Panic is a double-edged sword. The limbic portion of our brain is responsible for our survival, holding the keys to engage our primitive fight-or-flight reflex. When panic kicks-in miles away from humanity atop of mountain in the middle of nowhere, the ability to reason and think is key. The acronym of S.T.O.P. is always in the front of my brain, whether while thrust into a predicament of great proportions or even while just living the regular day-to-day life.
My fiancé and I were taking a mountain ride, crawling across ridges and beating the hell out of my car. It was not the right vehicle for adventuring in the mountain, but I did what I could. We zipped across this one mountain several times. At the zenith, there existed a crossroads. To the right, you could follow the ridge into the next county. To the left, you used to be able to follow the ridge to the base of the mountain, but years ago, a sign as erected proclaiming that the road was closed. We had been by the crossroads a hundred times and I always made note of the road-closed sign, but today, the sign was gone.
Alas! They finally opened the road! I was ecstatic. I hadn’t had the opportunity to actually follow the road for years! Today was the day.
I turned the steering wheel and we began the trek across the ridge. At first, something didn’t seem right. Large rocks and potholes littered the two-track road. It was awfully rough for now being open. No matter, the sign is gone and I’ve been dying to head out this road for ages, we must soldier on.
Our pace was drastically slowed to barely a crawl. The passenger-seat driver kept encouraging me to just turn around and head back, but I would hear none of it. I wanted to make the trip that I hadn’t made for so long. I was on a mission and I would not be satisfied until I got to relive the experience. But, the road was pretty damn horrible. I suppose it was the man in me that attempted to ignore the female sitting next to me and venture-on. Even though I was slightly nervous, I was fully confident in my driving skills.
After 30-40 minutes, we finally reached the end of the ridge. To the right, there was a giant boulder blocking the one of the two roads. The road to the left was unblocked and appeared to be the one of my memories, the one that would lead us down to the base of the mountain. I stopped the car and got out to size-up the road. It was just wide enough for the car and nothing else.
Was this a good idea?
We stood there looking down the road and not paying much mind to the sheer drop-off to the left. In fact, I did not want to even contemplate how far down it was. Instead, I felt comfortable in what I saw and so we started down the road. About 20 feet down the road, the absurdity of the situation sank in, but I trekked ahead knowing that we would eventually meet the bottom of the mountain, one way or another. After several minutes of a download crawl, I round a corner and encounter something I truly did not account for. Immediately crossing the road in front of us was a tree, laying horizontally, making continuing further entirely impossible.
There is obviously no room to turn around. In fact, the mere act of getting out of the car to look around seemed quite dangerous. As I stepped out, I was no more than a few inches to edge of this very steep drop off leading down into a deep forest—I couldn’t begin to rationalize how high up we were. The only option was to back up the entire length of the mountain that we had come down. My plan was to walk in front of the car while my fiancé drove backwards. The thought was that I could provide a degree of guidance that would promote the greatest degree of safety. After about 100 feet of this, the idea proved useless. She hopped out of the car and I took control of the driving while she guided.
Her guidance was not the best and I decided to just go for it. I floored the gas pedal and just went in reverse quite quickly until I reached the top—never looking down over the steep edge to my left, just giving it all without much thought. As I got back to the top, I pulled the car off to the side and popped the hood. The engine was quite hot from the backwards mountain climb. I walked over the start of the road and met my fiancé as she made her way back to the top.
We stood around and laughed and discussed how incredibly dangerous the whole episode had been. After 30 minutes or so, a little Subaru station wagon came up the road towards us. The occupant was a single guy. It looked like he was heading to the road we had just came back from. I waved my arms to get his attention to save him from the same experience we had. The guy told me he had a chainsaw and that he would be fine.
A chainsaw—brilliant! I quickly added that to my checklist for things I need to get.
We watched his car disappear down the side of the mountain. A while later, we could hear the sound of the chainsaw firing up as he cleared the road. Slightly defeated, I got back into my car and started back the original way we came.
Halfway down the road, I caught the sight of headlights behind me. It was the station wagon! He was coming up pretty fast so I pulled to the right side of the road so he could come up beside me. I stuck my head out the window to hear how he made out. Apparently, after clearing the tree he came to a rockslide and drove over it. Beyond that he cleared another rockslide before the third finally proved to be insurmountable.
I guess that having the chainsaw would not have really gotten us much further anyhow.
Who in the hell took down that sign? I don’t know, but I can say that the sign is STILL NOT there even to this day. I suppose that we all go upon the assumption that road is closed rather than relying upon a sign proclaiming such.