The year was
1991, November, we were returning from a 10 month stay in Tuscon
Arizona, we meaning myself, my two daughters Rebekah, Rachel and my
girlfriend Joni. Joni had taken a position as an intensive care nurse
at the University of Arizona Medical Center, her second sabbatical
after becoming a traveling nurse.
Being a family
of vagabonds, our trip to Tuscon from Salt Lake City was uneventful,
other than thoroughly enjoying the transition from the extreme cold
of January’s weather to the gradual warming as we migrated south
through the small towns of southern Utah and northern Arizona. It was
good to be on the move again.
wandering tendencies, we had all traveled to many areas of the west,
southern California, Oregon, the Washington Coastline, Idaho etc.
But, without question, Moab and the surrounding desert was our
previously established a desert camp back in 1988, far from the order
of society, in search of solitude and a deep desire for the last
remnants of natures pristine despot. I had found it! It was only 18
miles out of Moab, yet it’s location, at the base of an enormous
cliff, on the descending steps to Bartlet wash was ideal! The height
and breth of it’s position offered an unhindered panoramic view of
the entire valley below, my camp nestled on a sandstone shelf, in the
great cliff arm of Marijuana Butte.
The name had
been affectionately given the butte by the towns’ people of Moab years
ago, when a returning plane from Mexico, laden with it’s
controversial contraband had miscalculated it’s latitude or necessary
accent to clear the butte, crashed, spilling it’s payload across the
desert landscape. The news spread quickly to the Moabites, who
feverishly, assembled their rescue gear and traveled in haste to the
crash site, collecting its contents.
offered a protected environment in which to establish my sanctuary.
As stated, I originally had come to the area in the summer of 1988
with my truck and self-contained overhead camper, pulling a 10×8
flatbed trailer, I built, which carried my tools, bicycles,
motorcycle, camping gear, water barrels, and all the essentials for
survival during my stay. The camp evolved over the next 3 years
adjusting to my improvements, leveling and sifting the sand,
channeling runoff from the deluge of water plummeting off Marijuana
butte during the August Monsoon. It was an awesome sight watching
the countless water falls pouring from the cliff heights and filling
the many waterways as they descended to the wash below. It was a
pristine, sacred world and I immersed myself in it.
Now 3 years
later and having graduated to a 30ft travel trailer, and having
served two nursing sabbaticals with my girlfriend Joni, we were on our
way back to camp.
morning, my daughter Rachel and I were traveling together in my 1980
Chevy Truck, pulling the trailer. We had gone on ahead of Joni and
Rebekah, who would be joining us on Sunday. It was a two day journey
from Tucson traveling north along route 89, then east along highway
160 circumnavigating the Hopi, Navajo Indian reservation. From there
we turned north on 191 to Moab and then finally to camp. About at
the half way point we pulled off into a large turnout next to the
highway to spend the night, had a nice breakfast the next morning and
then proceeded north.
The trip was a
very pleasant, with only one mishap, a flat tire on the trailer. I
especially enjoyed having the company of my daughter, who seemed to
blend in so well to her rather eccentric father’s lifestyle. She was
a natural, fresh expression of my rather off the grid view of
reality. I can say quite honestly, she was the best witness to the
world I had assembled, that I could possibly have asked for!
She was with
me on nearly every level. I guess you could say that I trained her
well. From changing a flat tire to exploring the outback on
motorcycles,(a very skilled rider), floating the Green river on a
raft, hiking, rock climbing, canyoneering, searching the washes for
stones, to assembling camp, Rachel was there, assisting,
contributing and helping me arrange a safe and operable vantage point
to this profound desert.
The skies were
clear and distinctly blue, when we arrived, contrasted against the
white sands in the wash below and the glimmering red glow of the
distant cliffs. It was good to be home!
together gazing at the beautiful silent landscape, breathing in the
essence of what now had become a treasure, stored in our minds and
hearts. To be present again in it’s beauty, the thoughts,
experiences, memories and feelings of the last three years, bubbled
to the surface. We took a deep breath, turned and looked at each
other, both knowing the pleasant task of re-assembling our camp was
once again at hand.
