The Thing About the Desert...Part 2
10 Feb 2014 · by Brennan Storr · Be the first to comment!
On September 24, 2013 I returned from a two week vacation during which I flew to Texas and ended up taking a 3600 mile road trip across six states, along the way visiting four national parks and catching up with a friend I hadn't seen since the first time we met five years ago, when I threatened his life over a card game in Morocco.
Along the way, my friend and I decided to look into local ghost stories and ended up with one of our own. This is part 2 of that story.
Click here to read part 1 first
Click here for part 3
A look at Google Earth shows the area to be dotted here and there with houses but on the ground, in the dark, the turnoff to Angel Canyon Road from Highway 89, some six miles into the desert north of Kanab, felt so remote it may as well have been the far side of the moon. After leaving the highway we followed the road down a small rise, past low shrubs and patches of scrub grass, to the start of the 350-acre Best Friends Animal Sanctuary.
Best Friends is noted as being America’s largest sanctuary for companion animals, recognized for their commitment to their “no-kill mission”; they believe that 90% of shelter animals are adoptable, or could be with the proper care and treatment. It seemed a bit grim, then, that the sole reason we were in the neighborhood was on the off chance of seeing someone wearing a fur pelt and firing pellets of ground-up human body at their enemies, but that didn’t stop us.
Aw, that's cute. Now make with the evil witches
The shelter was long shut by the time we got there but the outside lamps were on and the cold luminescence was the only light we had aside from stars. In that sort of environment even a place called Marshall’s Piggy Paradise (the first building on our left) takes on an evil bent but by the time we had passed the Visitor’s Centre and run out of pavement, the heaviness had left.
We stayed there for a time, simultaneously relieved and disappointed that the most unusual thing we’d seen that night had been the worryingly pale skin tone of the McDonald’s shift manager.
When you're done over there these nuggets could use more honey mustard
Beyond this point, the road – what little of it we could see in our headlights – narrowed to a hard-packed red dirt single lane, bordered on the left by a sheer wall and on the right by the blackness of Angel Canyon. Exactly how far down that yawning void went we weren’t sure but when the alternative to our search for bowel-emptying terror was a 75 minute slog to the Super 8 Motel in Hurricane, Utah, we were willing to risk tumbling down an embankment.
However, a few minutes of rumbling through the dark lost us our cellular signal and about 10 minutes past that we both expressed a strong desire to turn around at the next opportunity. Not because we were worried about evil witches, you understand, but because we’re smart enough to know nothing good happens to anyone who drives off into the desert at night, especially two city slicker bozos.
"Wolf Creek" would also have been acceptable
The next morning we left Hurricane under clear blue skies and drove back towards Kanab and the Grand Canyon’s North Rim. The road into the park is long and straight, bordered by spruce and pine trees, and we were so taken with the beauty of the day we completely ignored the sign warning us about having just passed the last gas station for miles. After all, the dashboard readout above the radio - which also helpfully provides the time, outside temperature and direction of travel - was telling me we still had 100 miles left on the tank. Some fifteen minutes later it hit me that the Subaru can run around 370 miles on a full tank and we’d had to have driven close to that since our last fill-up. Sure enough, after pulling a U-turn and heading back to the service station we discovered the tank was almost completely empty.
After filling, the dashboard readout informed us this particular tank of gas would take us some 600 miles and we joked about stumbling on to OPEC’s secret stash of “super gas.”
The hiding of SuperGas was Nixon's final "f*ck you" to America before the mothership took him home
Of the Grand Canyon’s major “rims”, I’ve visited two – the West and the North. The West is owned entirely by the Hualapi people and home to their famous SkyWalk – a horseshoe-shaped observation deck with a glass floor, allowing you to see the several thousand, chest-clutching feet of empty air directly beneath you. It’s the sort of thing you have to experience at least once in your life but as the Hualapi control all access to the West Rim that experience will cost you $70.
The South Rim is where most tourists congregate and is, by all accounts, as crassly debased by commercial enterprise as one would expect of a natural wonder in America. In contrast to the 9 miles of unpaved road leading to the West Rim, South is a mere 90 minutes from Flagstaff on US-180, meaning any moron looking to check “Grand Canyon” off his list of places he’s had a hamburger and donkey ride can quite easily do so. In fairness, the South Rim is also the place to go for what is said to be exceptional whitewater rafting and, honestly, the Canyon is worth looking at from any angle.
After the SuperGas incident, we spent the better part of a day hiking around the North Rim and I can safely say it is my favorite part of the Grand Canyon thus far. Being at a higher elevation means its cooler than the West and South, has more plant life and, according to the US Government statistics, gets around 10% of the traffic, meaning it’s a hell of a lot quieter. Consequently, hours Mike and I were both in an unshakeable state of pleasant relaxation as we watched shadows lengthen in the sunset at day’s end.
“This is unbelievable,” he said.
“It really is.”
The sun dipped further.
“You realize we still have a six hour drive ahead of us, right?” I asked.
“Yeah, but looking at all this...who cares?”
That was hard to argue with.
A few hours afterward the sun had fully set and we were barreling down US-160, which cuts through the Navajo Indian Reservation.
The night before, cranked on sugar and fatigue as we wandered through the Hurricane Wal-Mart at 2am, Mike and I had looked up more Skinwalker stories on the road to our next stop, Cortez, Colorado. We discovered a particularly savage one from the town of Kayenta, where the storyteller alleged Skinwalkers had attempted to breach the door of her family’s motel room. The story didn’t mention whether the Skinwalkers had announced an intention to torture their balls – Kayenta isn’t all that far from Utah after all – but either way this sounded much more exciting than knocking about a zoo in the dark.
The first time it happened I only caught it from the corner of my eye.