Ucame, Utah, Uconquered

After I posted last night’s entry I headed West out of town to look for a spot to lay my head by the road.  I found a nice gravel pit right by the “Welcome to Ely” sign.  I was too tired to setup my cot so I slept in the passenger seat of the truck.

There is a big open pit mine up the hill and I could see the lights of the giant Caterpillars hauling ore all over the mine site.  It was hard to hear, but I could feel when one of these huge machines would dump their load of processed ore adding to the man-made mountains that the tailing piles began to resemble.  Ten minutes would pass and I would feel a rumble through the body of my truck.  Another load down.  Another day closer to the depletion of the ore body.

Mines are like a kitchen timer.  Once the claim is staked it is only a matter of time until they have gotten every last drop.  Ding!  Put a fork in it, this turkey is done.

All these ghost towns I have been visiting were so abrupt and seemingly spontaneous in the origin and boom times.  Two years later the thousands of people who live there are gone onto the next big thing.   Unionville played out?  Go to Virginia City.  The Comstock load run dry?  I hear there’s a stike up on the Colville Reservation in the Washington Territory.  Colville all done?  Word is the Canucks found gold on the Frasier.  And so it goes…

It is mind boggling to think that if every single ghost town in Nevada had it’s peak population today the state would have somewhere in the neighborhood of twenty million residents and be the second most populous state in the union.  The fact is Nevada never had that many unique residents.  The people from Goldfield, moved to Elko.  The people in Elko, moved to Pioche.  The people in Pioche were probably murdered, since that is what Pioche did best back then; kill new comers.

Night of dreaming about these has-been mining towns came to an abrupt halt with a loud knock on my window.  Freaked out and startled, I awoke and my eyes saw nothing, just inky blackness.  Then I realized I still had my sleeping mask on (yes, I sleep with a sleeping mask, because I am a weirdo; and when I fall asleep my eyes open up, ok?) so I removed it and saw Dave’s smiling face and his big brown dog named Mud.  I opened the door and gave Dave a hug from the confines of my car seat, only then realizing that Dave may be the first man I have ever hugged while technically not wearing any pants…

It was early, not even 7am.  Gross.  I threw on some shorts and our new caravan of two vehicles drove into Ely in search of some breakfast.  We found it at the Silver State Cafe and dove in.  The waitress, who I don’t think was too bright, but nice, informed us that there was a tire shop called, “The ‘Super 8’ or something,” just down the road.

By 8am Dave, Mud, and I were waiting outside the “Big 8 Tire” for the lads who would make the Honey Badger’s gimp knee ready for the playoff drive.  The mechanics wasted no time beating the holy hell out of the trailer’s tire with various sized sledge hammers until the biggest sledge I have ever seen finally got the rusty rim off the wheel hub.  Why didn’t they just start with the biggest sledge first?  Why work their way toward the inevitable and take the long route?

Whatever.  An hour later the Honey Badger was holding 40psi and was ready to roll.  Away we drove.  See ya later, Navada; we’re Utah men today!  A couple more mountain passes and desert valleys (aka hundreds of miles) and we arrived in Delta, UT.  We made a stop at the Thriftway for ice to refresh our coolers and studied a map of the state.  I decided we should head South to Boulder, UT and pay my brother Loch and his wife Kelly a visit.

While ironing out the details of our route we heard girls yell “HELLO!” and turned around to see the sliding window of the drive-through SnoCone stand slide shut.  Delta is very Mormon; they don’t do drive-through espresso here.  After our brief distraction we returned to our geography lesson.  “We like your dog!”  A quick turn to see the window shut again.

If the ladies running that SnoCone stand want some of the these lads, who are we to argue with their marketing genius?  We went to get a SnoCone.  The window slid open and there were two 12 year olds.  Lame.

What’s the deal with child labor laws in Utah anyway?  In Washington when you approach a drive through stand their is a young lady (of legal age!), wearing a bikini ready to serve coffee.  In Utah, it’s the over sugared middle schoolers serving SnoCones.  Oh well, I ordered a 16oz blackberry/mango, and it was only $2.50.  I tipped the girls two bucks and the look on their faces was that of two young people who not only had never seen a tip before, but that of naivety to the fact that tips even exist at all.

