Things change, be ready to change with them

Richard Charpentier Arizona, Gear Review, Notes from Rich, Off Road Adventures, Photographing Arizona, Photography 2 Comments

The last foray into Coyote Buttes still hasn’t been closed out here.  Sorry about that, so many distractions lately.  Today we’re going to follow up on some interesting events that occurred on my last visits.

Changing colors, changing scenes

Coral Sunrise

While not the most dramatic of my photos, this image is growing on me each time I look at it.

One of the most interesting phenomena I’ve observed in 4 trips to the Vermillion Cliffs National Monument has to do with the colors of the rocks.  In my trips I’ve had the opportunity to photograph some areas, White Pocket for instance, at the same time of day on different occasions.  I can tell you for a fact, the colors changed.

Leaf peepers in New England know all about changing colors.  Fall is an amazing time there.  Talk about dramatic scenery.  Interestingly enough, the same can be said for the rock formations of Arizona.  Time of year, the sun’s position in the sky, and time of day all factor into what you’re going to see on a given outing.

I think the best example of the alteration in colors occurred on the last trip to White Pocket with my friend Tom.  Early morning you’ll find the white / gray rock formations in White Pocket to be anything but dull.  Try a coral feel and texture right as the sun is rising.  The rest of the day the rocks seem to change before your eyes as well, but that early morning coral sticks with me.

I guess you could call this a road…..Or, put another way, glad to have my Max Trax

The last trip into Coyote Buttes found me with no other support vehicle handy.  Just the Nissan Titan, camping supplies, photo gear, and the rest of the standard fare.  Having visited the area 3 times previously I had a good handle on where I was and what I was doing.  No worries…..right?


Check out the tires' relation to the rest of the sand dunes. And this was a "well packed" area.

The first venture in found us heading for Cottonwood Cove.  So many amazing photo opportunities there, and still so much more to explore.  Return visits are on my mind, but so are many visits to other locations as well.

One “shocker” (not really a shock, but a shock) was the changing “road” conditions.  We approached from BLM 1017, the Southern access point just in case.  The path from Paw Hole to Cottonwood was passable on my last visit, but rough all the same.  So, in order to ensure easy access to Cottonwood we drove in the longer way just to be sure.

The road conditions through Poverty Flats had changed.  More sand to bog the truck down, more points where it felt like I was applying the brakes when I wasn’t.  Only a few weeks had passed since the last trip to White Pocket, but there were notable differences for me as a driver.  Nothing I couldn’t cope with mind you, but changes had occurred.

Since we spent so many hours in Cottonwood I decided to take the connector via Paw Hole back to our camp at the State Line Campground.  Last tour along the road from Cottonwood to Paw Hole was uneventful, and easy to pass through on the downhill.  Uphill could be a different story, but that’s why I took the southern access instead.

Well, long story short, less than 1/3 of a mile from the Paw Hole parking area, heading back toward House Rock Valley Road, the Nissan got sucked down into the equivalent of quicksand.  Dead stop was achieved almost instantly.  Heck, looking ahead I knew what I was driving into.  Flat to downhill grade, deep sand, very deep sand…….the Titan got sucked down so fast we didn’t really have time to talk about it.


Sometimes you're on hard packed washboard, other times you're wanting a shovel. You never know what you'll get!

It was a disturbing moment.

Very disturbing.  Last time on this same road the conditions were very different.  Things really do change quickly, and the tried and true can become the new and foreign just like that.

It’s funny.  Early in the trip I complained that I hadn’t had the opportunity to try out the Max Trax. I figured I still wouldn’t get the opportunity.  When the chance finally came, I found myself wishing that I’d never thought of it!  🙂  How conflicted, eh?

With the Titan thoroughly trapped we had no choice.  Break out the Max Trax.  Heck, I hadn’t even cut the packaging loose, they still had their new little labels and everything.

