Ghost Town Tailgaters + Utah: Day 6

ImageThe next morning we all woke up early and went hiking. Rememer when you were a kid on the beach and you made sand castles by letting wet sand drop through your hands and make pillars that were like big mounds of sand droplets? That is what cathedral gorge looked like, except it was a series of short canyons that were about 50 feet tall, and between a foot and 5 feet wide at most. That all being said, that kind of terrain is what we hiked in. We found a few caves, and I crawled down into a few deep cracks that went mostly nowhere.

The hiking brought us up through an arch and into a set of shallow caves. Pillars of sand and rock were all around. Occasionally, a pigeon would fly by, its wings loudly cracking the silent air. At the entrance of the caves and canyons, you could feel the cold canyon air rushing down and out to meet up with the hot desert air. It was two separate sensations- one side of your body was warm, and the other much cooler.

We left the campground around noon, and I began my run. My legs felt much more refreshed than the night before.  I had a lot of strength back. I still had to stop and do lots of stretching in the first few miles to get my legs to cooperate with my demands.

After about 5 miles I came into the town of Panaca. There was a small restaurant, a mom n’ pops grocery store, and a guitar store only that was only open on Saturday. That was it. I almost missed it all when I blinked.

After Panaca I began a 2500ft. climb toward the top of Panaca Summit. The uphill never seemed to end. When I was most of the way up, a NDOT truck pulled off to the side ahead of me, and a guy got out. I ran up to him.

“how’s it going?” I said.
“oh pretty well- I saw you running the other night by Caliente with a camera following you, and ‘seen ya running again today. Just curious to know if you are doing something.”

I proceeded to tell him all about MS Run the US. He then inquired about what kind of shoe he should be wearing. He said he runs a lot, but his toes always hurt.  We talked shoes for a while, and exchanged goodbyes and best-of-lucks.

I got to the RV about another mile up, right at the top of the summit, around 6700 feet if I remember right. I could see for dozens of miles, including snow-capped mountains way out on the horizon. It was my first time seeing a notable mountain that had snow on it, so I stopped and took the moment in.

Another mile downhill, I had to blow my nose from all the dust that was blowing around the previous couple of days. With no tissues, I just did what most any runner does- blow your nose into your hand and shake it off. Gross right? I did so, but my hand was all red when I pulled it away. The dry air had once again given me a nosebleed; this time while on the run. I sniffled it for a few steps, and then decided it was a lost hope, and let it drip while I ran. I arrived to the RV a half mile later, nose, chin, neck, and shirt stained with blood. The crew freaked a little, but commented on me looking hardcore. I didn’t think so. I hate nosebleeds. I cleaned up and continued on.

The day went on, and another guy came up beside me to ask if everything was okay. Again, I told him about MS Run the US. I asked him how for it was to the Utah border. He looked out his window and pointed behind him, (forward in my direction) affirming that the sign was “just down yonder.” I thanked him for his exceptional direction giving skills, and continued on my way.

After about a mile, I reached the giant UTAH sign, about 12 feet across, 6 feet high, and another 10 feet off the ground. I have had a thing going where I climb on top of every interesting sign that I run by. Utah was no exception. It was up high, but I scaled the steel beams up to the sign above, and stood on the middle as if I were going to “take over the state.”


I had seen very few cars all day. A dozen, tops, in four hours. Once past the sign, I could see a ton of cars lined up beside the railroad tracks. People were tailgating, people were camping out, chilling in their cars, walking around… it was like a party in the middle of the desert. I stopped and asked around what people were doing. Apparently, one of the oldest steam engine trains left in the country, and largest, was about to pass through. “Big Boy” was the nickname it was usually referred to, which makes sense, since the engine was over a million pounds, from what I was told.  Most of the people around were train enthusiasts who had been following the train for a while. It was a pretty big deal. I spent a lot of time chatting with the locals and the followers about the train. A lady told me that “my husband helped build it. His soul still lives on that engine and is now riding all around!” Which I thought was a bit superstitious. To each their own I guess. Another older man tried convincing me that “this trains’ appearance is the greatest thing to happen to this town in years!” in a very excited manner.  The train did eventually roll by, and made a dedicated stop for all the people to adore its presence and take pictures. I have to admit, it was an impressive sight. The train WAS massive, and looked like it was build extremely strong. It was a Pacific Union train, black, old, and weighed a lot; to me, that was my extent of knowledge about it, but it was a unique sight nonetheless.

I eventually ran into Modena around mile 30 for that day. On my GPS, Modena was a decent sized town for what I had been used to running through. Upon entering, there was nothing left of the city. All the buildings were abandoned, in disrepair, or charred black, as were the trees. It was getting dark, and I decided the adventurer in me would have to wait until the morning to check the place out. We parked the RV in a dirt lot beside the train tracks, which was the only place in town big enough to accommodate our 32 foot RV and the film crews’ even bigger one. Throughout the night, four trains passed by, rumbling the ground and shaking the RVs.


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