On Saturday, 7/20/2018, a couple of my friends, (Kirk Duncan and Keith Gurney), and I went on an all-day UTV ride in central Utah. The trail is called “The Devil’s Racetrack” and for good reason. This trail is a lot of fun but not for the inexperienced rider. The trail winds through river beds, washes, through huge boulders, and up long steep cliffs. Certainly, a difficult trail but for an adventurist like myself who loves challenging rides and risks, this is one that meets my expectations.
The trail is in San Rafael. It’s in the Book Cliffs in Central Utah that spans from Price, Castledale, Ferron, Crosses I-70 and continues south and as far east as Green river, Utah. The trail has branches that take you from the river bottoms to the top of cliffs. Basically, picture the Grand Canyon, but smaller.
My two friends and I started our day in Spanish Fork, Utah at 6:30 am. It was a two-hour drive to the trail head. I pulled my Polaris Rzr and Kirk pulled his in our separate trucks and we headed down to Ferron, Utah. East of Ferron about 10 miles is the trail head. We arrived at the trail head just before 9:00 am. As we unloaded our side by sides, I handed Kirk a two-way radio. I have a dash radio in my Rzr and an extra hand-held. I gave this hand-held radio to Kirk and said we might need these if we get separated. Kirk commented to me that we wouldn’t get separated and that we would stick together. I gave it to him anyway stating that, “You never know”.
Keith Gurney got into my Rzr and Kirk was riding alone in his. We were having a blast. We immediately headed south in the river bottoms on the Devil’s Racetrack west trail. The trail is in the bottom of surrounding cliffs and breath-taking views of the Book Cliffs. We traveled about 10 miles to trail head split. We decided to take the trail that split off to the right. This trail took us up on top of the cliffs and we rode the top of the cliffs for about another six miles.
As we rode, we noticed two things. One, it was obvious that there had been a recent rain storm and flood. Parts of the trail seemed to disappear in places where the flooding waters had washed the trail away. Two, we hadn’t seemed a single other rider out there with us.
We came to a place where the trail literally became non-existent. We were at the top of a cliff looking down at the river below. We could see the trail to the south on the other side of the cliff but really couldn’t see where the trail would lead us to the other side.
We could see where the trail may have at one time went down into the river and followed the river back to the north and then possibly reconnected to the trail we could see on the other side.
So off we went. Boy, this may not have been the brightest idea. I took the lead and Kirk followed. This river was more like a stream. It was narrow and plagued with huge boulders. These boulders were so big that our side by sides would nearly tip over and dragged on the bottom frames. As we continued north in this stream it followed the cliff line and basically snaked along the edge of the cliff. It tunneled under the cliffs for small distances. We finally made it to a point where continuing was nearly impossible, and turning around was sketchy at best. The stream had a deep pool of water surrounded by huge boulders. In order to continue forward, we had to maneuver up and over large boulders and drive our left sides of our side by side’s through a deep pool of water and hope that we didn’t tip over or sink into an abyss.
We decided to take a hike and see if we were getting close to the trail that we had assumed connected to this nightmare or if we were merely heading toward a dead-end. Luckily, just up ahead was the trailhead. It was a steep dreadful hill out of the stream, but the trail indeed. So the task of moving forward proceeded.
We threw some rocks into the deep pool of water attempting to create a platform on which to travel over. Keith was our watchman and directed us which way to steer and try to keep our side by sides upright. I was first to go I managed to get through this obstacle rather safely and upright. I did smack a rock on my rear right wheel that broke my outer wheel hub cover, but no real damage. Kirk went next. Kirk got hung up on a large boulder. The trick was that steering had to be pristine. A little too far left or right meant driving into steep crevices and quite possibly rolling the UTV. Kirk decided that it was make it or break it. He punched the throttle and flew over the rock. His acceleration was so much that he cleared the next twenty feet of obstacles. He shot right past my Rzr, barely missing me and my side by side and got stopped inches away from slamming into the cliff wall.
We made it through. Up the steep trail and out of the ravine. We made our way to I-70. The trail was awesome. Our next adventure would take us back down the cliffs and south under the I-70 bridges. Absolutely beautiful. The I-70 bridges are sister bridges side by side. The bridges are literally built anchored to the cliff was and probably 200 feet in the air. Well, on our way to the I-70 sister bridges, Kirk Duncan finds that he had a flat steer tire. No big deal though, because we had tools and a spare tire. We quickly changed his tire and on the trail we went.
