I’d usually separate trips like these into days and what those themes were. This was a trip that’s better categorized with one theme. Excavation. I came here to try and figure out what’s going on with me. Mentally and spiritually. I’ve gone dark for some time now and this is my attempt to swing for the fences in desperation. As I sit on this plane and reflect on the last four days, I’ve come to a common theme...survival. What does it take to survive a life that has been filled with a lot of bad things? How do I move on from the past and learn from it without being shackled to it? I came here to see my brother. I came here to see myself again.
I flew into Vegas and got into a truck, made a quick stop for supplies from Andy’s, and hopped back into the truck headed for Utah, one of the most haunting places on earth. The past few weeks have been a journey to mine out those things I’ve pushed so far down and finally deal with them. Allow myself to feel them.
We got to the cabin and began by talking about some very personal and difficult things. Andy and I have never allowed each other the comfort of avoidance. We dive in. I came here for this.
The mountains in Utah are haunted. I watched a thing on television about the spirits that haunt people and places there. I’m not a believer in that stuff for the most part. However, by the end of this trip, I could see why they may tell stories. I left with my own. The air is thin and fresh. Despite being one of the worst years for my asthma, I was relatively clear.
The people are amazing here. They treat you like your presence matters to them. This is an important thing. It’s something we really all could learn from. Doesn’t matter what your theological lean tends to be, the Mormons are all good to me.
While hiking, we kept it light-hearted and just enjoyed the things we both got to witness for the first time together. We went to a place in a canyon that was etched in pictures meant to tell the story of the ancient antives thousands of years ago. We also saw vandalism dating back to the 1800’s. The theme of this for me was that we all tend to want to tell our stories. We want people who come behind us to know our existence and accomplishments. Whether the originator of these beautiful rock drawings, or one who vandalizes them with your own inscriptions. Although, if you do this, you’re a dick. I learned that the past doesn’t change and it is pointless to stay there.
We went on a hike to this place that was supposed to have dinosaur tracks in the rocks. We went in there and went up a mountain. We looked at every rock looking for tiny tracks that may look like little dinosaur feet. We couldn’t find anything definitive. We found a bunch of things we would glare at and speculate about, but nothing to be sure of. “This place must be a sham,” we thought. Until we went back down. We missed the markers entirely. We saw one and went over to it and saw a dinosaur print bigger than our torsos. We were looking for these tiny things and missing the enormous things that once lived in the past. Almost, but not forgotten. The theme for us was that all things make a print on something. If a step a dinosaur took before anything was ever touched by humans here can be seen, our actions can affect the future of the world. We aren’t forgotten entirely.
We went to a place that was considered a “Local secret.” We hiked for a few miles of boring, easy terrain. We thought it was wack. Then…. We came upon the part that the trail makers wanted you to find, but didn’t mark. We had to climb some rocks and boulders. We had to jump over some water and get a little tired to find it. Once we scaled the largest rock, it came into view. This beautiful waterfall that had almost entirely frozen. There were a group of ice climbers there packing up their things after they scaled it. I asked them if they wanted to see me climb it without the sharp ice tools and knife boots. They said yes. But then offered me their gear. I didn’t try it because I promised my family I would be careful.
So of course, that’s gonna be a hard no. Not looking to die that way. I was bent on being careful. This was the day Kobe and his kid had died with 7 other people doing something that was risky despite feeling comfortable with it. We talked to the guys for a while and they took off back. Andy and I explored a bit and really appreciated what we were looking at. We acknowledged it together and started heading back.
This was the moment that we could have gone home and called it a great final day. But instead we came upon a road that was closed that we had passed on the day before. We were in a side by side buggy and had confidence/arrogance that we could handle whatever was on that road up that mountain. For miles and miles we rode it up. We saw all of these beautiful things in the light of the sun. Things that only God creates. The snow became more dense, but we pushed on, without supplies.
