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, 19 May 2011

Stuck in the Mud

Capitol Reef National Park

There is a dirt road into Cathedral Valley that forms a 60 mile loop though the park. To get onto the road, you drive into a river, turn right and exit left on the bank 40 yards down river. Driving into the river requires an act of faith, especially since it's been raining for days and one is unsure that the river might not be higher than usual.

The road requires a four wheel drive, high clearance vehicle when conditions are good.

The map says that the road is impassable when wet. It's been raining and snowing for the last three days.

We rent the jeep. Mrs. Phred checks with the ranger in the visitor center. The ranger says that the red bentonite clay will suck in the vehicle's tires in when it's wet. She advises against using the road into Cathedral Valley.

I tell Mrs. Phred not to worry.  Who should she listen to, the ranger or me? I've been driving her 45 years and haven't gotten stuck yet. The road is totally deserted for some reason. There is no cell coverage. Twenty-five miles into the park the road starts uphill and the red mud is too much for the jeep and it's 4WD. We slither sideways into the ditch about halfway up the hill..

We get out to survey the situation. It's a 25 mile walk back to the main road. With each step we add a pound of red mud to our sneakers. I've never seen such slippery, sticky stuff. Bentonite is used to drill oil wells and lubricate the drill bits. The vehicle tires have a coating of at least two inches of slippery red mud. It appears possible that I might be able to back down the hill. After some rocking the jeep pops loose and I back down to a wide spot and get the jeep turned around.

Dark clouds are gathering so we make the twenty-five mile return as quickly as possible and drive back though the river to the paved road..

Getting all the mud off the jeep and our sneakers proves difficult. While we are power washing a deluge of freezing rain and hail impedes our progress. Somehow we even have packed red mud inside the door jams. On to Arches and Canyonlands National Parks today. Moab has bookstores, grocery stores and tennis courts.


  1. you were lucky...very lucky...sil

  2. wonder if you read about the lady from Canada who was stranded for seven weeks while her husband supossedly was looking for help a few miles from my home in Nevada, he is probably dead and she supossedly lived on trailmix and melted snow for over 40 days