We had an awesome time dropping back down into the river bottom. The trail was fairly easy and the views were breath-taking. Along the trail in the river bottom, we passed many natural rock arches and other formations that blow your minds. The sun was out and temperatures were near 100 degrees. We made it to the I-70 sister bridges and decided to break for lunch. The shade and scenery under the bridges was refreshing. The I-70 sister bridges were basically the half way point on the trail. We figured that after we ate lunch we had approximately four more hours. The east side of San Rafael Devil’s Slide trail is more extreme and for more advanced riders. I was excited to get there.
With lunch over, we continued down the river bottom and then up the east side cliffs to a historic cabin called Swayses Cabin and the Ice Box caverns. We stopped there for a few minutes and then started north on the east side of the Devil’s Racetrack. This is an awesome trail. We passed another beautiful arch formation and then began the long climb to the top of the Book Cliffs. This trail literally puts you on the edge of the cliffs. On both sides there are straight down 200 feet cliffs. Also, you are driving on boulders that are two to three feet tall and wide. The path is all rock and you follow white-painted stripes in order to stay on the trail. If you choose to veer off the painted lines, there would be a great possibility of getting lost or in a position of no return.
Oh, what a view. This is one of the most beautiful places on planet earth. We were all so amazed by Gods creation. What a shame that most people won’t see what we saw. With our adrenaline high with excitement and anxiety we traveled this trail of rocks and cliffs. We took time to stop and enjoy the scenery but was also aware of the time. It was starting to get later in the day and we also noticed a few dark clouds forming in the west. This was concerning because it was apparent that flash flooding had occurred here within the last few days. Also, we kept commenting that we hadn’t seen any other riders all day. This was weird because it was a perfect summer Saturday and typically the san Rafael Devil’s Racetrack is a popular trail.
We headed north down the trail that would lead us back to the river bottom and then return us to Ferron, Utah where our trucks were parked.
What an awesome day. We had so much fun riding the trails and seeing all the beautiful surroundings. As friends, this was a real bonding experience in which we shared stories and laughs.
We finally made it to the river bottom. We turned left and rode hard. The trail in the river bottom was sandy and weaved through the rocks and water. What a perfect opportunity to race through the winding river at reckless speeds. This trail snaked through tall cliffs on both sides. This area is called the
“wash” because this is where in flash floods all the water flows down it. It’s beautiful because the cliffs are amazing and the plants are full and green.
As we traveled through the wash, parts of the wash became narrow. In many spots, the trail seemed to disappear for a short distance, but we would pick up the trail a little further down and continue on.
At some point, I lost the trail and basically ended up facing a cliff. I looked around and I found the trail. I had just missed it. Kirk had caught up to me and was directly behind me. I pointed to the trail and told him I needed to back up in order to get back on the trail. Kirk noticed the trail also and we both backed up to align our side by sides for the trail. Due to the recent flood a few days earlier, the trail had been washed out. In order to get back on the trail, we had to climb out of the wash and up a four-foot embankment. This wasn’t that big of a deal, but will come into play later.
Before continuing down to wash, we discussed that we should have already been out of the canyon and back to our trucks. We were all surprised on how far we had ridden and wondered if we were really close. Also, up in the sky, the clouds were grown and getting darker. It was imminent that a storm was getting close. This was beginning to concern us because we were riding in the “wash” and there were obvious signs of flooding just a few days before. This also suggested why we were the only ones riding side by sides in the Devil’s Racetrack on a summer Saturday.
We continued on. Blazing through the trail at a high rate of speed. As I drove, I kept looking back for Kirk who typically was not far behind. I traveled about three miles and noticed that Kirk was no longer following behind me. I stopped and Keith and I waited for some time. We then decided that we ought to call him on the radio and see if we could get ahold of him. Kirk answered immediately and stated that he had broken down. He thought possibly that he had thrown a rod in his engine. Oh no.
Keith and I turned around to go back to where Kirk had broken down. We found Kirk broke down just past the area that we had stopped and climbed the embankment. Kirk had his back seats out of his Rzr so he could check the oil in his engine. The dip-stick read no oil! We looked for any signs of an oil leak and found none. This didn’t make sense. We couldn’t figure out where the engine oil would have leaked. The skid plate under his Rzr had no oil on it, nor any part of the outside of his engine. We also checked his exhaust for signs that his engine maybe burning the oil. We found nothing.
