Sometimes, life’s little detours can land you in unexpected places. And once in a blue moon, a change in plans can save the day.
This morning, Tara and I decided to drive up to Mount St. Helens. We’d been to Johnston Ridge last month, but decided to take the longer – and more scenic – route to Windy Ridge today. It’s about a two-hour drive from our house. Skies were sunny, the temperature pushing 72 degrees. A perfect June day for some sightseeing and a picnic lunch.
And then, two-thirds of the way there, we encountered this.
You know, I often compare myself to Clark Griswold. And sure enough, this was one of those quintessential Griswoldian moments. Remember when they drove across the country in National Lampoon’s Vacation and arrived at their destination – Wally World – only to find it closed?
Yeah. Kinda the same feeling.
Unlike Clark, I did not buy a BB gun, kidnap a park ranger, and force him to open the gate so we could see Windy Ridge. Instead, Tara and I decided to explore a remote forest road that led in a different direction. We decided it would be an adventure. Besides, we still had that picnic lunch in the car – we figured we’d just find a nice, scenic place to stop and eat and make the most of the day.
This is where things get weird. On the drive up, I was telling Tara about an article I had read yesterday in Reader’s Digest. It talked about how people get themselves into dangerous situations by taking unnecessary risks. I specifically mentioned the example of a couple that took a wrong turn while driving and ended up stuck in the snow miles from civilization. So when, twenty minutes into our drive, we rounded a bend and came across an elderly couple from California whose PT Cruiser was stuck in the snow, it was a little uncanny.
We hadn’t passed another vehicle the entire way. Had, in fact, almost turned around a few hundred yards sooner, at the first sign of snow blanketing the roadway. But we pushed on, and it’s a good thing we did. These folks from Los Angeles – 65 and 69 years old – were completely clueless. And very relieved to see us.
“We’re from California,” they told us. “We don’t know anything about driving in the snow.”
Yeah. No shit.
Being the good samaritans that we are, we tried to free them by pushing on the car from behind while the guy gunned it, but the snow was so deep there was no clearance underneath, and the tires were spinning helplessly. They were good and stuck. And, incidentally, about twenty miles from the nearest outpost. With no cell service up there in that remote part of the forest. We decided to drive them to civilization so they could call for help. A few hundred yards down the road, we spotted a camper pulled off to the side, so we turned in to investigate. There, we came across an ornery old guy in a folding lawn chair with a satellite dish and a bag of Doritos. When we pulled up, he looked like we were bothering him.
“Do you happen to have a tow strap?” Tara asked.
He did. And a couple of shovels, too. But he had just sat down to eat his lunch and was in no mood to help at the moment. Turns out he was out there hunting bears, by the way. The forest is teeming with them. And cougars, too.
I’m telling you, this elderly couple might have been toast if we hadn’t come along when we did.
Grizzly Adams did let us borrow the shovels while he ate, so we got busy trying to dig the car out of the snow.
When I woke up this morning, I never imagined I’d be shoveling snow!
Fortunately, his tummy full, the bear hunter returned with his four wheel drive pickup truck and the tow line. They hooked it up to the rear axle of the PT Cruiser, and pulled it to safety. Crisis averted.
“I’ve got one request for you,” Grizzly Adams told California Man. “Don’t do that again.”
And with that, we all parted ways, each of us with a story to tell. In my case, a blog entry to post.
A few miles later, Tara and I found the perfect spot for our picnic lunch.
Truth is, we were both a little antsy since we had learned that entire area is crawling with bears and cougars. But we kept a watchful eye and were able to enjoy our turkey sandwiches without being mauled by either beast.
Oh, and Mount St. Helens? Even though we didn’t make it up to Windy Ridge, we finally got to see it from another spot in the road.