Be Prepared

Slashed TiresI think my handgun saved my life today. I’ll never know for sure what would have happened if I hadn’t been carrying it, but I’m certainly glad that I carry it with me everywhere I go. Bear with me folks, this is gonna be a long story.
This morning, I took Michael and Bradley out for a little hike near the base of the Book Cliffs about 3.5 miles northeast of Woodside, where I had been thinking about placing a geocache. We had driven about three miles from the highway on a rough dirt road, and parked where the road ended. We were in the middle of nowhere. From the point where the road ends, there is an old pack trail that winds back and forth to the east all the way to the top of the Book Cliffs. The trail climbs about 1,000 vertical feet in a very short horizontal distance, and we hiked about 1/4 of the way up the trail before it became too steep and rugged for the kids. A few minutes after we’d turned around and were heading back to the truck, I noticed that somebody was standing next to the truck, and we were still about 0.4 miles away. There were no other vehicles in sight, so I assumed that the guy was on foot, and I couldn’t figure out what in the hell he was doing in the middle of nowhere on foot. I could barely see what he was doing, but he was snooping around the truck and he even climbed into the truck bed. I was really freaked out, and I yelled down and told him to get the hell away from my truck. I’m not sure if he could even understand me, but I’m sure that he heard me.
He ducked out of sight behind the truck for a minute–I think he was in the truck bed again–then he reappeared and was walking around the side of the truck. I yelled at him again, and he stopped to look up toward me for a few seconds, then went on looking into my truck (luckily, it was locked). At that point I knew that we were in trouble, because if some guy knows that I’m nearby and he continues messing with my truck, he’s probably crazy. My voice commands to leave the truck alone went unheeded, so I pulled my handgun out of its holster, told the kids to plug their ears, and fired a round into the ground in the opposite direction from the guy at the truck. I certainly got his attention, but he still didn’t leave immediately. He did stop to look up at me again, but then I saw his arm come down in a sweeping motion toward the right-rear tire, and I could hear the air suddenly escaping. He walked to the other side of the truck and slashed the left-rear tire, then he walked off heading south.
I knew then that I was in a world of shit, in the middle of nowhere with my two young sons with me, some crazy man at the bottom of the mountain near my truck, and two slashed tires. I picked Bradley up and told Michael to get moving down the mountain. We were heading west, and the crazy man was heading south still. By the time we had gotten about halfway back down the trail, the guy had disappeared from my sight in the bottom of a wash. Not long after that, he reappeared on the other side of the wash, but he was now wearing a large light-colored backpack. I can only assume that he was a transient and had been camping there, and I roused his interest when I drove up.
As he climbed out of the bottom of the wash, he turned east for a short distance, and then he turned northeast and headed almost straight toward us. At that point, I was nearly certain that I was going to have to shoot him. He was about 1/4 mile away and closing in, so me and the boys hauled ass northwest and tried to put some distance between him and us. Northwest was the only safe direction that we could travel, because any other direction would have taken us either closer to the crazy man, or farther up the mountain where we’d have been cornered on the steep trail.
Much to my relief, he continued walking northeast and we were able to put even more distance between him and us. When I finally felt like he was going to continue and not turn back toward us, I stopped and dialed 911. Thankfully I had excellent reception on my cell phone, and I got the Emery County dispatcher. I explained to him what had happened, and he said that his closest unit was in Green River and that it would be awhile before he’d be able to reach us. Crazy Man continued along the trail that we’d just been on, and I didn’t dare turn my back on him no matter how far away he was, so we waited there for the police to arrive while I watched him climb the mountain.
After nearly an hour, and a couple of phone calls from dispatch to verify my location, a sheriff’s deputy arrived driving a Dodge Durango. He asked me to shortly recap what had happened, and after ensuring that the kids and I would be ok there alone for a bit longer, he grabbed his shotgun and taser and started up the trail. A little while after that, two UHP troopers arrived in their Crown Victorias–I can hardly believe they made it up that road. They also grabbed a shotgun and a rifle and started up the trail to give the sheriff’s deputy some backup. As they were leaving, I noticed that there was diesel fuel leaking from my truck near the tailgate–Crazy Man had also cut holes in the two 5-gallon cans of fuel that I always carry in the truck bed.
It didn’t take long before there were a lot more law enforcement vehicles there. I think I counted nine of them total at one point, not counting the airplane they’d sent up to help find Crazy Man. The boys and I just hung out for awhile, waiting to see if the officers who went up the mountain would catch the guy. He had a big head start on the police, and I didn’t think they had much of a chance of catching him. The sheriff’s deputy got close enough to yell at the guy to stop, and Crazy Man yelled back, apparently taunting him and the other officers. Once Crazy Man got to the top of the Book Cliffs, he was off the narrow trail and could go off in any direction, and I think that’s how he was able to elude capture.
After an officer had come to take pictures of the damage to the tires and the footprints in the dirt around the truck, I called Traci’s dad and asked him to bring out a spare tire that would fit my truck. Between that and the spare tire that I already had, we were able to get the truck on the road and go home. The sun had set by that time, and the police called it quits on the search.
I spent about seven hours out there total, about five of which was spent just waiting around with a few other police officers. I shudder to think what would have happened if I hadn’t been armed. I’m not even sure I would have dared to yell down at the guy after I saw him near my truck, but if I had done so without being armed I’m not sure how he would have reacted. He never did get back into the bed of the truck after I’d fired the warning shot, so that means he cut the holes in the fuel cans just because I hollered down at him. I think my only option, had I been unarmed, would have been to sit quietly and hope he goes away, but that would certainly have been a more terrifying experience.
I have mixed feelings on whether or not I hope the police catch the guy. If they catch him, he’ll have to go to court and I’ll have to testify against him–and then he’ll know who I am. If they don’t catch him, I’ll likely never be bothered by him again because he has no idea who I am, but he’ll still be out there to cause trouble for some other unsuspecting victims. I’m just glad that my sons I are at home, safe for the moment, and that my sons didn’t have to witness me killing a crazy man.
Followup Posts:
On Being Prepared – Details from after the incident
Eff Yeah – They caught the guy!

