When I first moved to eastern Utah in 1991, I began exploring parts of the San Rafael Swell I hadn't seen before, even though as a dirt biker from Salt Lake, I had spent many a day driving the roads and the trails of the place. Living here was a chance to go down even on an evening and really discover the place.
During those early explorations, one of the places I began to survey was the Moore Cutoff Road, although at the time I didn't know that is what it was called. Along that road is a place that on the map is called the Roan Cliffs (probably named that from the color of the cliffs which are sorrel or chestnut color.)
While I didn't know what the area was called, I was fascinated with the small valley there. All around it large blocks of rock had broken off from the cliffs above and created a play land of jumbled stone. So, because of that, I called the place Jumble Valley. So if I was going on a hike there and my wife would ask me where I was going, I would say "the Jumble Valley."
Forget the fact that the area actually had its own official name.
Flash forward to 1998. It was late in the fall and I wanted to get some quiet time so I left the house on a beautiful day in the middle of the week and called my wife at work telling her that I was going to the "Jumble Valley" and would be back around 5 p.m.
That day had dawned crisp and cold, but the weather had warmed up considerably by mid-day. I took our house dog, Shiver, with me.
We arrived and started to hike. Now Shiver, being a small brown mutt type of dog, had short legs, but he did his best to stay up with me. The first jaunt I took from where the truck was parked took a couple of hours. By the time we got back I was carrying Shiver; he told me in his dog voice that he was a house dog and this hiking thing was not for him. He did that by laying in the middle of a trail and refusing to move. When we got back to camp, he crawled under my truck. I gave him some water which he willingly drank, but then he ran back under the truck.
After some lunch, I tried to get him to come out and go with me again, but he wouldn't budge. He just laid there looking at me, basically telling me where to go. So I left him under the shade of the truck and started off on my merry way.
I returned a few hours later, as the sun was beginning to wane in the sky and he still lay under the truck. I tried to get him out because I was about ready to leave, but again he wouldn't come out, no matter if I offered him food, water or even a piece of ham that I have left over from lunch. His obstinacy actually made me rethink my plans. I looked around, realized there was still plenty of daylight and decided to go up a trail where I had never gone before. I began my third hike of the day and soon I was lost among the red and brown rock of the Roan Cliffs. As the sun went down I found myself in a mystical place and sat down to rest. As I lay on a rock watching the days light dying I drifted off to sleep. The rock was still warm from the sun and it lulled me into a dream.
Then I suddenly awoke with a start when I rolled off the stone and onto the hard ground. By this time it was cold and the light over the horizon was completely gone from the sky. It was dark; and I only had one little flashlight, with very weak batteries, to get back to the truck.
Bad planning on my part.
I headed back, knowing my way, but in the dark things certainly looked different. The early November cold was beginning to close in on me, despite the fact I had donned the sweat shirt I had tucked inside my back pack. I began to wonder as I crept around rocks and down dim trails if I would have to break out the thermal blanket and spend the night.
About an hour later, I finally made my way back to the truck. There was Shiver still sleeping under the vehicle in the dim light of my flashlight and he wouldn't come out. I opened the truck door and glorious beams poured out from the interior light. I threw my pack in the back and started it. The dog immediately flew out from under the truck and jumped over my lap onto the passengers side of the seat. He knew I wasn't fooling this time; we were going home.
I gathered up all the other stuff (lawn chair, cooler, etc.) and tossed it in the back of the truck and drove off. It was only then that I realized the time. It was almost 8 p.m. I had no cell phone back in those days so I knew I had to wait until I was to Ferron to tell my wife I was just running late.
Somehow, as I pulled out of the area where I was parked I lodged the trucks third member on a rock, which luckily didn't break, but lifted the vehicle just enough that it wouldn't move. One wheel just spun in the dirt as I watched it fling sand backward in the ever dimmer light of my flashlight. It was time to break out the jack and put some rocks under the wheels to help it clear and free the rear end from the stones clutches.
I spent another 15 minutes finding all the jacking parts that were scattered between the engine compartment and behind the seat of the truck and then another 15 getting it jacked up and free of the stone it had been lodged upon. The whole time Shiver stood on the seat looking at me as if he thought I was crazy.
In the eyes of the dog world I probably was.
I finally drove away about 8:30 p.m.
It was about 9 p.m. when I got to Ferron and found a pay phone.
"Hi," I said as she answered the phone.
"Where are you?" she said in an excited voice. "I have been really worried about you."
"It's a long story. I'm in Ferron. I'll tell you about it when I get home."
"I already called the Emery County Sheriffs Office to tell them you were missing," she said. "They asked me where you had gone and I told them you had gone to Jumble Valley.'
"You're kidding?" I said. "What did they say?"
"They said they had no idea where that was, and if you were lost at night in the Swell they would probably just have to wait until morning since they had no idea of where to begin to search," she said. "But they were ready to go look for you."
It was probably a good thing I had used the wrong name or they just would have found a guy who fell asleep on a rock. On the other hand had I been hurt or incapacitated in some way, they would have never found me that night.
It was a lesson well learned for me. Now things go by their proper names when possible; people, places and even dogs. No more nicknames for me.