiked down around the front, and I went back the way we came. Shortly after leaving the Jeep I noticed there were a lot of rocks that looked like shale, that could be broken off in large sheets. I decided then, with obvious help from above, that we needed to build a road up the sand. I started working on it while I waited for Dan to get back. When he got back he said there was no other way out and he started helping me build the road. We laid the sheet like rocks end to end all the way up the dunes that were keeping us trapped. Since there was only two of us the road was more like a track for each wheel. Despite this, we were proud of our work. Dan ran to the top of the hill, and I got behind the wheel to put our masterpiece to the test. I back up a little to get a good start, and when I hit the rocks, I sailed right up. Dan just yelled "keep going" until I got out of the bowl completely. You would think since it was late afternoon that our adventure would be done for the day but noooo of course not.

After Dan jumped back in the Jeep we said a prayer of thanks and we started driving down the easy dirt roads. I heard a strange sound, ssp sssp sssp sssp. "what the heck is that" I asked we stopped the vehicle and found to our frustration that we had a tire leak. We soon discovered Dan had an under-inflated spare tire also. As we crawled down those dirt roads on a half inflated spare we both wondered if we were going to be spending another night in the desert. Miraculously after driving a couple of miles on that low tire we spotted a hunter on a 4wheeler that just happened to have a hand pump. We thanked him profusely as we began filling the low spare by hand. If you have never had to pump up a Jeep tire with a hand pump count your self very, very lucky. It took forever, and was more tiring than the hikes we came down here for. We never complained though, we were just glad that we could get out of there. With the tire inflated we finally made it back to the first sign of real civilization... paved roads.

Cruising down a paved road is relaxing for me. The hum of the wheels on the road is like a lullaby. As I leaned back contemplating our weekend misadventures, I was rudely yanked from my reverie by the explosion of our spare tire, and the smacking of tire tread on the undercarriage of the Jeep. Oddly, upon inspection, the tire was still inflated. It just didn't have rubber on it any more. So we slowly made our way to Nephi, Utah 20 minutes away, amidst the horrible grind of bare wires on asphalt. In Nephi almost everything was closed. We pulled up to the auto shop just as they were getting ready to close down as well. I think the attendant felt sorry for us. Since they didn't sell tires he plugged the flat tire with two plugs in the sidewall. We asked if we would make it to Salt Lake, he just laughed and said he wouldn't even try it. I believed him, but we both felt like pushing on so we got back on the road, and headed toward home. I think there must have been an angel hanging onto the back of the Jeep that night with his finger in the tire like the Dutch boy with his finger in the dam. We made it back safely and once again prayerfully thanked God we were alive and well.

I like to think I learn from my experiences. I try to see what good can come from them even if they seem bad at the time. The things I learned and that came out of this trip are; God does hear and answer prayers, My wife has absolutely forbidden my son from ever going hiking with Dan (she would like to say the same for me but knows I wouldn't go for it), Dan got a new set of tires and shortly after a new Jeep entirely, and finally I have one of those stories that when I am old and wrinkled I can tell my grandkids about.

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