Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Off the beaten path...

DATELINE - Rio Verde - 

It was a dark and stormy night when the intrepid explorers began their arduous journey...

Well, okay...

Actually it was a beautifully sunny day when we started out on what Gilligan might have called a "three-hour tour." Allisha had gone to Springville with a friend and fellow Bountiful Basket site coordinator to meet with one of the creators of Bountiful Baskets. It was mid-afternoon when the rest of us loaded up Mr. Z's Santa Fe with a few snacks, some water, six children, three adults, and a hankering for adventure.

John, Allisha, and their family had been introduced by his parents to a small geyser on what (according to Google Earth) is known as Chaffin Ranch near the San Rafael River.  It was decided that we would take a short jaunt out to visit in the hopes of seeing it go off. 

The trip to the geyser on the washboard dirt road, past Lake Stinky Muddy Water (aka Horse Bench Reservoir), and a memorial to a fallen townsmen added to the sense of adventure and the kids were eager to show the two newcomers - Mr. Z, and me - all there was to explore...

    - The geyser with its red-gold mineral deposits sloping away in undulating layers...
    - The classic cars which housed memories of "far away places with strange sounding names" but were now sitting, neglected and forlorn waiting to be given a second chance...
    - The cistern that once fed water to the ranch...
    - The demolished rubble that marked the spot where a house once stood...

When the intrepid adventurers (i.e. our awesome selves) were finished exploring the area we piled back in the Santa Fe to head elsewhere. It seemed too early to head back, so - having seen a truck pass by - Mr. Z.  decided to follow in the general direction it took, just to see where the road might lead. And where it led was into an unexpected adventure.

As we traveled on the unknown path there were several branches leading in different directions at various points along the road. Sometimes our fearless driver (Mr. Z.) would "choose the right", but more often we would take the left path because - as he said - "Choosing the left is more adventurous."

After we had been driving for several minutes we came to several sandy spots on a downhill incline that made it a little more difficult to drive. We were now at the "point of no return." John, Mr. Z. and I felt that we would have a difficult time making it back up the hill, so we would instead press forward, hoping that the road would eventually wind back around. Unfortunately, as we neared the banks of the Green River the sand became deeper and eventually we became stuck.  With a little - ok, A LOT - of effort from Mr. Z, John, and Ian - his eldest man-cub pushing, and me at the wheel trying to steer us, we eventually got out of the first sand trap that caught us. We continued moving forward a few more yards until were were stopped again. This time no amount of effort on our parts would free us. We gathered boards, branches, brush - anything to give us traction, but to no avail. Upon looking underneath the car it became glaringly apparent why we weren't going anywhere. The sand was clear up to the undercarriage of the car and the wheels were just digging it down deeper with each effort.

Mr. Z. was horrified that we had gotten stuck and kept apologizing to John. Still, I have to note here that despite the situation there was no major panic on the part of any of those involved. Most of the kids, and even the three adults, considered it all part of an adventure - perhaps one we hadn't consciously chosen - but an adventure nonetheless. (A few prayers - both silent and spoken - I'm sure helped.)

A satellite view of our trek.
My thanks to Google Earth for helping me to figure out where we were
After trying unsuccessfully to get out, we decided that we would try to call John's parents for help. At our current location, however, we had no service. Mr. Z. and I took John's phone and my phone and walked a bit to see if we could find a signal. About a thousand feet from where the car was - across the river from Ruby Ranch - we found one. (Go Verizon!) There was only one bar of service on my phone but we decided we would attempt the call anyway. We waited with baited breath to see if the call would go through. It rang once, twice, and then the call was.... answered. We breathed a sigh of relief as Mr. Z. began to relay our situation to John's dad who chuckled a bit at the news. After giving our coordinates - Mr. Z.'s reliable Tom-Tom provided them for us along with an estimate of how long it would take us to walk out if that were necessary (29 miles and 7 1/2 hours just in case you were wondering) - he asked if they would bring some snacks and water for the kids as they were getting tired and little hungry. We walked back to let John and the kids know that we had made contact and that our rescue party was on its way. The news was met with much relief by our intrepid crew.

A closer view of where the sandman got us.
At this point we thought the best course of action was for a couple of us to start walking back along the road to meet John's parents and the rest would stay with the car and wait. Mr. Z. had a DVD player and a movie in his Santa Fe and he set it up for those remaining behind. Then Mr. Z, Micah - John's son, and I headed back up the road to meet our rescuers. About 45 minutes later we saw a cloud of dust and headlights in the distance coming towards us and knew that help had arrived. As they stopped to let us in John's mom asked Mr. Z. what kind of a car he drove. When he answered that he drove a Santa Fe, she told him he needed to get a Chevy because they don't get stuck. We all had a laugh and then guided them down to where the car was and found everyone still safe and sound, but definitely ready to be home. Eventually they were able to pull the Santa Fe out of the sand, get it turned around and heading in the right direction. We made a mighty run up the sandy hill and made it to the top.

The rest of the journey was fairly uneventful. We wound our way back along the dirt track and eventually to John's home where everyone dined on cereal and toast for a late supper. It was a pleasant end to our adventure. When Allisha arrived home we told her what had happened and she just shook her head and laughed at the "three musketeers."

Now, some of you might think that the day was a loss.

I would have to respectfully disagree. 

While we did not know when we set out what the day would bring, it ended up being a fun day spent in the company of good friends that will not be easily forgotten. (I only wish Allisha would have been able to be with us.) It was also a day spent in the rugged beauty that surrounds our home.

And that, dear reader, is the end of our tale.... or at least this version of events.

Two other perspectives on this experience can be found  here and here


  1. You version is FAR more detailed than mine is...but strikingly accurate though.

    Glad you were there to help quell the rising tide of worry.

  2. I guess I did get a bit wordy... lol...
    Glad I was there to help in whatever small way I was able to. :-)

  3. It turned out wonderful! :)
    I enjoyed reading it.