We both knew
where all the items and equipment were hidden, so without a command
or request, we both headed in the direction of our secret cache. Out
of the hidden crevices, out from behind boulders and junipers, we
gathered our water barrels, our hoses, generator shelter, tarps,
picnic table, grill, awning poles, rakes and shovels.
In the hours
that followed we worked side by side in silence, each of us
intuitively knowing what the other needed, to spread a tarp, raise an
awning, pitch the Springbar tent, position the picnic table, rake and
sift the pine needle cluttered sand. Rebuild the outdoor, sandstone
framed stove and once again re-construct the channels to draw the
rainwater, away from and around the camp.
It was the
labor of love. We were reconvening, re-immersing ourselves back
into a world that very few people ever have the chance to visit, much
less live in!
The sun was
now setting in the all too familiar distant landscape. Nearly a 100
miles to the west, watching the sun surrender to the evening, you
could see once again, the darkened skyline buttes that framed our
Hunger and the
November chill was beckoning us to go indoors. I turned on the
heater and as the air warmed, we both set to preparing our evening
We had unconsciously established an unwritten rule in the past 3 years, that
we would begin our trek to Moab always in early spring from wherever
our winter stay and stationed us. Either from Salt Lake City, Saint
George, Utah, Oregon, California, Washington State or in this case
Arizona. It was usually late March we would return for the season,
which lasted until late into the fall, or our standard rule, to break
down camp at the first snowfall.
This year it
was different. We had moved to Tuscon in late January and because of
Joni’s nursing stint, it brought us back to camp in November, our
usual time for departing. No matter, we were more than happy to be
here and were looking forward to what little time we had left before
winter once again set in.
We retired to
our beds, weary, yet content, and mildly sore from the days work.
Morning came with the old familiar patterns, the great shadow of the
cliff face, slowly receding from the valley floor below as the sun
rose above it’s crest. During summer, it was usually around 10:30 to
11:00 am that the sun would break over the edge of the cliff, but
this late in the year, the camp might not see full sunlight until 1
or 2 in the afternoon. So, after breakfast, we busied ourselves with
cleaning the trailer, making our beds, vacuuming and cleaning the
kitchen. When it warmed up a bit we continued our task of setting up
Joni and Rebekah showed up with a friend traveling with them named
Henry. He had come with them needing a ride to Salt Lake City to
meet up with his family. After our greeting and reunion we all had
lunch together, but they soon had to continue on to Salt Lake.
arrangement was that Joni and Rebekah would go on to Salt Lake to her
home in Holiday and while Joni worked at Primary Childrens Hospital,
Rebekah would stay at her house, waiting for Rachel and me.
We had planned
on leaving camp on Wednesday around 10am. After they left we pretty
much spent the rest of the day doing small tasks, relaxing around
the campfire, enjoying the solitude. Early Monday morning we hiked
to Morning Rock (a boulder sitting at a point on a shelf just below
the top face of the cliff which provided an amazing 180 degree
morning view of the valley below and seemingly endless horizon. This
was a tradition that we all shared when first coming to camp after a
long absence. We would all climb the rock slide to the ledge, which
traversed along the cliff face to the where Morning rock was resting.
It was a rather a precarious feat, walking along that narrow
outcropping, about 100 feet up, cautiously making our way to that
Once there, it
was wide enough to relax, let our hearts slow down at bit, then
maybe visit the spot where our names were engraved in the sandstone
or maybe challenge ourselves to boulder climb Morning rock. So, we
made our traditional climb that morning, sitting atop this awesome
boulder and watched the new day begin.
returning to camp, as the day warmed, we began reacquainting
ourselves with our old haunts. A visit to the miniature Indian
village (created by a younger Rachel), the face carving in the
sandstone of a very distraught confined man.(carved by Eric Hawkey) A
visit to Evening Rock, Saddle Rock (an outcropping protruding from
the upper face of a very large boulder, where the kids would dare
each other to sit out on and loudly proclaim their feat of bravery!
And a visit to
the Cave. An original depression in the face of the cliff, about 100
feet up,on the same route to Morning Rock It had a sloping floor,
which I determined along with the great effort of my children, could
be made into a sizable, usable cave with a flat floor. A large
rectangular sandstone slab was situated near the back of the cave and
if it could be pushed out to the opening, it could serve as a sitting
place and a vantage point, a pedestal, so to speak, for perhaps
quoting poetry or meditating. Getting the slab out to the opening
seemed easy enough, so I thought! My plan was to bring 2, 2x4x8’s,
my 8 ton jack, my 18 volt skill saw and a lot of determination!
