Saturday, February 21, 2009

Old pictures of the day.

Camping at Lake Powell, like much of Southern Utah, used to be a lot of fun.  Then, about 10 years ago the rest of the world discovered it and ruined it for those of us who have been enjoying it since the mid 70's (and before).  Edward Abbey knew this and was smart enough to die before it happened.
Anyway, it was about 1979, I was working at Free Wheeler Pizza and had just bought my first brand new car.  The 1979 Mazda GLC Wagon you see below.  ($4,500 with tax & license).  Free Wheeler decided to shut down the store and have a company party at Lake Powell.  This was not an unusual thing, Free Wheeler would open 2 to 3 hours late so we could all play in the company football team up at the U.  So my best friend Ed, another worker (Kathy if I remember correctly), her dog and I packed all our stuff into my great little car and headed down.  You may or may not have heard of the Burr Trail, in '79 it was 100 miles of dirt road between Capitol Reef and Bullfrog, through an area called Waterpocket Fold.  The road  was on the map, even showed the town of Notom about 15 miles down.  I'd always  wanted to drive down Waterpocket Fold, so we decided to make a day of it and go down the dirt road rather than take the longer (distance, not time) highway route.  I had about a quarter tank of gas and planned on filling up in Notom.  We get about 20 miles down the road without any sign of Notom, stop at wash that crossed the road to determine if the car was going to make it across and take a break.  While we were stretching our legs a ranger comes from the other side, says "howdy" and we get to talking.  I was a little concerned about how deep the wash got, since I didn't have 4WD I didn't want to get stuck, but the ranger assured me the car would make it through fine.  The I ask "How much further to Notom?"  Notom, well, Notom's about 5 miles back.  "Five miles back?" I sez, "All I saw there was a clump of trees."  Yup, that's Notom.  Nice, it's just a farm, no gas station.  Well, it's 75 miles to Bullfrog and all I've got is 1/4 of a tank of gas.  I ought to turn back, go to Capitol Reef and fill up, right?  Yeah, right.  I'm 19, Ed's 19, Kathy's maybe 21.  No way we're going back.  Damn the torpedos, full speed ahead.  Now, 50 miles later we come over a little hill.  The road goes down, through the wash again and up another hill.  On the other side of the wash, on my uphill side, are three Jeep's parked at the side of the road.  The guys are out locking in the hubs, getting ready to forge this huge river when they see that overloaded Mazda come over the hill.  I could hear them chuckle.  I came to a stop, surveyed the situation, determined the wash was no deeper than the spot we went through earlier, hit the gas, come screeming down the hill, splash through the water, continue straight up the hill and over to the other side.  Laughing all the way, 'cause you should have seen their faces.  Jaws on the ground, eyes wide open in disbelief.  Yeah, I wasn't even thinking about the gas situation at that moment.  As for the gas, we did make it to Bullfrog.  Put 11.9 gallons in an 11.5 gallon tank.  Drivin' on fumes I was. 
The contrast between the red rock canyons and the blue water is beautiful.
This is Al, Mitch and Mike, the original owners of Free Wheeler Pizza.
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A Paperback Writer said...

"Edward Abbey knew this and was smart enough to die before it happened."
Beautiful line there.

In 1973, we bought a 24 ft. Slickcraft soft top and spent many, many weekends at Powell. I hiked 8 miles to see Rainbow Bridge the first time. By 1988, the lake had become so crowded and so overrun by miserable jetskis (which sound like mosquitoes on amphetamines) that my parents sold the boat and gave up. But last spring they took a trip down to Bullfrog and stayed at a hotel (!!! -- there were no hotels there in the old days!!!). The photos they took of the rocks and water are disarming: the color has gone out of all the rocks. No more does the tremendous contrast of red and blue jump out at you. It simply isn't there now.

Max said...

Thanks, it's nice to get a compliment like that from an actual writer.
The whole reason my brothers and I bought the land up in Duchesne back in '94 (I think) was because we were getting tired of dealing with crowds down in Southern Utah. Used to be you could go out there for a week and not see a single other soul. Not so much any more. But it's still beautiful and we try to get down there once a year for "winter camp", usually in April or early May. Not so many people down there then.