Thursday, August 11, 2011

Risking Our Lives While Celebrating Our Love (Part 2)

I realize that I left out a pretty major detail of yesterdays story, the car that we drive is a 2004 Chevy Malibu. That’s right a sedan, and not just a sedan but a pretty low riding sedan. Does that put things into a little better perspective for you while also making us look a little stupider?
Now that you are armed with that important bit if information why don’t you join us again as we watch the sun set while walking trudging along the road our car can’t follow. The further we go the more we realize there is no way our car can come this way, the road crisscrosses back and forth over the creek, and there are very few openings if we were to try to go anywhere but on the road. We are pretty numb now mentally, and we just continue on knowing that this is way bigger than we are. We can’t even hypothesize about the possibilities because we can’t think of any. One of the few I could come up with I did not share, and that was the fact that we very well might be leaving our car for good.

We made pretty good time, in part thanks to the lizards on the road that kept the dog busy running forward. As the sun set we finally met up with a real dirt road, we did figure out that what we were on was definitely not a road, though we had no idea what it was meant for it sure was not us. At the last stream crossing we could see a roof in the distance and our moods lifted quite a bit. What scared me the most during this whole time was not all the things that had happened so far, but the fact that we were in the middle of nowhere and might not have been able to find help. So, seeing sings of civilization helped me out a lot. That first house showed no signs of life and neither did the second, so we continued on until we got to a home that was obviously inhabited with the lights on and cars out front.

I am ashamed to say we questioned knocking on the door, and really we know better than to have such little faith in people, but after a day like the one we were having who knew what could happen. As we debated I asked Rob what he would do if people in our situation came to our door, and that was all it took. So Rob, Murtry and I went to the door and tried to look as pitiful as possible as we knocked. At first we were greeted by two very excited terriers, who we later learned to be named Rufus and Ruby (a very significant fact being that those are the names of my parents cats). After a moment a man came to the door, looking very much like he was at the end of his day and a little wary of having strangers at his door (little did we know the amount of times this has happened before). We quickly tried to explain that we had gotten our car badly stuck, and asked if he could take us to town, hopefully to a police or ranger station. After asking a few questions of how it happened and how much gas we had the man, Randy, went inside to get dressed.
His wife, Kim, came out to chat while he got ready, and definitely put us both at ease about everything. She seemed so nonchalant about it all and was so welcoming and comfortable that I actually started to believe we were going to be ok.

Rob, Murtry and I loaded up into the jeep with Randy, and thinking we were going to town, were a little surprised when he turned back to the way we had come. Another important detail you should know, I have never done any sort of off-roading in my life and had no idea what a jeep was capable of, so you can imagine my state of mind as Randy starts driving along these creek beds. Randy had some realizations of his own as we started giving him directions, quickly figuring out that no we were not stuck on a road, it turns out what we had been following was a fire break, a term I had never even heard of before. Apparently the forest service cuts out roads/fire breaks to slow the path of wild fires, and which we were stupid enough to follow. When he figured this out, Randy got on the phone to tell Kim to throw on another pork steak because they were having company for dinner. We arrived at the car, filled it with gas and rode back down the creek bed to their house. Showing our ignorance of the type of people we were dealing with we said that we would sleep in the car and try to get out in the morning, which Randy responded to with silence. Not only did they fill our car with gas, and feed us dinner they also gave us a bed to sleep in (or at least lay awake worrying in which is what I did).

The next morning after feeding us breakfast Kim dropped us half way to the car loaded with rope and a hand wench (another thing I had never heard of until now), with wishes of luck and insistence that if we couldn’t get out to come back to their door. Though I loved meeting them, I really hoped we would never see Kim or Randy again. Sadly, and gladly all at once, this was not true. We were feeling pretty hopeful though, especially without the pressure of a dwindling gas tank, and we really did try our best to get out the way we had come. My mind had conveniently forgotten how bad it had truly been and the first time around we have mostly been going down hill. This time we were not so lucky and we were not even able to get the car up the second hill (sounds easy but all of this took us about three hours). So with the sun beating down on us and our spirits completely crushed we walked back to Randy and Kim’s house to wait for them to get home from work and somehow tell us what we were going to do.

Kim got home first and immediately called Randy, phone calls were made and equipment collected and when Randy got home all four of us hopped into the jeep ready to go. I had no idea what they planned on doing but both Randy and Kim seemed so light hearted, and almost as if they were on a fun adventure. As Randy took the road that we should have been following, the one we sadly turned off of and which was aptly named Black Diamond, Kim pointed out different sites in the distance and the animal tracks along the way. They both took turns correcting each other as they told us about the many folks that had come before us arriving at their doorstep, pointing out the spots where they had gotten stuck, slid off the road or crashed. Sadly for us no one else had been stupid enough to follow the cat trail, we were the very first, and I personally think a damn good addition to their collection of rescue stories.

I think Randy knew it first, and seeing this trail a second time around I really don’t know what we were thinking, but there was no way we were getting out the way we came. One way or another we were going to have to get out over the creek. Going through all the details would make this rather long story much longer and honestly would not do the experience justice. So I will paint it for you this way, the jeep led the way as two-to-four of us cleared out the major rocks that the Chevy could not drive over, and we crossed over the river seven times. The jeep had to pull us out three times, and we built two bridges out of logs, but we manually made a new road down Dry Creek creekbed.

