Thursday, June 6, 2013

"When you find your path, you must not be afraid.  You need to have sufficient courage to make mistakes.  Disappointment, defeat, and despair are show us the way."
~ Paulo Coelho

Finally: Part Four ~ Three Strikes and You're OUT!

Fort Churchill is located at the intersection 
('intersection' gives the impression of busy 
 traffic - the opposite of this particular location) of Road 2b and Rt 95A.  An hour or so of free time remained of my day off so it was onward to Lake Lahontan.  This was to be my second visit to Lahontan.  My family and I visited this place once before at the end of winter but entered the area from Highway 50.  That was before the trees leafed out and during a dust storm, I expected the appearance of the place to be altered.  

I'm sorry but I can't help but fill in a bit of geology kind of stuff here:
The fascinating part about this corner of arid earth is that it was all once a huge ancient lake - 8,500 square miles of it! It was 900 feet deep.  A lot has changed in the 12,700 years since then!  The ancient lake stretched into what is now California and Southern Oregon.  Now dry land and sagebrush thrive where vast the waters and its occupants once ruled.  Pyramid and Walker Lakes are all that is left of that primordial time.  But I digress,  Lake Lahontan is man-made.  The Carson River was dammed in 1915 and the Dam birthed the recreation area.   The Lake has 69 miles of shoreline so I said to myself...'Self wonder how much of it is drive-able?'  That was the thought that started the to know when to stop.  Strike One!

There are primarily primitive sites for camping.  Although now one or two beach sites are improved.  I prefer the primitive myself...'take out what you brought in' sort of thing.  
I am a fisherman who uses barbless hooks so I feel the need to mention that the fishing (barbless or not) here includes: walleye, catfish and bass.  This land is shared with my personal favorite, wild horses and other critters like bobcats, fox, coyotes, deer, assorted migratory birds and home to Nevada's only known nesting pair of bald eagles.  

OK so much for data.  Galahad (my trusty Subaru) and I wove in and out of the various beaches:

and investigated assorted camp sites:
Most of the vegetation is sagebrush, Cottonwoods and some willow trees.  Beware cottonwoods...these trees are also nicknamed "widow makers"... I would think twice before planting a camper directly under one on a windy day.

I caught a glimpse of a blue house I'd seen during that first winter visit.  Sadly for Galahad and me, I decided to test the trails on the perimeter of the area because that home, in the three months since I saw it las has blossomed into an elaborate fantasy. 
 It sits high above the water on the Hwy 50 side of the Lake.  It is isolated and dramatic.  I imagine that it would be a wonderful place to write poetry and prose, photograph whatever, paint and indulge in a bit of fiddle playing.  I imagine jamming celtic/blues/ country music with friends on that spot.  Friends?  Ironic, in that I don't know more than a soul here.   Then I made my second big mistake of the day!  I had to get closer to that closed-up house. STRIKE TWO! 

Poor Galahad!  Off we went in search of a path to the Blue Palace of Solitude.  It took a bit more wandering but finally we arrived at the other side of the lake.  Only then did I noticed I was driving on a too steep, deep sand path.  Alas, when I should have turned south onto the sand with vegetation I headed north and uphill...why...because I was daydreaming, not charting a course nor was I thinking safety first.  Suddenly I heard the rear passenger wheel spin and felt the car slip.  Instead of doing what I have done a 1000 times before ... let's start with letting some air out of my tires before treading on sand, slow gently to a stop and straighten the dang wheels and ease ever so slowly into reverse. THE FINAL STRIKE THREE! Not one of those things happened, I startled and gunned the gas. The window was opened and the car filled with dust and grit. Panic. The car buried itself in sand on one side with wheels spinning in the air on the other side.   GOOD GRIEF...have I learned nothing in 64.9 years?  I finally pulled myself together and pulled myself out of the vehicle. The car was up to it's axle in sand and leaning precariously to the right side.  It was 92 degrees out and we were going no where. Galahad had taken a 100' slide and buried one side in the sand. I sat on the in the sand on the passenger side  and mumbled a number of nasty words before stretching out on said sand and staring at the sky. I said aloud, to any insect or bird that would listen, 'what in the hell am I going to do'?  Nothing to do but a lot of shoveling.  There is nothing like sweating and getting a sunburn to ease the pain of stupidity. "YOU'RE OUT"! 

 At least the car shifted to a slightly more upright position.  Finally broke down and called a young friend for help. Had to fight off the fury of tears that wanted to tell my face how inept I'd been.  To shovel out would have meant shoveling back about 100 feet.  Oh holy cow!  Just as my friend was heading in my direction a Park Ranger drove up in his pick-up,  skittered over my sandy trap and said in the most polite voice he could muster "Good afternoon Ma'am, how did you get into this mess?".  To which I replied with an enthusiastic nonsequitar "Oh my God, I could kiss the ground you walk on".  He smiled kindly down at me (as anyone would to a batty old woman stuck in sand in the middle of no where) and stated "Let's get us a truck with a winch up here."  I called home and told my tall Texan friend to turn around and go home (note to self - that young person offered to help without hesitation - pay that forward WR), two four wheeled rescuers had arrived.  It took about 45 minutes with two trucks and a winch to pull Galahad out of the pit I put him in and I managed to get stuck one more time when turning the vehicle around ... this time on vegetation and sand.  As the tires were not nearly as stuck the second rescue had us out in minutes.  One ranger, whose wife it turns out was expecting their second child at any time, told me his wife wanted a Subaru...I assured him today's activity was not the fault of the car.  Once again a sweet, patient smile.   Duh, like he didn't know that! When I get stupid it usally lasts a while!  Kind of like intoxication but different.  I was informed that I was about the 1000th person they has rescued from the sand so far in 2013.  Cripes, do we share a defective gene? I filled out a form at the ranger station to thank them for their professionalism and rescue (at no time did these men laugh out loud or even smirk).  And then drove the 'drive of shame' home...repeating over and over "NEVER take your eyes off the road and stay calm no matter what!". 

I did not take a photo of the car up to is axle in sand...I was too embarrassed...'pride goeth before the fall'.

Thank you Rangers! dd And thank you Tall Texan!  




sage said...

That's a bummer when you are that stuck! I remember once seeing folks in a large SUV on Antelope Island (Utah) think they could ignore the signs and drive out to the Great Salt Lake. They got about 100 years and were so buried--they had a whopping tow bill (it too two trucks and a lot of cable) and also a nice fine for not obeying the rules!

Fort Churchhill and Lake Lahontan (don't eat the fish, there's plenty of mercury in the waters left over from the ore mills along the Carson River) brings a smile to my face. I'm looking forward to once again visiting my old haunts at Virginia City and Tahoe in late July.

Brian Miller said...

oy...been there and done that...though i can see why you did it...smiles...mine was not nearly as fun...smiles...but i had a good samaritan....pretty cool looking place...i like the looks of the trees and the water...interesting bit on the old lake too...