We crossed a place that the snow was pretty deep and questioned whether we should continue or not. There was a meadow that was supposed to be so beautiful ahead. So we pushed on. A quarter mile later, we were buried in the snow. We spent two hours and the remaining daylight trying to get unburied. We broke the four wheel drive trying and it became clear as the sun dropped below the mountain tops, that we were not going to be able to get it out. We would have to hike all of these miles in the dark, haunted mountains.
Here is a list of things that looked bad for us, followed by a list of things that saved our lives.
- It’s winter in the mountains, which means it’s really cold at elevation.
- There are thousands of mountain lions present and their tracks were everywhere. Those fears came equipped with recent stories of eaten human remains found there.
- There are also bears
- Also Elk that shouldn’t be threatened
- It was wet and we had soaked ourselves completely, trying to get the buggy out.
- We had 1 bottle of water and six cookies. Andy was cramping up and my feet were water logged because I chose to wear my comfortable trail running shoes instead of my terribly uncomfortable waterproof boots.
- The hike, we estimated was between 10 and 16 miles. Then a road that was mostly deserted would give us another eight miles or so.
- We had no cell service. In fact, Andy got a tiny blip once and we dialed 911 and were so happy to hear the phone ring. Three times and no answer. Then the mountains took that tiny bit of service back and the call dropped. We felt the haunted mountain laughing.
- We were both scared and anxious that we wouldn’t make it out for a ton of reasons. We were exhausted.
- At one point we both thought that this may be fatal. So we made a video to tell loved ones what happened and I planned on changing my security settings to no password or face id.
The good things
- While it was cold, about 25 degrees, it was unseasonably warm for this time of year. The previous night was 8 degrees at low elevation. Probably about 0 up there.
- There was a road. We were not lost. This was huge because at least we knew we were always headed in the right direction.
- We had a flashlight.
- It was downhill. If it was uphill, we wouldn’t have made it out for certain. Then our focus would have been about warmth and survival.
- We were together. We have been through so much together. It seems things like these happen so often together. We know how each other cope and work with each other.
We got to the road. We celebrated for a moment when we saw the trail entrance. But there was still this eight mile walk into town. One car passed our distress calls. The second passed. No one's gonna pick up two big guys looking filthy on a utility road in the mountains at nighttime. But then. The third car came. She pulled over. She cracked her window as we gave her our story. We asked for a ride into town or if she had service to call the police to come get us.
She looked at us very cautiously and asked us if we intended to kill her. Then asked a few more times. We did our best to disarm her and it must have worked because she told us to get in.
She was dressed in early century Mormon garb, which I thought was some sort of jumpsuit until Andy explained it. She was alone and 18 or so years old driving this utility road after cleaning houses all day. And stumbled upon us. She was from a polygomous family that had moved around all over the place. She was given strict orders to not pick up anyone ever. And here she was, doing something I would scream at my daughters for doing. She didn’t take us to town, she took us the entire 12 or 13 miles to Andy’s cabin, straight up a mountain and drove us through the gates to his front door. Alone. On a mountain top. With two guys she didn’t know. This is an impossible situation she was in and she chose kindness the entire time at her own risk.
I gave her all the money I had, and we could not thank her enough, because being finally home was the best feeling and I can’t even describe it well. It was the feeling you get when you think you may actually die, but a savior comes through. We were both shook up for a few hours and spent that time reflecting and warming up in front of the fire. Also drinking. Had to do that after such a night. The theme of the night was that we survived,
The theme to this trip is that we survive. Bad things happen to people we really don’t want them to happen to. We can’t live in the past. We can’t live as tributes of mourning to those we have lost. We can’t let troubling things from behind us keep us from putting one foot in front of the other and making it out of these dark canyons. We are alive right now. This is our time. Extended sorrow is waste. We made bad decisions in that mountain and it cost us time and pain and exhaustion. But we survived. In life, we make bad decisions and they cost the same. But every moment that we survive them, is a chance to turn everything around. And it helps to get a lot of kindness along the way.
I’ve left a little bit of myself that I don’t need anymore in those mountains. And I took a little of them with me.
Thanks for reading...Z