I set myself
to work, positioning the jack between the cliff wall and the slab.
After some effort I managed to get it in place and began jacking. It
moved! I pumped the handle, inch, by inch as it slowly moved toward
the opening. When the jack reached it’s maximum length, I would
compress it back down, measuring the new distance, where I cut a
length of 2×4 to place between the jack head and the slab, repeating
the process. It nearly took most of the day! (This was done in the
early years after finding the camp.) which is another story!
I did manage to
move it into the position I wanted and it did indeed make a great
ledge, for which to sit and contemplate ones existence.
The next task,
was to fill the sloping floor with sand! I filled all the openings
at the base of the slab with sandstone rocks gathered from the ledge
and surrounding area, so as to not allow the newly placed sand to
escape by draining out. Then I returned to camp recruiting my four
children. I told them to bring the five gallon buckets we had, fill
them with sand obtained from a small sand dune, then carry them up
the rock slide, along the ledge and into the cave. It took two days!
We did complete the task and it turned out beautifully! The floor
was soft and level, with room to spare! In fact I even pitched a
small tent in there with rollie mat, camp chair, blankets, sleeping
bag and pillow.
This was to
give each of my budding children the opportunity to experience
solitude on a new level. They did each take a turn of camping in
that cave alone and returned with a new sense of self and a more
confident feeling of who they are!
I have always
promoted the idea of knowing oneself, but how many people actually
spend any real time with just themselves, isolated in such a vast and
quiet place? I have and my children have. It’s an amazing
also enjoyed in the same manner and on Tuesday we decided to ride our
motorcycles to the remote municipal airport 11 miles (as the crow
flies) north east. This meant traversing the sandstone shelves,
following the dry wash tributaries flowing into Bartlet wash riding
along old jeep trails, crossing springs and riding through big
cottonwood stands. The purpose was to call Joni and Rebekah on the
airports only phone and pretty much confirm our intentions to leave
the next day. Our return trip went smoothly and arriving in the late
afternoon we proceeded in breaking down the awnings, securing our
valuables and buttoning up the camp for our absence.
and some light reading, we went to bed. It was around 3am, we heard
what sounded like voices calling our names. It seemed to be coming
from across the slickrock near the entrance to our camp.
David!…………Rachel! Came the calls. It was a little shocking
to say the least, hearing our names called out through a very dark
night! Rachel heard them first, then I did and with a little
hesitation I turned on the outside trailer light. We saw through the
window a deep layer of freshly fallen snow, reflecting back from the
light. I opened the trailer door and looked out, straining to see
beyond the light’s radius. Again we heard the voices calling our
We knew this
time……..it was Joni and Rebekah! We could hear the sound of
their footsteps crunching in the new snow as they approached and
eventually could see a small light coming from the flashlight they
As they came
into the trailers light, they exclaimed!……… “Are you guys
alright?” “Why didn’t you come up to Salt Lake?” (as they
stamped their snow laden shoes on the step, entering into the
trailer)……….We couldn’t understand what they meant! Their eyes
were full of fear! We tried to explain. “We were coming, we were
leaving in the morning!” ….. “In the morning?” “Do you
know what day it is”, Joni asked? I said, “it’s Wednesday
morning!” She said “no it’s not, it’s Sunday morning!”
“Sunday!, I exclaimed!” looking at Rachel, who had the same
bewildered look on her face!…… “Yes, we have been worried sick
about you and wondered why you never showed up!” “We waited
through Wednesday, then Thursday, and then on Friday we really
started to freak out that something bad had happened to you!” “We
left Saturday afternoon after work and drove all night to get down
here!” “Why didn’t you come up?” We were baffled! So were
they! We had no explanation! To us it was Wednesday morning and our
plan was to get up, pack our things, eat a light breakfast, then
drive up to Salt Lake. It was not the case! Something had happened
We had lost 4
days and had no recollection of them! We continued our stranger than
strange conversation, trying to piece together the events preceding
our leaving and just what had happened! Rebekah said, that after we
didn’t show up late Wednesday afternoon she called Joni to try and
figure out why we hadn’t arrived. Joni suggested that probably we
had gotten distracted having fun exploring on the motorcycles, came
home late and decided to come on Thursday. So, they waited!
