Christian Kemp's USA travelogs

< Previous | List | Next > Exploring the area north of Lake Mead; into Utah with an unsatisfactory visit to Coral Pink Sand Dunes

Sunrise was largely obscured by clouds, but at least I was awake for sunrise already. By 7am, I was at my first destination for the day, Blue Point Spring. Not spectacular by any means, it was just a handful of palms. I took a few pictures and then moved on to Rogers Spring. This one turned out to be more interesting, with an artificial pond offering a nice reflective surface that allowed me to frame the few palms against their reflections in the water. At one point, I looked up the hill behind the pool and could see some movement. It turns out there were some animals - Desert Big Horn Sheep - already moving towards the top of the hill. I quickly ran back to the car to retrieve my large zoom, but came back just as they disappeared. Fortunately, I could see that a trail wound around the hill, and I guessed that I'd get a second chance by going around and then waiting for the big horn sheep to walk past, still at a considerable distance but at least not merely showing their back sides.

Fortunately, I had been right; and when the big horn sheep saw me after a bit they didn't appear threatened or disturbed. They merely continued walking around, still moving gradually away from the pool but not really being very hurried about it. Every now and then they would glance down at me as if to check whether I continued not being a threat (I didn't move closer, and had actually crouched down on the ground so I could steady my large lens against my knee). I got quite a few good shots that way. When the animals crossed the next hill, I decided that I had enough shots and they deserved to be undisturbed; so I headed back. Along the way, I took a few more shots of the scenery, and then drove further west again.

After a few more shots from the road, I next stopped at Redstone Picnic Area. While It was an okay spot, the sun was too high already to really bring out the reds, and I readily moved on. A little while later, I hiked the brief Northshore Summit Trail (a mere 1/4 mile long); which afforded more distant vistas towards the North.

Now, the backcountry called, and I would put my SUV to a good use on Callville Wash North Road, then Anniversary Wash Road. Both were signed "4x4 recommended", but the going wasn't that difficult. Maybe with different weather it could be, but the sky was nicely blue with just a few puffy white clouds. I parked the car close to the entrance of the narrower part of Anniversary Wash, and then continued on foot. I first passed a few mining remains, but the main attraction clearly was the slot canyon. While it wasn't spectacular like some of the more well-known slot canyons in Utah or elsewhere, it still was unique enough to be an entertaining walk. I didn't have to do any climbing or scrambling, but in some spots it wasn't all that much narrower than one person. About half an hour in, the wash broadened again, and I turned around; making it back to the car another half hour later. I was glad I'd taken water, because it was gearing up to be another hot day.

There wasn't much more that I knew to do in this part of the Lake Mead area, so I decided to head on. My next destination would be Zion National Park, which meant that I had to take I-15 through the spectacular Virgin River Gorge. Coincidentally, I listened to NPR and they were interviewing the Virgin CEO, Richard Branson. Once I arrived in Zion National Park, the blue sky had turned gray. I half-heartedly hiked the Canyon Overlook trail, but the colors were flat and my heart wasn't in it. So instead, I quickly moved on. I decided that I'd try to get to Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park for the evening and night. I had read quite a bit about how the dunes turn a unique color at sunset, and I figured I'd get some nice pictures. What I found when I arrived about an hour later was more dull weather, a full campground and dunes that were being used by recreational vehicles; with the obligatory engine noises and tire tracks. Not very interesting. With no possibility to spend the night in an official campground with shower facilities, I instead opted to drive back to Kanab; where I knew there'd be a good enough campground for a decent price.

At the campground in Kanab, I wanted to recharge my laptop batteries. There was a power outlet near my right side, and somehow with the key still in the ignition I managed to get out at the passenger side door. I closed that door, and when I later walked around to the driver's side to get back in the car had locked itself. Just great, I thought.

By then, the businesses in town were already half deserted. Just down the road I knew there was a gas station with mechanic on duty during the day; but it was already closed. At the campground, I couldn't find the attendant. So with no other options I walked up to a different gas station, without mechanic on duty. I asked the cashier what my options were. She suggested I get an hotel room and wait for a mechanic in the morning. While I could have done that - I had some cash with me - I didn't want to leave the car in the campground with the car still in the ignition. A passing group of teenagers overheard the conversation, and they offered to drive me back to the car to see if they could do anything. They couldn't, and I was back at square one. By then, at least the lights in the car had turned themselves off, so it was harder to tell that the ignition was still on. There was a different gas station higher up the road, so I walked there. The first cashier didn't know what to do, but a second one who would end his shift shortly offered to help. We walked back to the car and once more (just like the guy before) tried to basically break into the car. The Jeep was built very sturdy though, so that wasn't an option.

What else was there to do? He didn't know. Finally, when I asked if the town really didn't have a 24-hour towing service, he said that yes, there was a guy doing just that. I'm not quite sure why nobody had suggested that before. I called the number - if I remember correctly we walked back to the gas station to get it - and then returned to the campground entrance to wait. Just a little while later - it was dark already - a mechanic in a pickup arrived. He had my car open within a few minutes; first by inflating a kind of balloon under the door frame near the top of the window on the driver side, then by inserting a small long metal stick with a hook which he then used to pull out the lock on the door handle. The door was finally open again, and I gladly paid a comparably low fee. What I still don't know is how a door can lock itself when the key is still in the ignition - surely, there should be a fail-safe to prevent people from locking themselves out this way.

Also, once more it was remarkable how friendly and helpful people were when they heard of my troubles (that I had brought on myself, of course). The only minor complaint I might have, is that through all their helpfulness nobody had the instinct to just tell me to call the local 24 hour towing guy. Maybe it's a rich tourist impulse to throw money at a problem, but in this situation (locked rental car with key in ignition) it definitely was the fastest, safest and therefore best solution.

Miles driven: 290mi (467km)

Campground Accommodation: Crazy Horse Campark (Kanab, UT): $18.00

Written February 18th 2010 at Club La Santa, Lanzarote; while a big storm is blowing over the island.