The non-Lebowski Ranger back in Kanab had told me there was BLM camping up near Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park, which was twice as close to the permit lottery as any of the campsites near Buckskin Gulch. Also, since it was BLM camping, it would also be free. Well, BLM is usually free, so I assumed it would be free.
It rained off and on the whole way back to Kanab and had mostly stopped by the time I turned off of US-89 and onto Hancock Rd. Once off the highway, I followed winding Hancock for miles through rocky, sandy desert with scattered trees and shrubs, some areas greener than others. I kept an eye peeled for turn-offs and side roads for potential camping, but everything looked like it was intended for off-road vehicles and quads, not two-wheel drive pickups lugging a trailer behind it.
Eventually I came upon a promising turnout. It was a roadside clearing with some scattered trees and tire tracks running over pink dirt. Clearly people had camped here, so I pulled off the paved road and took the truck onto the firm, pink dirt. After getting up a slight upgrade, I found a series of "roads" that headed off into the desert. I chose the one closest to the road since it looped back to the pavement in another 50'. Backing up with a trailer is a pain in the ass, so being able to pull through was ideal. Perfect.
As I started to head up the slight hill, though, I noticed traction start to give way. This was the moment I realized that the pink dirt I was driving on wasn't pink dirt. It was pink sand. I was on a pink sand dune. A coral pink sand dune. An appropriately named coral pink sand dune that had been rained on for quite some time, and I was not going to be able to go any further forward without risking getting stuck. Especially not without four-wheel drive. So I decided to back out of the spot while I still had a chance. I was only 15'-20' from the road, easy enough to back out onto. Except I was already deep in sand. The truck wouldn't move in either direction, with wheels spinning and spraying sand. I was stuck in the middle of nowhere with no cell reception and miles between me and the State Park that may be able to pull my dumb ass out of the clearly labeled pink sand.
Driving that truck from Mississippi, I had a few worries. Getting stuck was probably #3 on the list, behind (#1) being blown over but gusting crosswinds on the highway and (#2) the trailer getting disconnected and wrecking on the side of the road. At least the other two hadn't happened. They seemed a lot worse. This was mostly just embarrassing.
Not giving up just quite yet, I still had a trick up my sleeve. Anyone that's lived in the Northeast through the winter should know exactly what to do in the situation I found myself in. Mushy sand, mushy snow, same thing. You gotta rock that car, baby! Gas, release, gas, release, gas, release... until I magically got out of my rear rut and was able to back out onto the road. That had been a close one. I wasn't going to make that same mistake twice. Or was I???
I kept heading towards the Sand Dunes, and within a mile or so came upon a wide open turnout that looked to have a few camping spots around it. Most importantly, it was full of hard packed, light colored dirt, not loose, pink, sand. On top of that, it was so big I could make a full u-turn. I pulled in, parked, hopped out, and took a quick survey of my surroundings. There was a makeshift fire pit about 20' away, a lot of dried out juniper and pine, and no other campers. It was perfect.
The first thing I needed to take care of was food. I set up my little stove next to the truck and started making noodles. When I looked up, this was what I saw:
|The cuisine was average at best, but the atmosphere was divine. Review: ★★★★|
This was clearly where I was meant to be camping. Also, now I was pretty happy to have had that rain. Even more happy to not be stuck in the side of a dune.
That night I collected some loose firewood, lit a fire, and tried my best to stay up for the Perseid Meteor Shower. I fell asleep at the fire well before the shooting stars began (but well after the coyotes had started). I only saw two or three, one of which was a monster on the horizon, but that's pretty normal. I blamed my sleepiness on waking up early for the permit. Stupid North Coyote Buttes.
I ended up spending the following evening in the exact same camp site, this time with a bigger fire, as I found a giant field of clear-cut pine across the road about a quarter of a mile away. When I arrived the second day, I found out why the space needed to be so wide open, as a trailer was parked off to the west of me. It had been full of quads that were now out tearing up the dunes. Oh right, the dunes. Here, this is what they look like:
|Dunes with Trees. Weird.|