When we arrived back at their house all four of us got out and hugged laughing and shaking our heads. Both Rob and I were in a bit of a lightheaded shock, we couldn’t believe we had actually gotten the car out, not including the scratches to the paint job the car had not been damaged either! We sat around with Kim and Randy for a bit, drinking beer and wine, trading stories and reveling in our success.

To say that we made mistakes in an understatement, we definitely risked our safety and the life of the car. To say that I regret it would be wrong though. I met two incredible people whose characters have given us a pretty darn good model to strive after, and we have got a story that is going to last us a lifetime. I am so happy that Rob and I go on adventures and I believe it is things like this (preferably not always so dramatic) that build a relationship that will last a lifetime, and if Kim and Randy are any indication I am right. As Kim said, all we have to do after this is pay it forward, and I intend to do so every chance I get, it is people like them, and hopefully us, that make humans so unique and this life so absolutely wonderful. Also, Randy left us with some very good advice, always go to the park service and pick up maps before driving into the mountains.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Risking Our Lives While Celebrating Our Love (Part 1)

Maybe not our lives (although there were points that I sure felt that way) but definitely the life of our car. Before I continue I will warn the mothers of the stars of this tale to only read on at your own risk, sometimes it is better that you don’t know. I will also say that there are no photos, and this story has nothing to do with food or books, just the craziness that is life.

I had a bit of time in the last few days to try to figure out where things went wrong. I think I can blame it on finding out that I will be out of work come September leaving my mental state a little frazzled, but there were so many places for our path to diverge I can't truly pinpoint a single event that could have stopped the end result. The possibilities are endless: deciding to go camping for our second anniversary, staying up till 2:00 am the night before, picking a campsite so far from the mountain we wanted to hike, not filling up with gas before entering that forest, Rob stepping on the one rock that tossed him into the river, and most importantly following GPS directions while driving in the mountains.

Our campsite was perfect, sitting on a lake surrounded by mountains, and on the day of our anniversary we decided to go hiking to a waterfall in Mendocino National Forrest. So Rob and I and our dog Murtry drove the hour to the trailhead and set out on our hike. The day was beautiful, we had a picnic in our packs for when we reached the waterfall and the trail was nice and steady, never too difficult but also not so easy that it was boring. When, two miles in we reached a stream we were not fazed, first trying to skip from rock to rock and then deciding to take off our shoes and walk across. Rob gave it one more try before taking off his shoes and right at the last leap lost his balance falling knee first into the creek. At first he seemed fine, but as we watched his knee quickly began to swell.

It has always been a fear of mine that Rob would get hurt when we were out in the woods. Sure it would be terrible if I did but Rob can get me out, when you turn it the other way around the situation gets a lot more complicated. I am sure you are thinking this is the climax of my story but it is actually just the beginning. We hung out by the stream for a while keeping Robs knee submerged in the freezing cold water and enjoying our picnic. After an hour or so his knee had gone down a bit and we were able to hike back out. Though we never got to see the waterfall our hike was actually really nice and thanks to a tightly wrapped bandana by the time we got back to the car the swelling had almost entirely subsided. This is where we made our first major wrong move.

We were running pretty low on gas, not dangerously so, but enough that we wanted to take the shorter route out of the mountain instead of the one that we had taken in. So we turned to our GPS, I know a lot of you are thinking this was a stupid move but at the time it seemed ok. It quickly showed us a road out that was much shorter, ending at a town with a gas station. Off we went on the “better” road. You must remember that Rob and I drove across the country to move here, and we have also taken a lot of trips together, and though I may grip the side of the door until my hand hurts I trust Rob to get me through even the scariest of mountain roads. So we drove the twenty five or so miles along this tiny dirt mountain road, with nothing but emptiness along the side of the car. There were definitely points that I was scared, especially areas where you could see that parts of the road had already slid off down the cliff, but the views were unbelievable and we were moving steadily along. When we got to a point where the road split the GPS told us to go left. Major wrong move number two, we listened.

We knew it even then, after turning left we reversed back to where the trail split looking for a sign and checking the GPS. The GPS showed that if we continued strait we would have had a very long road ahead of us, and though to the eye the road to the left seemed rougher it was only four miles to paved road. So we continued on with the rougher road. Just minutes after making the turn we went down a hill so steep that our decision was sealed, we couldn’t go back even if we wanted to. Each hill crossed made turning around more and more impossible and as the Manzanita bushes scraped along the side of the car and the tires locked while sliding down hills we new we were in some trouble.

At the bottom of one of the windiest of the hills we finally leveled out, and according to the GPS we only had two more miles to go. Right at the bottom of this hill was a dried out creek bed, but we could see the dirt road on the other side and the bed did not seem too terrible. So as I walked backwards in front of the car waving my hands in a made up sign language Rob slowly guided the car along the rocks. When we got to the other side I hopped back into the car, and we were both laughing feeling pretty good about ourselves and knowing we would get out with no problem. Not even a minute later we turned a bend and our road ended. That dry creek bed that we had no trouble crossing fed into a low but active creek that with no amount of luck or hope were we going to cross.

I am pretty proud of us (specifically myself) that we did not freak out at this point. There was no question of the situation we were in, and what we would have to do. We had an hour left of sunlight and a little over two miles to hike out, before we hit a road where we hoped to be able to hitch a ride. We quickly packed up water, food and clothes as well as any survival type tools we could think of,  leashed up the dog and started on our way.

Due to the length of this post I will continue the rest of this story tomorrow, I hope you return to see how it goes.