Addressing my concerned father, I promised him, “Don’t worry! On this road trip I’ll stay on all the main roads. I’ll be fine!”
Leaving Devil’s Tower my GPS wanted to route me to Boise via Montana, but I wanted to see more of Wyoming. So I told it to take me on a different route. But I didn’t realize what it was getting me into. It started out as a wide 2-lane dirt road with zero ice and zero snow. A dirt road, in the Winter? I was a bit put off. But, I thought, it’s harmless! And there was no snow forecasted for that day.
It started out great! I was giddy with laughter and excitement as I thundered down the road, sunshine in my face. I stopped to take some pictures of about a dozen motley horses. I’ll be posting those photos soon.
But when I saw that road heading into the mountains, I should have known better.
When I saw that the road was no longer plowed, and went down a steep hill, I should have known better.
But hey! After all, I could see tracks from other vehicles that had gone before me! The whole way!
At this point I made this video:
…and took this picture:
I got through 14.5 of this 16-mile road no problem. Chains got me through another half mile. But then the road was too steep and too deep with snow- more than my little ’89 4WD Ford Ranger could handle.
Just as I was getting out of my car a young man came my direction on a snowmobile.
“I think I bit off more than I could chew!” I told him as he came to a stop and studied my predicament.
He said that after he checked his traps that he would be back to try and help me out. In the meantime, I tried backing out, to see if I could get myself turned around and back out the other way. I got myself stuck in the ditch a half mile down.
He came back and after running up to his truck to get a strap, he was able to get me out of the ditch, but not up the road. We did manage to ruin the strap though.
I parked it as off to the side that I could, and he gave me a ride up the road and then into the town of Buffalo, Wyoming in his truck.
In our conversing I learned that his name was Emmanuel. Him and his wife grew up in an Amish community in another state and had decided not to stay around. He liked the space and quiet life of Wyoming.
Emmanuel even offered to take me all the way back to the truck in the morning, which he did. AAA had told me that they would be able to get me out, but when I called back in the morning they told me that they (suddenly) didn’t provide coverage for unplowed roads.
So I called the towing company recommended to me by the nice people at the motel. The company came out with a GEHL CTL80 skid steer and fetched me out. With tracks instead of wheels (like a tank) and weighing in at over 10,000 pounds, they weren’t messing around. At $150 an hour, the tab came to $450.
After including motel costs and what I gave Emmanuel to compensate him for time, materials, and fuel, total out-of-pocket came to $560. What an expensive life lesson! I learned (1) don’t go on unpaved roads in the winter (2) trust your intuitions, even if it interferes with your sense of adventure, and (3) don’t break your promises!
Dad, I’m sorry I didn’t keep my word! I’ve been getting quite the telling from my relatives here in Boise about all the people who innocently start off on obscure roads into the winter and show up dead in the spring. (Let me pridefully note that I am a prepared Eagle Scout with experience, food, water, proper gear and plenty of clothing!)
In the end, I DID go through Montana, to stay on the interstates. I do hope to visit this road again in the summer, when it is passable! It was so beautiful and I regret not having been able to take more pictures.