It was getting later in the day and we figured it would be getting dark in about four hours. Worse, the storm overhead. Luckily, it hadn’t started raining yet, but the signs of a storm were nearby.
We but his seats back in the Rzr and used his winch to tow him with. I towed him for about six miles when we noticed the wash was beginning to get narrower and narrower. It became obvious that the trail we thought we were on was leading us to a dead-end. We wondered how we possibly could have ended up in a dead end wash? Worse yet, a dead end wash a few days after a flash flood with a dark storm brewing above our heads.
We decided the best thing to do at this point was to unhook Kirks Rzr from mine. We would leave Kirk with his broke down side by side and Keith and I would find the path to our trucks. We turned around and back tracked until we found the trail. It was difficult to find because the trail had actually been washed away. How we found the trail was we had spotted trail sign with a map on it far to the east of the wash. We had to hike to this sign from the wash by climbing over a four-foot embankment.
As Keith and I studied this trail map, we were annoyed that on these maps, they don’t mark where you are on the map. Possibly a simple “X-you are here” would be nice. We found Ferron, Utah and it was just over the hill down the trail we had just found. However, looking down this washed out trail, it looked rough. Big rocks and steep cliffs. Keith and I discussed the difficulty of me pulling Kirk’s broken side by side up this cliff. We called Kirk and explained to him that we found this trail and we were going to hurry and see how far our trucks were and see if I could actually pull his side by side up this jagged trail.
So off Keith and I went. This trail was steep. It had ninety degree switchbacks with big boulders and huge cliffs to climb. We traveled for about one hour. I tried to maintain contact when I could with Kirk through the two-way radios, but at times the mountains would get in the way for the signal. It was obvious to Keith and I that pulling Kirk’s side by side up this trail would be impossible. However, somehow we needed to get Kirk’s side by side out of the wash before the sun went down and the storm started. Finally, up ahead, Keith and I could see the end of the trail. A big sign at the trail head stood out of the ground. We thought we made it. As we drove closer, we realized we had driven back to I-70. We had made a big circle. It was 5:30 pm and we were hours from Ferron. How could we have possibly made a wrong turn?
Okay, possibly a time to panic. Time for a plan. I evaluated our circumstance. Storm, broken side by side in wash, flash flood a few days ago, two hours of sun light left.
Keith and I decided that we ought to leave Keith there on I-70. He had phone signals and could use his phone to communicate with our wives and possibly Search and rescue if needed. If he didn’t see Kirk and I in a few hours, at least Keith was available to find help and explain where we were. I tried to call my wife, Misty, but she didn’t answer her phone. I left her number with Keith and asked him to keep trying to call Misty and explain that she will need to drive to I-70 and pick us up and then bring us to Ferron, Utah to our trucks. In the meantime, I will try to pull Kirk up this steep trail to I-70 so we can come pick up the side by sides there.
I realized that I had less than two hours before dark and possibly less if it started to storm. I left Keith with three bottles of water and a sandwich and started back to Kirk.
As I traveled down the steep rugged trail, it became obvious that there was absolutely no way I could pull Kirk’s side by side up this trail. It was too steep, lots of cliffs to climb, and too many large boulders.
I stopped my Rzr. I prayed. I prayed hard and loud.
Recently, I’ve been studying the Book of Mormon. For the past decade of my life, I had become a non-believer of the LDS faith. There are various reasons for this, but nonetheless, I had drifted off and began going to a non-denominational Bible church. For three years, I have studied hard the NKJV bible and have loved it. I buried myself in the bible and have studied it thoroughly and completely. My desire was simply to increase my faith in Jesus Christ. I felt for years, that as I attended the LDS church, I wasn’t learning the Bible and thus not getting a personal relationship with my Savior. Recently, I was diagnosed with a heart condition. The Cardiologist told me that if I didn’t have emergency surgery and get a pacemaker installed, I would die this year. This was alarming and took Misty and I by complete surprise.
Due to this circumstance and also witnessing a disconnect forming between my children, wife, and I, (From not worshipping on Sundays with my family). I desired to return to the LDS church and work on returning to the Temple with Misty. I had met with our Stake President a few times and he challenged me to study the Book of Mormon once again. He promised me that if I did so, I would have that testimony of Jesus Christ that I’ve been searching for.
During the past month, I purchased a Book of Mormon study guide and have been actively studying it using all the study guide help. I have loved it. Currently, I’ve made it to the chapter of Mosiah.
