This time last year we had just tamped out the last smoldering patches of wildfire in the forests surrounding Sanpete Valley. It had been hot, dry, and the local church congregations were praying and fasting for rain. Or, as it’s often, and sort of grotesquely called in our LDS/Mormon congregations, “moisture.”
But this fall we’re only now recovering from a ~month-long monsoon season. According to NOAA, a tropical cyclone named Kiko parked off the southern coast of Baja California earlier this month, sending in all those big cloud masses that flooded out so much of Colorado, grew little blue beards on all the apricots we were trying to dry, and gave people across the West thousands of rainbows to instagram.
It also made for an eventful Labor Day weekend. Anyone who may still frequent this blog will have by now noted a glorious annual ritual of poorly-attended high altitude marathons. This year the plan was 35 miles, starting at the top of Fairview Canyon, and running the Skyline Drive down to Jet Fox Reservoir, just past the summit of Ephraim Canyon. Kelly and the kids were driving support in our rear-wheel drive pickup, and Shaun (red shirt) was along for the run.
I’ll try to keep the rest of this as concise as possible. The run started out great: cool, calm weather, no rain, and about 12 miles in we stopped for some brunch and stretching. (This thing is never a “race” and we take our time at it.) With all the mud along the road so far, we’d decided that our best plan would be to send Kelly back down Fairview Canyon. She could go home to Ephraim, maybe get a nap, and we could then call for a ride home (Shaun had brought his cell) when we were within a few miles of the end. Unlike the Skyline, Ephraim canyon is an improved road where nobody gets stuck.
So, Kelly and the kids headed back and Shaun and I continued on our muddy way. Another 14 or so miles later, we called to check in with Kelly, only to find out that on the drive back to Fairview Canyon, they’d driven into a microburst that turned the road to pudding and sent them sliding off into a stand of pines. They’d gotten a ride down to Fairview from a friendly bowhunter, and then another back home to Ephraim with some other good friends. Nobody was injured, all were safe now, but pretty shaken up.
At this point, of course, I’m feeling like father of the year, having dragged my two kids and eight-months pregnant wife up into the mountains in a two-wheel drive truck and then sent them off into a rainstorm while I went on to act out some bizarre male rite in defiance of a mid-30s birthday. I know. I. Know.
I was still on the phone when an old 60s jeep rounded the bend, noticed a couple of guys wearing little shorts, and pulled over to offer us a ride. We climbed in and they turned out to be old friends of Shaun from Manti. The case of Miller Lites between the front seats was half-empty and these guys were some of the nicest fellas I’ve ever hitchhiked with. They let us off at the top of Ephraim Canyon and from there we ran down to where Kelly drove up to meet us partway, and headed home. This was in our Subaru, the truck still parked up at 10 thousand feet, on a 45-degree angle, in the yellow coneflowers and red elderberry.
It rained all the next day. But on Labor Day we went up to recover some things and give Kelly and the kids some closure. We were now able to drive in most of the way, but walked the last couple miles and had a little picnic on the tailgate. It was clear the truck wouldn’t be going anywhere for a while.
The rain continued for the whole following week, but a generous neighbor friend offered to come pull the truck out with his own pickup. Unlike ours, his had 4-wheel drive, mud tires, and a bigger engine. But after a couple hours in the rain and mud with a tow-chain, we still couldn’t get it back up on the road.
Finally, over three weeks later, after a couple clear days, I got Mike and Allen from the local towing shop to go up there with me and, with seven or so tow chains and two hand winches, over about three hours, we finally pulled it up on the road and drove home. It runs fine but still needs a good wash.
There’s snow on the mountain now, and my running philosophy has been adjusting. More on that some other time.