10 April 2011

Mud on the Tires

And with a little luck
We just might get stuck
Let's get a little mud on the tires
-Brad Paisley

It was a great day: the sun was shining, spring was arriving. We drove up Rampart Range Road in my trusty Jeep, Gus, and found some fun side trails to explore a bit. We stopped in a glade, explored a little, set up our hammocks, took some pictures.

After a short nap, we got back into Gus and drove to a nearby peak to watch the sunset. Sitting high above Woodland Park, the wind blew through the trees and into our faces. We watched some stars come out as the light faded.

But we didn't get enough of the stars, so we drove around, looking for a good clearing to lay on our backs and gaze at the heavens. At the bottom of a really steep trail, we found one, set out the blanket, and watched a few shooting stars. We prayed together, and headed back to Gus, hoping we could make it back up the trail.

We couldn't. We got high-centered on some really deep ruts. I dug out the rear differential, and we were able to slide backwards. Still finding no traction, I tried to roll back downhill to find some solid ground.

But in trying to get out of the ruts, I backed into a tree. Not able to go backwards anymore, I tried to go forwards, but the tires just spun. So we shoved a bunch of branches under them, to no avail. Finally, we realized we weren't getting Gus out tonight.

We had no cell phone service were we were, but my phone could get GPS coordinates. So we got those and wrote them down, then grabbed the blanket, flashlights, tomahawk, and my Carhartt and gloves. Abandoning Gus, we hiked up the hill to higher ground to find some cell phone service.

We found enough service to text, but not enough to call. So I texted a buddy in my squad, gave him our coordinates, and told him to call the police. My girlfriend texted her parents. Then my phone died.

Her parents texted back, and her dad would come get us. But since my phone was dead, I couldn't text my friend back to tell him we were OK. In hindsight, I telling him to call the police was probably overreacting; we weren't in any immediate danger. We could have easily lasted the night there if we had needed to. Although her parents would have freaked out, and they probably would have called the police - but not before they checked their own phones, and saw the texts from her. So yeah, getting the police involved was unnecessary.

After several text messages back and forth as her parents tried to figure out where we were, and an eventual phone call, her dad was on his way. We hiked towards Rampart Range Road, since we knew it would be difficult to navigate those trails and find us at night. We got a little disoriented in the dark, but I had brought the map with us, and we eventually found our way back to RRR around 2200.

We laid down on the edge of the road under the blanket, watching the stars. We both eventually fell asleep, waking up when headlights appeared on the road. But it was 0100 before those headlights were her dad's.

On the way back to her house, I called three different police departments to let them know we were OK, just in case my squadmate had received my text. All said there was no search for us.

The next morning, her dad called a buddy of his with an FJ Cruiser and a winch. We drove out to the spot, and sized up the situation.

We had to position the FJ on three different trees to pull me up far enough to get me traction. But eventually, we got Gus up on level ground.

Then we headed to her relative's house for burgers and brats. I showed up with dirty clothes and dirty feet, but that was alright. The burgers and brats were good. She told me about how search and rescue had been searching for us for more than six hours, about how my squadmate had called her house.

We learned a lot: Always be prepared. Don't overreact. And pray. There's a full list of things we learned on Facebook. Thanks to my squadmate for his help, to her dad and his buddy for getting us and my Jeep out, and to her for staying calm throughout the whole thing.