28 thoughts on “Be Prepared

  1. Wow dood that is absolutely insane. I have been reading your blog for awhile now. I am from Wisconsin and I used to live in Price in the 80’s. We have alot of problems with transients here in the summer months and have seen my share of psycho’s but thats just freaky. Glad you and your boys came out ok!!
    “An unarmed man can only flee from evil, and evil is not overcome by fleeing from it.”
    – Jeff Cooper

  2. Damn, that has to be one of my worst nightmares. I take my daughter (9) out fishing & camping in the middle of nowhere on a private pond and I’ve thought of getting a handgun for just this kind of reason.

  3. Damn dude. Damn.
    I won’t say I wish I had something like that happen to me, but I do wish I had interesting shit like that to post on my blog. Amazing… simply amazing. That’s the kind of shit that happens in bad horror flicks.
    Question is, if the boys weren’t there, would you have felt better having shot CrazyMan?

  4. If it had come down to shooting the guy, then yes, I would have felt better about not having the kids with me. In fact, if I hadn’t had the kids with me, I wouldn’t have been as cautious at all. I didn’t even return to my truck until the police arrived, just so that I could keep an eye on the guy and also keep my distance from him. If the kids had not been there, I think would have come straight down off the mountain and approached the guy without much hesitation.

  5. where exactly is this woodside area? i usually wander the outskirts of price looking for jackrabbit and i don’t want to run into some crazy dude. my vehicle is usually out in the open and can be seen for miles.

  6. Woodside is about 35 miles southeast of Price. It’s where that old closed down gas station is, just off of US Highway 6 between Price and Green River.

  7. I’ve been looking for this trail for years. It appears on many old maps. Relating to other pictures on your site, do you know how few people know where Horse Heaven is? Let alone the natural bridge? I’ve done some exploring in that area. You many have done this but if you continue to the southwest for a couple of miles you overlook some very interesting canyons. Do you know Matt Ball? He knows you. He is my son. As for your encounter with the guy who thrashed your tires, you do know that Woodside is owned by the Polygamists? They are very protective of their privacy and interests. I stopped one time to show my family the geyser, which is now and was then inaccessible to drive close to. We parked several hundred yards away and stayed in the truck. We did not through any gates or trespass in anyway. While we were watching, a man in a truck drove up and parked between us and the geyser and wouldn’t leave until we did. I’ll bet anything this is the bunch you had the problem with. Shoot me an E-Mail back to discuss other little know and interesting parts of our area.