So, what does the Book of Mormon and my relationship with my Savior, Jesus Christ have to do with this story? Let me tell you. Everything!
On my way back to Kirk, I decided that I needed to put my faith and testimony to work. I’ve been studying the old prophets in the Book of Mormon and constantly, they have taught about faith. Real faith. Steadfast faith. They preach about proving your confidence to God. So, here I am. I’m in a situation where God is testing me. Do I have this steadfast faith? Do I have confidence in angels? The scriptures teach that I have the authority to call upon angels. How confident am I?
So I stopped the side by side. I prayed. I prayed with confidence. I prayed with clarity. I prayed out load. I explained the circumstance not leaving anything out. I was specific. I prayed concerning the Storm that was soon to start, I prayed concerning the darkness or night that would soon be here, I also prayed for clarity of reading the maps.
I finished my prayer and again proceeded down the trail. I called Kirk on the two-way radio and Kirk answered. I explained the bad news. I discussed with him that somehow we turned the wrong way. Instead of heading toward Ferron, Utah where are trucks were, we ended up returning to I-70. I explained to Kirk that I left Keith on I-70 for two reasons. One, incase things went badly for us and we were stuck down here at night in a storm so he can get us help, and to communicate with Misty as she came to get us. I then explained to Kirk that this trail out was extremely steep and rocky. I told him that it would be impossible for me to pull his side by side up it. I then explained my prayer. I suggested that he too pray and that it will take angels pushing behind to get these two Rzr’s up this cliff. We discussed our circumstance and he told me that he was already praying. I then told Kirk that one of these angels better be Sampson. We laughed. I explained that I was on my way towards him but it would be about an hour before I would be there.
As I was heading down the steep trail, a thought occurred to me that I we needed to head down the wash the way that we came. It occurred to me that our mistake was made as we entered the wash and turned left. That was our mistake. We should have turned right! I immediately stopped and checked my phone. I found that my phone battery was down to nine percent. I had one bar signal. I tried to call Misty again. She answered. Misty had already talked with Keith and was on her way. I told her that Kirk and I were not going to try pulling his side by side up this steep trail. I told her that I had prayed and was inspired to NOT attempt climbing this trail but to stay in the wash and go the other direction. I explained to her the situation of the storm and that daylight was almost over. I told her to explain all of this to Keith when she picked him up and then to drive him to Ferron. We would meet her at our trucks. My signal fainted and my phone battery died.
I hurried down the trail and when the two-way radio signals allowed, I stayed in touch with Kirk.
I finally made it back to Kirk. He was out ready to give me more fuel from his extra Fuel Pack. We hurried and added fuel and got his side by side turned around facing the right direction. Then we looked at each other and agreed that we should pray together. We both folded our arms. I prayed out load. We had an hour of sunlight left. Amazingly, the storm hadn’t hit yet. The clouds above were dark and threatening. Certainly, imminent and only moments away. I felt that my prayer needed to be stated in specific concerns. I prayed first about nightfall was only one hour away. I prayed specifically that we intended to walk over to the map and study it for clarity. I explained in prayer that this walk and map studying would eat about tem minutes of our much-needed daylight. I prayed for angels to push on Kirk’s side by side to get us over the rocks and steep trails. I explained in prayer that the scriptures state that we had the power to call upon angels if only we had the faith of a mustard seed. I then stated that we did. I stated that we knew we knew that God was in control. I then ended our prayer with the statement that we were on our way.
With the tow strap in place we hurried down the wash. Poor Kirk, trying to steer his side by side behind me was being sprayed with sand and rocks as my rear tires stirred the wash underneath us. We made it to where the trail was leading to the map. We had to climb out of the wash up a four-foot embankment. We hurried to the map. I showed him the trail that Keith and I climbed and that it went to I-70. I then suggested that we must have made a wrong turn when we entered the wash. We traced the trail map back to where we believe we entered the wash. We both agreed that was where we must have turned the wrong way.
Both, now having faith that we should continue down the wash the way we came in headed back to our side by sides. We both knew that if we were wrong, we would just be headed back deeper into the San Rafael Devil’s racetrack and nobody would know where we would end up.
With less than an hour before dark, we headed down the wash. The wind had picked up and our tire tracks from earlier were no longer visible. We tried to stay in these tracks for a couple of reasons. We wanted to ensure that we were on the right track by identifying where Kirk broke down and where I had to back up and climb the embankment earlier.
