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Thursday, March 10, 2016

Kennel UN-Snowbound, Coyote Hollow Equestrian Campground, Dixie National Forest, Utah

Two muddy tire pits sit alone among white trampled snow at Coyote Hollow Equestrian Campground, Dixie National Forest, Utah.


After a snowbound night, Kennel is free thanks to several hours of hard work and the help of a passing Mainer. The challenge was … significant.

Obstacles to Freedom


  • Ice-hard snow packed into the struts and other undercarriage nooks
  • 2 inches (5 cm) of solid ice under the snow
  • Front tires dug into melty gravel pits
  • Front differential only spinning driver-side wheel
  • All-season tires, not snow tires or chained
  • Parked in a dip

I awoke at 6:30 a.m., refreshed and ready to rumble. The spirit of Joshua Slocum inspired me, and I set to work.


Slocum was the first to do
a solo circumnavigation.
Great writer, too!
Last night, it got close to 20° F (-7° C), which I hoped had frozen the melt under the front tires enough to let me slowly rock backwards out of the holes. No such luck. So I drank some coffee, took my morning “constitutional,” ate two cheese sticks, and contemplated physics.

It occurred to me that the solid ice behind the tires was acting as a brake. It wasn’t enough to move the snow. If I could remove the ice to a level lower than the holes, perhaps gravity would help me back up? So I took a mallet and makeshift chisel (screwdriver) and lay down on my side to chip away the ice like a 19th century miner. I did this for all the tires, front and back, and used my small pickax to excavate more rock-like snow from under kennel.

My expectations were high as I set Kennel into reverse and tried to slowly back out. No luck, not enough traction.

About then, Spenser, a Mainer who’d camped nearby, offered help. We tried adding his push to Kennel’s work, but nothing, no traction. We dug out more snow from under the van. Still no dice.

Spenser, who knows from snow, was puzzled. Honestly, I liked that. It made me feel less stupid.

Spenser suggested his tire chains. It took us about an hour, what with mounting chains, pushing Kennel, putting floor mats under the tires, turning wheels left and right, and digging out yet more snow. But finally – FINALLY! – Kennel rolled backwards to freedom.

All in all, it took me 3-4 hours of hard labor to get Kennel UN-snowbound. If you add Spenser’s contribution, 4-5 man hours total.

After a celebratory chat, Spenser resumed his own adventures. I headed into Bryce Canyon City for a big, hot brunch and LOTS of coffee.

Life Elevated,” huh, Utah? About now, I’m ready for low altitudes, heat shimmers on the road, and palm trees.