  8. Frankly, I think you were lucky. You challenged him, with no way to immediately back up your implied threat. That is almost always a foolish thing to do. Now, if that had been a rifle you were packing, (not a bad thing, by the way. There are some break-down or fold up rifles that you might consider for future hikes.) your threat would have carried more weight. Although, not at 0.4 mile. I suspect that you were closer than that, otherwise he probably would not have heard you. Since he didn’t bother to break a window, he was apparently just looking for something usefull he could carry off. His response was to poke holes in targets of opportunity, which I suspect he would not have done if not challenged.
    Rule of thumb: Don’t challenge if you are not willing, AND able to immediately back it up with action. Don’t give them time for mischief after the challenge. If they are not in range of your fist/foot/slingshot/vehicle/handgun/shotgun/rifle/mortar/cannon/etc…, save it until they are. DON’T PHONE IN YOUR CHALLENGE. Advance notice is not required 🙂
    Again, within range of a rifle, at the first tire slash I would have been fireing for effect. I would not have let someone strand me with children out in the boonies, If I could stop it. Also, any warning shot I fire is going to be close enough to get across the idea that I mean business AND have the ability to follow thru if I deem it necessary. You violated several tactical rules. You got lucky, and paid a small price. (ain’t monday morning quarterbacking wonderful?)
    Please, ponder the lessons learned. Consider the what-ifs over the next weeks. You’ll be surprised at the perspective from a little time down the road.

  9. Will, while I appreciate your attempt at giving me advice, your conclusions are, quite simply, speculative. There’s no telling how things might have turned out if I had acted differently. I agree with you on one point, and that is that I was lucky. I got out of the situation without having a face-to-face confrontation, which would not have been ideal considering that I had two young children with me. I got the guy to leave the area, and I got home safe.
    So, you really think that allowing the guy to mess with my truck, while I spent 10 or 15 minutes getting down off the mountain, would have been the best course of action? Since neither of us knows what his intentions were, we’ll never know what move might have been best, but wouldn’t you agree that any logical, sane person would have gotten the fuck out of there? Obviously I wasn’t dealing with a logical individual, but I hardly knew that at the time.
    As for the 0.4 miles, yes it was exactly that far, and he heard me just fine.
    Tactical rules? Give me a break. I’m not some gung-ho, special-ops wannabe, I’m just a guy who likes to go hiking with his family. I was better prepared to handle the situation than most people are.
    I’ve had two weeks to consider the what-ifs, and I can’t think of a single thing I’d have done differently.

  10. I read this story on uutah.com a few weeks ago… AMAZING. Glad you had your gun, It makes me think twice about carrying one when in the Utah wilderness.
    Have your sons talked about this event sense then?
    – Joe

  11. Yeah, my sons still mention it occasionally. They talk about “that bad guy who popped our tires.” I think it was just a memorable experience for them, and not necessarily traumatizing. I made sure to tell them that the guy wasn’t targeting us personally, that we were just in the wrong place at the wrong time, and that things like that almost never happen. I don’t want them to be afraid of going hiking in the future, and I think they’re already over what happened.

  12. I just had somebody email me your story ( Crazy Man near Woodside). Sounds like pretty crazy situation. I’m with you thank god you were armed, especially having your kids with. I had a similiar situation 8 years ago south of Green River. Me and my father were Catfishing near where the San Rafael meets the Green. We had one or two individuals sneaking around our camp up to no good at 1:00 am, Well to cut a long story short it didn’t escalate no where near what happened to you. But, it is always a good Idea to be prepared when you go out in the boonies.
    Question: I have not been down the Woodside Road that goes down into the Canyon for a Few Years. Can You still drive a truck to where the road crosses the river and heads up on Beckwith Plateau?
    There is a huge Canyon to the North of where the road crosses the river, somebody told me there is a old pack trail that will take you up on top towards the Range Creek Country, ( If you have the legs for it). Have you been up there?
    Bill
    Logan, UT

  13. I’m pretty sure you can still drive a truck as far as the Price River crossing. I was down that road about three years ago in a 2-wheel drive SUV and I could only get within a mile of that spot, but I’m sure a 4×4 could have made it the rest of the way.
    As for the pack trail into Range Creek, I haven’t been over it, but it sure looks interesting on the topo maps of that area. It looks like it goes up Trail Canyon, crosses a small plateau and then goes down Turtle Canyon into Range Creek. It would be about a 13-mile hike one way if you went all the way from the Price River to Range Creek.
    I’m glad to hear that your run-in south of Green River turned out well. I spend some time in that area a few times a year, mostly in and around Moonshine Wash. There was that county road worker who was killed and robbed several years back down there too. It just goes to show that you’re right, it’s always good to be prepared out in the middle of nowhere.

  14. wow, I work in green river and live in price I drive thru woodside everyday, I take alot of morning coffee leaks there’ guess i better not shake it at nobody wearing a back pack, I never read anything in the local paper about the incedent in the Price news paper, did they find the guy?

  15. I would have shot him after the first tire. If you try and strand me and my kids in the middle of nowhere, I consider it attempted murder.

