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Yep, still day one:
I'm on my way... I'm on my way... home sweet home.
This time in fact, we actually were home free. We still had a couple hours of travel ahead of us, but we were thankfully done with river crossings as we once more headed up into the mountain. It was dark at this point, so with no more light or need for my camera, I succumbed to exhaustion. I passed in and out of consciousness for most of the rest of the ride, occasionally being jolted back to life when the Jeep would hit a bump and my skull would bounce off the door frame. There were a couple spots were we had to be really careful not to get into some really deep ruts, but we made it through. Then there was one very long slick but level muddy spot that we just had to put the pedal down and barrel through, managing to reach the other side facing roughly the same direction that we started in. Oh, and there was a good bit of snow at the top of the mountain that we had to drive through as well, but our serious trials were thankfully behind us. The biggest obstacle we faced at this point, was just staying awake long enough to get back to town. We eventually came off the mountain and met up at Justin and Jess’ trailer on La Sal Mountain Loop Road. This was a real challenge for me, because as exhausted as I was, I still had to get my bike back into town. There was nothing in the desert to chain it to, and it would probably have been stripped for parts by the time I returned the next day. It was at this time, from out of the darkness, that we were approached by an AMC executive randomly wandering the desert in the middle of the night. He was asking all of us to star as zombie extras in the next season of “The Walking Dead”. It is also entirely possible, that at this point, I was hallucinating. As we drove back down Rte 128, we noticed huge sections of the road were covered in a thin layer of dirt with bulldozer scrape marks. We found out later that the earlier storms had triggered several major mud slides early in the day, and had completely shut down 128. It had only reopened shortly before we got back. So even if we had turned around at crossing 22, or any of the other times people had called for it, and had been able to get back to 128, we still would have been stuck out there for most of the day.
We rolled back into the Red Stone Inn to find several people still up, anxious, and very happy to see us. They had done the difficult trails, had a blast, and gotten back at the time they were told they would. That’s that irony I mentioned at the beginning of the story; just in case you weren’t paying attention. With little to no cell service on the trail, many people back in town had no idea what was going on with us. We had left, there were bad storms, and we didn’t come back. Occasionally on the trail we would get part of a call, and try to send text messages, but we really weren’t sure if they were getting through. Thankful that we were all okay, they headed off to bed, looking forward to the next day. Our group however, didn’t need to look forward to the next day, it already was the next day. We finished our nice relaxing easy trail at 3:30am. Does anyone still remember what time we started? I told you to remember, I told you it was important. 10:30am the day before. Yep, 17 straight hours of digging, building, winching, pulling, digging, pulling, winching, buil….. yeah, you get the idea. We mumbled our incoherent goodnights, then it was off to bed; for tommor…. zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz….
In an effort to keep the story moving as best as possible, I left out several of the other smaller “stucks” that we encountered on this ridiculously long day, and just covered the biggest ones; there were several more. That being said, this really wasn’t the horror story it may have sounded like. As exhausting as this adventure was, and in the end it truly was an adventure, a good portion of it was a lot of fun, and the whole day really, was a great hands-on training exercise for an expedition that's in the works. There were several great things that I noticed personally throughout this ordeal, as did several other people; Kevin and I have discussed them a few times. Picture if you will, a group of people out for a leisurely drive in the wilderness, when things go wrong. There are several vehicles in the group, all ill-equipped to handle the terrain and everything that’s being thrown at them. The people themselves have no supplies, no tools, and no idea how to use them even if they did. Someone somewhere convinced them that they could rely on emergency services if they got into trouble, so they went unprepared and now have no cell signal with which to contact those emergency services. As the situation looks its most grim, tempers flare and rather than work together, they turn on each other. What could have been a mere inconvenience turns into a total disaster. How many times do we hear this story? What is usually the outcome for these people? For all the whining and moaning you’ll most likely hear about Onion Creek 2015, I want all of you to remember this: We were a group of people out for a leisurely drive in the wilderness, when things went wrong. There were several vehicles in the group, all of which (save one) were well equipped, mostly from the factory, to handle the terrain, everything that was thrown at them, and more. The one vehicle that wasn’t equipped for this, was surrounded by plenty of others that were, so he was fine. Everyone had supplies and there was extra to go around if needed. Everyone had tools and most knew exactly how to use them. Someone somewhere said something about relying on emergency services, but I wasn’t listening, because I believe in going prepared and self-rescuing if at all possible; and we didn’t have a cell signal anyway (We did have a fully charged Sat-phone and several SPOT devices if things got truly desperate). When our situation looked its most grim, yeah tempers flared a bit, but hey, we’re all human; and rather than turn on each other, we buckled down and worked together to do what needed to be done. What could have been a total disaster, turned out to be a mere inconvenience. What is usually the outcome for these people? Well, we may be beat all to hell and running 17 hrs late, but we made it; safe, sound, and for the most part unscathed, without ever having to call a single person to come save us. And do you want to know the very best part about this whole ordeal? After 17 grueling hours, my pants were finally dry!
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