Dave, and I sat in the shade of the a tree while I enjoyed my flavored ice and the two young ladies bounced around and did laps in their little hut.  Dave pointed out that these girls were probably doing shots of syrup all day long and were wired beyond control.  I think you’d have to be.  It seemed like I was their only customer all week. Come on, Delta, it’s 94 degrees outside, get a dang SnoCone!

Dave and I headed back to our to our little gypsy caravan and the girls slid open their window to thank us.  Then a few more steps and they slid open their window to wish a good trip.  As I was getting into the truck the window slid open again and the wished us a fun adventure.  As I was pulling out of the parking lot one of the girls ran out of the SnoCone hut to wave and wish me safe travels…

They need a YMCA in Delta or something.

Delta, may have been 94 and bluebird, but 30 miles South was the beginning of some monsoon.  The temperature plummeted into the 70s and sporadic downpours were making Dave’s clothes wet (they are strapped to the top of his Jeep).  We took US50 to I-15, to SR-20, to US89, to SR-12.  The weather was rumbly and awesome.  Once on SR-12 we entered Canyon Country and were on the doorstep of Bryce Canyon National Park.  The rocks were bright red and spectacular.  SR-12 is one of the most beautiful drives in existence; especially when thunderheads and sunshine are mixed in equal parts!

We drove through Tropic and a beige canyon that will live on in infamy in my mind.  Two years ago I was passing through the same narrow canyon when a huge mountain lion ran in front of my truck.  That was exciting enough, but around the next bend I saw Him.  Standing next to a shiny red Ford Focus rental car was a short, fat man with a waxy bald head, no teeth and a $3000 suit on.  He looked me in the eyes and stroked his huge .50 caliber sniper rifle as I passed by.  Terrified that this wack-a-doodle was going to snipe me in the face as the road followed the river bend back around for a picture perfect shot, I drove the next 400 yards blind, since I was crouched under the dashboard of my truck.

This time around I wasn’t terrified of the fat man in the expensive suit holding a six foot military-grade weapon.  I wanted him to be there.  I wanted Dave to see this reality.  I wanted so desperatley to not feel like the crazy one, when I know fat-sniper-rifle-guy must be the crazy one!

As we drove out of the canyon and into a high valley my disappointment abated and gave way to sweeping views of the terrain below.  Canyons just look so good.  Good job, Nature.  After we made it through the burg of Escalante the real awesome part began:  Hell’s Backbone!  We were in for a treat, just as we made it to the top of the ridgeline the thunderheads had just passed leaving a hole in the sky for the sun to shine through on the canyoned Earth below us.  The light reflected off the fresh streams of water now cascading off the smooth rocks of the mesas and canyon walls.  It looked as though someone had poured quicksilver over the whole of Southern Utah just to watch it shine!  It may have been the most beautiful thing I have ever seen in my life.  I will take that view with me to the grave.

Coming off of Hell’s Backbone we arrived at our destination of Boulder.  Home to 200 residents and two members of the Wade family.  Only I didn’t know where they lived.  They had moved since the last time I was here.  Dave and I killed time by eating all fancy-like at the Hell’s Backbone Grill.  We both got filet mignon and enjoyed the thunderstorm and out meals.  Our waitress happened to be friends with my sister in law Kelly and told us where to find her.  Instead, she found us!

Once we arrived at the new Wade Family compound on three gorgeous acres, Loch showed us the garden and his plans for the amazing water wheel grist mill that will run off the irrigation water from Boulder Creek.  construction is slated for next year.  Loch and Kelly took Dave, Myself and all the dogs to the top of the hill in the back yard to view the valley and watch the thunder storms surrounding us.  A good monsoon indeed.

Tomorrow Dave and I head to Colorado.  I am not sure if or when I will be able to update next.  I will try to get something written at soon, but internet connectivity may prove elusive.  Stay tuned!

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One thought on “Ucame, Utah, Uconquered”

  1. Oh, Escalante! I drove that same road in April. I had breakfast at the Hell’s Backbone Grill. Ah, the memories. You must also be going through Capitol Reef. Happy travels campadres.

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