  16. Dear Dennis,
    I just read your blog, a year or so later. I couldn’t of imagined what must of been going through your mind nor your children’s. How old were your children and how are they coping? Were the law enforcement, airplane ever able to track this person down. I congratulate you on keeping calm and keeping your wits about you. About how long were you away from your vehicle before you returned back to it? I know you must think this was luck, and to a extent I’m sure it was but I think GOD was watching over you and your children. Also you personally had a big part for all of your safety, you kept you wits about you, and managed to stay calm and doing so avoided a confrontation that could of ended up in a worst way. So you personal deserve to be congratulated for the safety of your family. Sincerely, Denise

  17. Denise, thank you for your kind words. My children were ages 3 and 5 at the time, and they have coped with it quite well. I tried very hard not to let them know how scared I was (because honestly I was pretty scared), and I think that helped not to traumatize them at all. They still occasionally mention “the guy who popped our tires,” but we have gone on several hiking trips in remote areas since this incident, and they don’t seem to worry about trouble finding us.
    I was away from the truck for about 30-45 minutes when I noticed the guy there, but it wasn’t until after the first sheriff’s deputy arrived that I actually returned to my truck, almost two hours after starting the hike. Even then, I didn’t even touch the truck until after an investigator had come and taken pictures (and strangely, didn’t even attempt taking fingerprints).
    The police never did find the guy. I went home that evening and didn’t hear from them again, so I just assumed that he had gotten away (which was pretty much already the case when I left).
    A few months ago (in October 2007) I talked to Emery County Sheriff’s deputy Ray Jeffs, who was one of the responding officers during the incident. I was in Buckhorn Wash doing some geocaching with some friends, and he stopped to talk to my wife and friends while I was in the truck getting the kids some lunch. Somehow the subject of Woodside came up, and he started telling them about this incident that happened near there the previous year–he hadn’t recognized me or my truck at that point, but as soon as the subject came up, my wife mentioned that we knew all about the incident near Woodside.
    Deputy Jeffs told me that he had patrolled that area for several days after the incident–driving the road along the Price River, and also the Little Park area above the Book Cliffs. He also knocked on the door at Jason Pogue’s residence (a motorhome) at Woodside, but he never answered the door. Apparently the sheriff’s office suspected Jason Pogue, but they couldn’t prove anything, so they couldn’t do much except try to question him about it.
    I heard from a friend about another incident in the area, where somebody was parked along the river bottom somewhere and had a camera stolen out of his vehicle while he was away from it. The police were called into that situation as well, but didn’t catch anybody either.

  18. Wow. That is crazy Udink! That sucks. I was just talking to Bill about whether or not I should get a hand gun. This story helps.

  19. I am a University of Utah student. I am researching this area of the book cliffs for my field course in Geomorphology. I came across your page by accident through a google search. Our class is planning on camping in this area in mid-March. We’ll be sure to keep our eyes out for that crazy guy!
    We had originally planned on driving down the Price River by Woodside, but we are renting vehicles, and decided the road might get too treacherous before we could get on top of the Beckwith Plateau.
    Our current plan is to drive up Horse Canyon, veer to the right and end up on top of the Book Cliffs and camp near a nice view point off the cliffs.

  20. Chase, you may be glad to learn that a little more than a week ago, the crazy guy got arrested and is currently still in jail. You can read about it here:
    http://udink.org/archives/2009/02/eff_yeah.shtml
    Your trip into the Book Cliffs sounds like fun. I think you made a good call on not going up onto Beckwith Plateau. I don’t think you could get a stock 4×4 across the Price River crossing during the spring runoff, and with the warmer temperatures we’ve been having lately, there would likely be a lot of runoff in a couple of weeks. I’ve never been into the Book Cliffs in the area you mention (south of Horse Canyon), but I hope to do some ATV riding up there this year.

  21. I just tried to drive down the Woodside Road in my 4Runner. I decided to stop about 2 miles before the ford due to road conditions. It looks pretty passible in an ATV and maybe even a Wrangler, but the side angle made me a little nervous. The erosion from above the road fills in the upside and the erosion below the road removes the downside, resulting in a pretty tippy situation. It would be a long fall into the Price River if I guessed wrong. Would be nice of they could maintain the road to the ford and just call it wilderness after that.

  22. Thanks for the recent report on road conditions out there. That sounds like the same spot that stopped me from driving farther the last time I went down that road. I was in my 2WD Mazda Navajo, and the thought of going around that curve as the road sloped sideways down toward the river made me uneasy, so I turned around there. Now that Pogue is in jail (and assuming that he is convicted and stays in jail), I’ll feel comfortable this summer parking my truck near Woodside and riding my ATV down the road along the river and up onto the plateau.

  23. I called the BLM field office in Price. They said they are not going to repair the road. So while they will keep it in the map as being a “road”, if it washes into the Price River, then so be it. They said ATV’s are the best way to go to the ford, and beyond that is WSA.

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