This is the part that becomes strange. Kirk and I had traveled only a short time. We were actively searching for these locations I listed above and then we went around a corner and it was the location where we had entered the wash. For clarity, we never drove through the place where Kirk broke down. We never drove over the four-foot embankment where I had to back up. The miracle here is that we never left the wash. We gained time and somehow skipped many miles of travel!
Kirk and I stopped at this location where the Devil’s Racetrack enters the wash. We got out and wondered how we got there so quickly. We both were perplexed on how we didn’t notice those two areas in which we were looking. We both stated out loud that the angels that we requested were indeed helping us out. We recalled our prayer that we stated that we would take ten minutes to walk to the map and study it for clarity. WE requested that ten minutes was regained. Indeed, we had regained that ten minutes. We couldn’t explain how, but indeed, angels were at the helm.
Also, we noticed another map sign located in this same intersection. We took some time to re-assess where we were on this map. Again, there were no indicators on this map as to where we were. We seemed to navigate this sign with clear clarity and could see that we were heading the right direction. Another answer to our prayer. We asked in prayer for clarity in reading these maps and we certainly were able to dictate the map clearly.
The storm was still held off and we figured we had around fifteen minutes left of day light. So, off again I towed Kirk down the wash. We hustled and maneuvered around many big boulders and through trees and somehow managed to stay on a washed out trail. There were a few times that the trail would take us up steep sandy hills and off sharp drop offs, but we were never slowed down. Certainly, angels assisted us up these hills and navigated us across unknown territory. Quite possibly, Sampson, was there as requested in prayer.
With only minutes of daylight to spare we saw the opening of the canyon. We had made it out of the wash. As we left the wash and headed toward Ferron, Utah I turned on my lights. It started to sprinkle. The storm was now here.
Funny thing happened after that. As we headed toward Ferron, in search of our trucks we came upon an intersection. One road going forward and the other going right. My guess is the angels had left us to figure this one out on our own. We chose to turn right. We traveled about five miles when we finally decided that we went the wrong way. Kirk had been towed for a long way. His eyes were so bloodshot. It was dark now and was raining. We had to stop and Kirk washed his eyes out with water. We turned around and back tracked. We went too far and realized we were heading back into the wash. Again, we turned around. Completely puzzled on how we missed a turn again we headed out of the canyon. We came to the same intersection and rather than turn right, we continued straight ahead. Finally, we found our trucks.
As we got out of our side by sides we agreed that we needed to again pray out loud. We knew that our prayers had been answered. Not only had our prayers been answered, but our prayers had been answered exactly as we had asked. We were specific in our prayer concerning the ten minutes of studying a map. We were specific in requesting the storm to hold. We were specific concerning the nighttime darkness and getting out of the canyon before the dark. Each one of these items that we prayed for were answered to an exactness. We prayed out loud to give thanks and to give God the glory. God and his angels were obvious and merciful on us that night. God says in scripture to prove Him. He tells us to have steadfast faith, to have confidence to ask for angels. We did. God did too.
The rain was a light drizzle as we winched Kirk’s Rzr up onto his trailer. We used our flood lights to tie everything down. As we left towards Ferron, Utah. The rain came down. It rained the entire two-hour drive home. We met up with Misty and Keith in Spanish Fork. All was well. All was safe.
Possibly this may be a stretch. This is what I believe. I wanted to go on this San Rafael Devil’s Racetrack trip to have fun with my friends. I had a great desire to go simply because I like to do these kind of things. However, there was something different this time. I have been studying the Book of Mormon prayerfully for the past month. I’ve been very diligent in daily study. Not only just reading the Book of Mormon, but including a study guide as I read verse by verse. I’ve been also meeting with my Stake President and discussing my testimony every other week. I’m working hard to return to the temple with my wife and becoming a changed man walking with my Savior. This trip was more than a side by side ride with my friends. I know that God was testing me and my faith. My friends and I were put into a situation that could have easily become tragic. The test was obvious to me. Do we handle this situation by thinking as a man, or do we call upon God and his angels?
I’m so grateful that my soul is in the right place. Of course, we called upon angels. We called for Sampson. (I know that Sampson was “probably” not the angel, but who knows). I’m grateful for great friends. I’m grateful for friends that are believers. I’m grateful that I have friends with the courage to pray out loud with me. I’m grateful that I have friends that help build me up, and allow me to help build them up. Together, my friends with angels, will build my testimony of Jesus Christ to a steadfastness and confidence spoken of by our prophets of old.