Monday, October 19, 2009
Stuck in the Middle of Nowhere
Last week was our fall break, so we celebrated by heading into the desert, Palm Desert, California, to be exact. None of us had ever been there before, which seemed as good a reason as any to hop into Clifford the Big Red Van and head out.
We spent several days at Joshua Tree National Park. I must admit to some prejudice against the desert.After the beautiful fall we’ve had in Utah so far, it was hard to go to a place that was so brown and ugly, and the drive to Joshua seemed to go through some of the scruffiest desert areas around. However, as we drove into the park, my opinion changed. We got there just before sunset and the park was beautiful, with lots of fascinating rock formations and plants. The variety and sheer number of trees was amazing, and the rocks were lovely in the twilight.
The park is known for its rock-climbing rocks, and my kids had to try them all out. Our one-mile hike took hours because they had to stop and scramble over every rock. It was also fun to wave at the REAL rock-climbers climbing up the sheer faces of even larger rock formations.
Wednesday, we tried to visit an old fluorite mine listed in our rockhounding book, but we got a few surprises. Our rockhounding adventure took us five miles off the freeway on a BLM maintained (or not, as the case may be) dirt track that seemed okay when we headed down it. It got worse and worse as the time went on. For a couple of miles, we felt like we were on the Indiana Jones ride at Disneyland, as DH navigated rut after rut and we bounced all around. Harmony didn’t like it at all, but the rest of us found the whole thing funny and we were laughing and laughing as we bumped up and down. Despite all the bumps and ruts, the road seemed pretty navigable and we were five miles into our six mile trip when we hit a rough patch. First, we had to go down and up a narrow gully. DH took some time to walk around and scope out the situation before he figured out a way to get us through it. He did great, with only a minimum of scraping. Fifty yards further down the trail, however, and we saw the road turn into a huge expanse of sand with deep tracks carved in it. I suggested we stop here and hike the rest of the way. DH wanted to try it (this is where he will point out that the only reason we were on this crazy road in the first place was because it was all MY idea). Ten seconds later, we were stuck, with our tires mired in sand. DH and I tried some initial efforts to dig us out but it quickly became apparent this was not going to be a quick and easy rescue effort. I got the kids out and put Harmony in the Baby Bjorn. Joey set right to work helping DH dig out the back tires, while I took all the kids to a wash nearby to hunt for rocks. We actually found some pretty ones, and Michael found several with iron pyrite (fool’s gold) on them.
DH and I had already said silent prayers, and I was about to gather the kids for a group prayer when we heard the sound of two motorcyclists approaching. Two men hopped off and set right to work helping DH and Joey dig out the piles and piles of sand.
It was amazing. This road was completely deserted. We saw no one on the way in, and no one on the way out, but five minutes after we get stuck, there they were, two men with willing hands and not small experience – one was a Baja truck driver and knew a few things about getting stuck, or rather un-stuck. I gathered some brush from nearby to place under the tires when the sand was finally cleared, and they took about twenty minutes to help dig out a track. Two attempts and lots of brush later, we were no longer stuck. The motorcyclists accepted a cold water bottle and were on their way. I heard one comment to the other about how much time they might have lost. The other one said, “Yeah, but I’ve been stuck before and I’m glad we could help out.” We were very thankful for their help and for their timely arrival. We had plenty of water and food and we would probably have eventually gotten ourselves out, but it would have taken us a whole lot longer. We told the kids that this is why we pray every day!