Thursday came and went with no word. Friday was the day “we
thought of calling the Highway Patrol and report you missing!”
But, since Saturday was Joni’s last day at work and she got off in
the early afternoon, they thought, “we may as well just drive down
and try and find them.” Finding us in camp was both a relief and a
great puzzle! We talked and mused over the mystery of it all, then
that evening, we drove back to Salt Lake. Within the next 2 weeks,
we went back down, disassembled the camp and moved to Salt Lake for
Nothing was to
be the same in the following weeks, or months for that matter!
Rachel and I both had reoccurring nightmares! Were we abducted? God
only knows! But, in the weeks and months that followed, whether it
was our imaginations projecting stored fantasies from talking about
it so much,
etc., or they were real recollections of the experience, we just
didn’t know, but either way, we were seeing the little gray dark eyed
beings nearly every night!
In those so
called dreams, we would awaken, feel completely paralyzed, barely
able to move only our eyes, yet we could see these little, hideous
creatures standing around our beds staring at us! Is it true! Were
we taken? Neither my daughter or I know for sure, but it would seem a
real probability given the dreams and paranoia we experienced
following that very unusual time frame!
We did return
to camp in late March and throughout the summer when I would become
so restless from unexplained anxiety, sleeping in the trailer, I
would try to sleep in the tent, only to stare out at the stars
through the screened windows, watching them expand and seemingly draw
remember one night becoming so terrified that I jumped out of bed,
ran out of the tent and into the trailer, seriously expecting a UFO
was descending out of the night sky and was going to take me before I
reached the safety of the trailer.
It took about
a year for our minds to finally settle down and our life to return to
somewhat normal. I can’t speak for my daughter Rachel, but since
that time, I have developed a fascination and almost an obsession to
learn all I can about the UFO phenomenon and similar experiences
people have had.
witnessed two very distinct sightings since that experience, both
again with other people present. The first was in 2006, in
Hurricane, Utah sitting with my son Jonathan on our outside patio
furniture talking together. Looking out at the western horizon over
St. George Utah, the sky was illuminated by the city lights, which
faded into black as you looked skyward, with a background of stars.
horizon within the illumination came two very bright lights, moving
slowly, traveling side by side, one being slightly ahead of the
other. They rose higher into the starlit night and when they reached
around 11 o’clock they stopped! That’s when it caught our full
attention. We both had assumed that it was just two planes leaving
the St. George airport heading east. We stared in amazement for
several seconds, when they both in the exact same maneuver, shot
straight up and disappeared!
sighting was with two friends, Andy and Lea. We were returning from
D.I. Ranch near the Nevada, Utah border, exploring the option of
moving out to a small homestead the owner had offered us. We had
stopped by the natural spring to fill up our water jugs and then
continued our journey homeward. After about 20 miles, traveling
under a very clear night sky, we rounded a bend just after crossing
the bridge over the Santa Clara river. I looked up and saw, once
again two very bright lights, sitting motionless against the backdrop
of the now darkend red cliffs just above the Piute Indian
reservation. I exclaimed! “Look you guys at those lights!” We
were awestruck! Just then our view became blocked by a large mound
of rock and dirt, as we ascended the hill toward it. We crested the
hill only to discover they had disappeared! We were left in
amazement of just how bright they were and how quickly they had
What does this
all mean? I have often wondered why some people see them and some
don’t. Is it random? Or is there some kind of connection with these
phenomenon? We watch television programs, documentaries, videos and
read articles posted on the internet and they seem real enough, but
still it leaves us wondering if it’s just the attention we give it or
is there is any truth to their existence? Is it merely like the
characteristic of buying a Volkswagen bug, or any certain brand of
car and having never really noticed them before, but suddenly you see
them everywhere! Fixation? Maybe it’s that simple! But, what I can
tell you is this, we saw what we saw and what happened to my daughter
and I, really happened! Will we ever fully know the truth? Probably
not, but if we share this story with others, perhaps with their
knowledge and possible similar experiences, we can slowly begin
piecing the puzzle together and just maybe form a picture for all of
us to see and perhaps one day understand.