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Day 8

Escalante Canyon 1999

The walk out

I heard a little stirring from the rest of the crew around 5:30 am, but the next thing I knew, it was 7 am. I got up to beautiful golden sunlight coming in from the east, and went to commune with nature. I finished my business, just barely, when we were hit by another shower. I dove back in the tent, and stayed for about 20 minutes or so. I've never had the experience of it raining on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday in canyon country. The lighting was gorgeous, with blue intermixed with the black rain clouds. We even had a nice rainbow. We loaded up our packs after a quick breakfast, and were underway by 9 am or so. Walking the road was easy, but it got muddy in places. We went around the head of Phipps Wash, and stopped to take a short break. While we were sitting, Susie looked and said she could see the highway. We did not feel like we should be in any hurry, because we had no idea who was where, or when we would be picked up. We hoisted after about 15 minutes, and rounded the bend through the mud on the dirt road. It wasn't but a couple of hundred yards, and we saw Will with the car, waiting for us, much like a limousine driver. So our adventure was over, and we were all out in good shape.

Will reported that he had shuttled everyone into town, and some had gotten motel rooms for the purpose of cleaning up. He and Mark had come out early Friday evening, with no problem crossing the river, and nearly gotten into a fight with the ranchers at the wilderness hearing that the BLM was having. The ranchers all seemed to want to get in a fight, likely due to their frustration of keeping the ocean of public opinion for more wilderness at bay. They want the government to continue to subsidize their way of life, and I guess it is understandable: no one likes change, especially change which is not initiated by the one feeling it. Meanwhile, Dolph had recruited a tow truck driver with 4WD and chains, and was headed down to Harris Wash to pull out the van. By this time, it was nearing 11 am, so George and I went into the Golden Loop Cafe, and ordered what turned out to be the most massive, high fat pizza I had ever eaten. Must have had 1.5 pounds of cheese on it, and tons of meat. Susie came back after changing her clothes in one of the rented motel rooms, and joined us for a piece. (Two slices was nearly all I could handle.) And then, miracle of miracles, the tow truck driver (who turned out to be the brother-n-law of the waitress - small town) showed up, and the van was right behind him. Turns out that Dolph will be talked about for years in Escalante as the Tennessee hick who knew how to drive in bad mud. (Dolph says he used to deliver groceries as a teenager in Kentucky on the back roads, and if you did not know how to drive in mud, you wouldn't have a job.) Dolph did not even need a pull. Just let about half the air out of the tires and went for it. Amazing.

So we finally got everybody and their gear loaded up, and were rolling by 12:30 PM. Another great drive over the edge of the Aquarius Plateau (this time with lots and lots of snow), and we were back in Salt Lake at 5:30 PM, and by 7:15 pm, we were sitting down to Mexican food at the Pierpont Cantina. What a great life.

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Roger A. Jenkins, 1999