Fire Cloud...
An irregular marking on the exterior of Native American pottery: usually resulting from burning fuel coming in direct contact with the vessel during firing

Thursday, 8 May 2008

Butch Cassidy Und Sigrid War Hier

Glen Canyon Recreation Area, Utah
Hite Campground

We pull into a completely empty campground surrounded by red Navajo sandstone buttes with Lake Powell below us. Its “dry-camping”, with no water, electric, sewer, cable TV, laundry or Wi-Fi. The weather is moderate enough that we can open all the windows and let the cool breeze blow in while we sleep.

The morning started off well with two sets of tennis on the municipal courts in Blanding, Utah. However, when I tried to pull out the rear slide to get to my tennis shorts, I found that both the front and rear slide-outs were inoperative.

I checked the two 15 amp fuses in the fuse box, however unlikely it was that both of them would blow at once. That eliminated, I went into the house battery compartment in the “basement” to examine the rat’s nest of wiring down below. I found an unattached, large-gauge, purple wire. When I touched it to the hot side a relay closed. At that point, the two relays for the slides began to work again and the slides were operational.

We finished our game and set out though 90 miles of wilderness to Hite. After 45 miles, one of the four rear tires had a catastrophic failure. There was no cell phone coverage, so I unhooked the Toyota and sent Mrs. Phred back to Blanding for help. Fortunately, she had insisted that I buy a spare a year ago, but it is not mounted on a rim. I filled the tires to 80 PSI at sea level. Here, at 7,000 feet, they were up to 92 PSI. That might have been a contributing factor.

As I wait in my lawn chair in the desert, reading Elmore Leonard, a stream of Samaritans stops to offer assistance. After two hours, a taciturn tow truck driver from 100 miles away showed up and spent an hour putting us back on the road.

At the campground, the slide-outs didn’t work again until I touched the purple wire to the hot side and hear the relay close. I’m beginning to think about risking connecting the purple wire directly to a hot lead. Mrs. Phred is counseling the need to wait for civilization in case of an electrical fire or explosion, which she has known me to sometimes create in my wiring efforts. The year I spent in an Air Force electronics school might have done more long-term harm than good.

We got a great night’s sleep in the cool breeze. I cooked sausage, eggs, bagels (with tofu cream cheese) and coffee for breakfast. There is no cell coverage or even FM radio here. This is where the Snake, Colorado, Green and Dirty Devil Rivers converge at the beginning of Lake Powell, I like it here. We have plenty of unread books. I see red coyote eyes in the starlight.

The lake here, at the upper end, is interesting. It has apparently dropped at least 100 feet, revealing a layer of sediment deposited as the result of creating the dam. Here the lake has become more of a river, cutting though a delta of its own sediment. It’s at least 500 yards from the mouth of the boat launch to the water. 173million tons of sediment, which used to go downstream, end up each year in the upper reaches of the lake.

As we stare at this environmental mess, Mrs. Phred wonders why they would build a dam in the first place. I give her a few reasons: electric power, recreation, flood control and water regulation.

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid used to rustle cattle around here and swim them across the river. Butch was maybe the last western outlaw. When things got too hot for him after the turn of the century he and Sundance sought new opportunity in Bolivia. We find new petroglyphs on a sandstone wall, “Sigrid und Inga – 05/05/08”. I can’t believe we just missed them.

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