Sunday, November 30, 2008

Slick as Snot

So we decided to go for one more weekend of camping.  No, we are not crazy... I am just late posting this.  Our camping trip was at the beginning of October.  Not too cold yet. 

We piled everyone in the Excursion, loaded the wheelers on the utility trailer, and headed off for what we hoped would be a nice weekend to finish off the camping season up at East Zion.

As always... we were really anticipating the weekend.  It is a beautiful spot... and so relaxing.  We can let the kids pretty much run wild... and we get to hang around and read... or play cards... or get in a few rides on the mountain trails.

We arrived at camp not too long after dark and got everything put together for the weekend.  We got the kids to bed fairly early and settled in ourselves at a decent time... as it was a little chilly out.

Well, about 3:00 in the morning... it started to rain.  Which is usually a nice thing up at camp.  It keeps the dust down and makes everything look green and lively.  When it was still raining when I got up in the morning, I wasn't quite as enthusiastic about the much needed precipitation.  I went out into the damp and started breakfast.

As the day went on, it never really chucked down... just rained England style... meaning just enough to be annoying and soak everything.  Then the travel trailer started leaking... in about 9 different spots... not fun.  We quickly ran out of pots to catch all of the invading water.

I ended up on top of the trailer brooming water off of the roof.  Then we tied a large tarp over the roof to keep the water from seeping through.  By now it is mid-afternoon... the kids are soaking through their second set of clothes.  The dog is a muddy, shivering mess.  Kierstin is about ready to torch the leaky trailer... and I am contemplating whether God has retracted his promise not to flood the earth again.

Now comes the brainstorming session.  Kierstin's sister, Kaili, and her husband are with us.  They drove up in a Toyota Camry.  We have our Excursion... and a loaded utility trailer.  Our friends, Bryan and Crystal, have a Ford F150... the only one of us with 4 wheel drive.  

You may ask why the models of vehicles is in any way important to this story.  I would refer you back to the title of this little essay.  Those 3 words are the best description I can give of the North Fork Road after it has rained... and we have about 2 and a half miles of it to navigate before we hit the pavement.

After several minutes of discussion... and some attempts to call upon Divine Providence for assistance, we determined that another night in this rain would only leave us in a potentially bigger swamp than we were currently facing.  And we were all tired of huddling under the canopies to stay dry and warm.

The plan came out like this.  Kaili and Clint will go first.  They are the most likely to get stuck in their little front wheel drive sedan.  Then Bryan will go.  As he has the only 4x4 he will pull the trailer down the mountain.  We will follow in the Excursion.  This is so I can keep an eye on the trailer and relay info to Bryan over the walkie talkie if needed.

Plan in place, we prepare to head out.  We button up camp and load up the vehicles.  

Then we thought of the entreating lyrics of the LDS hymn; "Ere' you left your wet, muddy, remote, swampy camp this morning... Did you think to pray?"  We sent up a final entreaty for safety and started on the way.  It was all smooth sailing... not a slip or slide... at least til we made it to the gate of the property.  Then we entered a realm where the laws of physics take over with a vengeance.  

We made it all of 60 yards before the Camry was stuck.  Bryan and I hiked up the road and started pushing... getting our shoes absolutely caked in mud in the process.  After getting Clint going again... it was mud skiing back to our own cars.  We repeated this process twice... hiking up to the Camry... pushing it up hills... then sliding back to our own cars.

Then... the trailer dragged Bryan into a ditch along the side of the road.  Pushing him out came with the extra excitement of almost getting run over with my own utility trailer!  I had to run along the side of a hill, pushing on the back of the truck trying to help him get out of the ditch... and trying to avoid falling down into the path of the trailer.

Having gotten him back into the middle of the road... I trekked alone... back to my trusty Excursion... that while not really mastering the road conditions... had at least not gotten stuck yet.

At least not until the very moment that I had stopped to help push Bryan out.  Now, as I attempted to follow Willie's admonition to get "On the Road Again,"  I realized that I was more likely to end up completely off the road... on the down hill side... resting against the trees that would hopefully stop the sliding SUV before it plummeted into a ravine.  With each attempt to creep forward... I only got closer to the edge and the slope beyond.  I got out to take another look and determine how to attempt to proceed.  Meanwhile, Bryan and Clint are both ahead trying to make it to the pavement.  Both are calling back on the radios to see if we need help.  Not wanting them to get stuck trying to come back, I told them to go on and get to the safety of the hard top road below.  

By now the kids are getting a little nervous.  Kierstin asked one of the kids to say a little prayer and then suggested singing church songs to keep their minds off of being stuck.

I started to find small branches and bushes to put under the tires for some traction.  Then, looking back up the road... wouldn't you know there was some other fool trying to come down the mudslide... and this guy had a 20+ ft long livestock trailer behind his truck!  No way this guy is going to be able to get by me without hitting our truck and sending us over the side.

Now every guy knows... that the only thing worse than being unable to take care of a problem and feeling like an idiot for getting into it... is to have somebody else witness it.  That is why we don't ask for directions, don't use AAA, and will end up replacing a toilet and half of our plumbing before we will call Joe the Plumber.  So now I am grumbling under my breath (at least we will pretend I was only grumbling); and wondering how I am going to extract myself from this mess.

Glancing back up the road, I notice that the approaching truck has stopped.  Two cowboys are hiking down towards my vehicle.  One of them has a shovel.  The other has about a 1/4 bail of hay on his shoulder.  Without a word, they start digging and throwing hay under the wheels.  I, of course, am trying to crack jokes about the weather... and the mud... and the idiot city-folk who don't know how to drive in it.  But these guys are straight out of a Tony Hillerman novel.  Craggy and wind chapped... and all but silent.  They were actually wearing chaps!  Where do these guys come from?  They hardly even acknowledge that I am there... just go about getting the wheels dug out and hay underneath for traction.  Then, one of them speaks... says  that their dad will be along in a minute and can help.

Sure enough... here comes dad... riding along the road on a horse.  Of course, being me, I make a couple more remarks about the weather and how the horse is probably the perfect way to travel in it.  Dad, who is wearing a soaking wet slicker just looks at me and says "not really".  Then, to my surprise, dad throws the end of his lasso to his son up front and they tie it in to the tow hook on the front end of the truck.  Huh?  Dad asks if I mind if his son drives while he pulls with the horse.  Huh?  Pull my truck out of the mud... with your horse?  "OK".  Next thing I know, he wraps the lasso around his pommel and away he goes.  Pulls the front end of the Excursion right back into the middle of the road.  His son, meanwhile is spinning the tires and getting forward movement going.   They dragged us about a quarter mile that way... with the old man in the saddle... keeping the front end in the middle of the road... and his son keeping the truck moving forward.  The other cowboy is pushing on the back end to keep it straightened out... and I am running along trying not to fall in the mud... and still in awe that a horse is pulling my full size, not an SUV bigger in the world, Ford Excursion down this muddy crazy road.  There was complete silence in the car until Kalan said, "We need to get a horse!"

They got us past the worst of it and turned back to retrieve their own vehicle.  None of them would even consider the money I offered for their help... just said that the day may come when they were stuck on the road... and then I could return the favor.  

As we reached the pavement, I turned back to the kids and told them... "You see?  We asked Heavenly Father to get us safely off this mountain... and he sent us 3 cowboys... and a horse."

Unfortunately, with everything going on, we did not think to get pictures of the horse and rider pulling us out.
It took an hour to clean all the mud off the wheelers and trailer... and we never even got to ride them!