Looking at my situation I made one of those executive decisions.  Both sand ladders would be put under the front tires.  I’ve seen videos from Max Trax where they put one under the front, and the other under the rear tire.  My situation was pretty dire.  Super deep sand, all four tires deep in and no traction available for a good distance.  I thought doing the front tires would be my best bet.  As I got momentum from the front the rear tires would come up to the recovery gear, giving me more momentum, and getting me out of the sand trap.

Amazingly enough, my plan worked!

The Titan was put into 4W Low.  The Max Trax did their job, and the front tires caught onto them and lifted me out of the sand.  I gained momentum and didn’t let up.  As the front tires left the trax I started bogged down once more, but that’s when the rear tires caught on.  I gave it a little extra gas and kept moving forward…….and when I left the Max Trax I didn’t let up.  I knew less than 50 yards ahead things looked more well packed, so that’s where I drove.

In the meantime, Sadira stood outside the truck watching the whole scenario.  I figure she was probably thinking, “Oh great, Rich dragged me out here to see amazing rocks, then die in quick sand.  How can those stupid little orange sleds help anything. We’re trapped.  More importantly, I’m trapped with a moron who drives right into quicksand while wishing he could try out these kooky orange plastic things.  Next vacation, I’m going to a hotel in Phoenix.”

Once I found “firm” sand I came to a stop.  Walking back toward Sadira I noticed something…….  The Max Trax were GONE!  Oh great, what if I need them again?

I shouted to Sadira asking if they’d flown off or something.  She shook her head and told me one moment they were there, the next they were gone.  Apparently they were buried in the sand after the rear tires went over them.  She told me how impressive it was to see them work, the front tires rolling over and then the rear tires catching.  And then when I rolled ahead they were just gone.

We spent about 5 minutes digging in my tracks, and we recovered the Max Trax.

I think I need to attach some runners to them for the next time they get buried!  Maybe that could be a new feature the company considers!

After recovering ourselves we continued on toward Lone Tree.  The road from Lone Tree to Paw Hole was decimated!  I mean ruined!  Somebody got really bogged down on one of the hills, dug giant holes with their tires, and I have no idea how they got out.  I can tell you for certain, going uphill the road was not passable between Lone Tree and Paw Hole.  Coming in from the south was a good decision for the morning.

You just never know

So, always be prepared.  Be prepared to be wowed and amazed when visiting the AZ / UT border.  Be ready to spend some time, and take your time.  And be ready for everything you’ve read here and elsewhere to be total bunk.  Things change.  And you’d better be ready for all situations and circumstances.

In my few visits to the region I’ve found one consistent pattern.  Change.  And personally I’m ready for it.  If you’re planning on visiting the area be sure to be overly prepared.  It’s your best bet!

Comments 2

  1. Perhaps some lengths of rope with tennis balls on the ends might help you find it when buried.

    The other option in sand is letting the air out of your tires to a very low pressure. We were in Mexico with 7 people in my truck looking at the giant cactus. Got stuck in the sand when turning around. My wife started walking back to the road (at least 4 miles) so she did not die out there. Lowered the air pressure to about 15 and the truck came right out in 2WD!

  2. Oh honey…I’ve NEVER thought you were a moron. I actually DID cringe and try to crawl under the seat when you said, “I wish I could have a chance to use the Max Trax!!” (I think I rolled my eyes at you…but not in a “you’re a moron” sort of way…it was more of a, “Oh great. I know what’s going to happen next” sort of way…although, they look kind of similar, so I can see how you could be confused. Also? I’m not that shallow:)) not five minutes before we were sucked down to our hubcaps in sand….It was wonderful to watch them work so well (cause I was a bit nervous) and I was absolutely delighted at the look on your face when you came walking back to get me…when you saw what must have been a horribly confused and slightly panicked look on my face. I WISH someone had been there to record that exchange…it makes me laugh hysterically every time I think about it.

    And I would NEVER give up a trip tooling around with you to spend the night in a hotel in Phoenix. Well…unless it was The Indigo Hotel in Scottsdale…and Dina was going. Only then.

    Unless you want to go with me? 😉
    .-= sadira´s last blog ..Tamale Pride 09… =-.

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