The drive from Salt Lake City to Southern Utah is the best this time of year. The fields and hills are still green before returning to their usual golden brown, and the temperatures are quite pleasant. In some of our last available weeks before the intense summer heat hits down South, we spent the weekend with Zion Mountain School getting some formal instruction on canyoneering.
Arriving in Rockville well after dark, we slowly made our way up the rocky dirt road through BLM land, lined with vehicles and tents all taking advantage of free camping for the night. It turns out that even though Memorial Day weekend was still a week away, hordes of people traveled to Southern Utah to see the Ring of Fire, an annular eclipse that was best viewed along the corridor of Utah’s most famous national parks. The crowds were unreal.
Our tent went up quickly and shortly thereafter a couple of German backpackers pulled up right next to us, a bit to our dismay. Still, all was fairly quiet. As we were about to turn in for the night, however, we made a heart-dropping realization – neither of us had the keys. Bree remembered exactly where they were – in the trunk of the now-locked car. (Bree’s note: I knew exactly where they keys were because I was the one that carelessly shut them in there in the first place!) Thankful we had our tent, sleeping bags, and a meager water bottle already out so we were safe for the night, but we mulled over what our options would be in the morning. The desert heat would set in early and we were a number of miles from town. We also had an 8:00 appointment to make.
It turns out that Rockville doesn’t have a police department – nor does the nearby town of Springdale. We finally contacted the station in St. George where all police activity is coordinated, and while we explained that it wasn’t an emergency, if they had anybody in the area that could help us out we would be very appreciative of their help. Gratefully, a deputy drove nearly an hour from St. George to help us out.
The officer arrived with a wedge and long, plastic pole with kinks and bends. Working by headlamp, he allowed me the honors of wedging the driver-side door open enough to fit the pole in, and then fish around for the lock. After a few minutes of tedious attempts, the beautiful “click” filled the cool night air as doors unlocked. Fortunately Bree remembered exactly where the keys were, because as we opened our annoyingly trustworthy car alarm went off with a deafening war of honks and flashes filling the canyon. We worked quickly to get the keys but the pushing of buttons failed to convince the car that we were it’s rightful owners! Even turning on the car didn’t help. After frantically pushing many combinations of buttons, the car quieted and we sincerely thanked the officer, who was nothing but kind and helpful.
After the fiasco of the night, and after feeling bad about the alarm waking up the many free campers in the area, morning came too soon. Our appointment was at 8:00, though, so we broke camp, cleaned up, and got on the road.
The instruction we received was invaluable. We have tagged along on a handful of canyoneering trips before, but were interested in becoming a little more independent, especially given the Spry Canyon fiasco we had a few years prior. The lessons turned out to be private, with only our guide and a guide-in-training tagging along and helping us to get through a canyon safely. We spent most of our time up Kolob Terraace Road in the area around Snake Alley, which proved to be excellent training grounds for rope skills.
On the way back into Springdale, we kept our eyes peeled for some alternative free-camping locations, and found a great one up Kolob Terrace Road with a stream running through it. After getting back, we debated whether or not to head up into the park but it was late and we were tired, so instead we went to hang out in the stream at our new campsite.