Friday, 5/21/21: Skutumpka

Willis Creek Narrows Trail.

The wind is blowing at some 30 mph. Yep, it’s time to hike down in some slot canyons. Skutumpka Road is just a few miles from us. There are three slot canyons accessible from Skutumpka Road: Willis Creek Narrows, Bull Valley Gorge, and Lick Wash. I believe there are more, but those are the named ones that I know of.

The problem is, Skutumpka Road is one of those gravel-dirt-sand roads that must be traveled at 10 mph. Willis Creek Narrows is maybe 6 miles down this nightmare, so we tackle it first.

Well, not exactly first. First we had a lazy morning. Then we drove into Tropic for a breakfast burrito. By the time we did all that, it was already past noon when we started to limp down Skutumpka Road. This road has a reputation for being one of the better back road through Grand Staircase. Not when the wind is blowing at near gale force levels. Deep sand was blowing into the road and in some places getting kind of squishy. The worst spot was up a long nearly vertical slope.

Saturn is pretty good at these slopes but it balked badly at the deep sand. Ideally you want to get up a good head of steam to get through loose sand. That doesn’t work when the anti tire-spin system kicks in. Saturn was thinking, “Hmmm, my tires want to spin. Can’t have that. I must slow down to a nearly imperceptible crawl.” David is thinking, “If this pig doesn’t get going we are going to slide all the way back down this steep grade and I won’t be able to control which way we will go.” After a few minutes of swaying this way and that as I look over the side of the canyon, the tires finally bit into some bare rock.

OK, that was fun! It took 45 minutes to travel the 6 miles to the trailhead, but the slot canyon was worth it. Following a trickle of water that pretended to be Willis Creek, we hiked through a narrow canyon for several miles. Finally, a true narrow slot canyon just like the pictures in the brochures.

It was 3:45 pm when we set out for Bull Valley Gorge, another 45 minute, 5 mile drive. This hike could have been even better, but we came too late to give it much of a go. The trail first follows the top rim of the bone dry river gorge to a spot that you can, with lots of effort drop down into the canyon bottom and walk back up river on the canyon floor. The walls of the canyon are real tight and real deep, just the way a slot canyon should be.

The only hitch was, the drop down into the canyon floor is 12 feet straight down. Someone jammed a big log vertically to help. The log was only about 5 feet tall. I could see that getting down, with some careful scraping and scratching, and praying, was probably doable. It was getting back up that was vexing. I studied it like a cat just before a jump. My conclusion? Had it been around noon, I would have tried it. Had we gotten stuck, we could have relied on another hiker to come along and help figure something out.

It was 5 pm already. Even if I got down safely, and hiked back up the slot, and returned, it would be around 6:30 or 7:00. We were already pretty much the only people around at 5:00 pm.

So, we wimped out. The whole drive back to camp, my self-talk was, “you should have just gone for it!!!”

Bull Valley Gorge Trail. At the trailhead, the gorge is very deep. We hiked the canyon rim until the canyon became shallow.

The gorge is getting much shallower.

Do I jump down? It’s about 12 feet but there is a log propped up about 6 or 7 feet down. I am reasonably sure I can get down, but would I be able to get back up?

Most of the drive to these two hikes were uphill, or I should say up-mountain. On the way back, we could see the whole colorful valley laid out in front of us. It was beautiful.

V-Jer has swing out windows that you can set up to leave just a slit to provide some air circulation when the ceiling fan is on. It works great - the windows are basically shut but air does circulate.

Now, here is where reading a whitewater river comes in handy. When water flows over and around a boulder in a fast moving river, it forms a back eddy behind the boulder. Kayakers can use this upstream force to play in. They can defy the river flow by just nestling in behind a boulder.

The same thing works for blowing red dust. V-Jer is orientated so the side with no windows was facing the 30 mph wind onslaught. I thought I was being tricky with that tactic. However, this produced a back eddy on the side with a window. A nice thick layer of fine red sand found its way through the little window slit and onto the kitchen counter.

Little Buddy to the rescue. We have a Dyson cordless portable stick vacuum. For V-Jer, we left the long stick at home. We just use the floor brush and the long-nose attachments in V-Jer. It sucked up the sand with ease.

Another great use for Little Buddy is sucking up bugs. Although our trip has been nearly bug-free, we did have a couple of evenings where some little fleas and moths snuck into the camper. As they congregated by the lights, Little Buddy, with its long-nose attachment took care of that problem. We can quickly and efficiently clear them out before retiring for the night.

Little Buddy vacuum cleaner - the best de-bugger you can ever use. Wanda uses the floor brush attachment (not shown) to vacuum the bed to pick up our dead skin cells every morning. She explained that body mites thrive on dead skin and she is allergic to mites. Of course, being a guy, I scoffed at vacuuming a bed, until Little Buddy got clogged up and quit working. When I emptied it out and cleaned up the internal filters, piles of dead skin fell out. I humbly handed Little Buddy back to Wanda. I’m big enough to know when I am wrong.

Also showing is Bluetti, our solar generator. It has been a godsend while boondocking. We used it to recharge our ebike batteries.

Lastly, our indoor-outdoor thermometer. Notice that the outdoor humidity is 1%.

Glossary of terms used for newcomers: 1) V-Jer. The name of our camper. 2) Saturn. The name of our Van. 3) Duende. Our mischievous gremlin that breaks things. 4) Tata. The good gremlin that helps us fix Duende’s dirty work. 5) The Black Hole. This is what we call Walmart because every time we go in for just a couple of items, we come out spending way more than we figured. 6) QT. Quaint Town. 7) Little Buddy. This is what we call our Dyson cordless stick vacuum.

Dave and Wanda

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