Sunday, March 8, 2015

This is the End … my Friend!

[to paraphrase the Doors]

There was a frost overnight, although not a hard one, but enough to cover the puddles with skim-ice and the rocks and boulders all around covered with a thin layer of frost.  I was at work by 08:40 and within 45 minutes the skim-ice and frost on the rocks had melted away.  I worked mainly on the right-hand turn around, and it went well, partly because some of the rocks I humped back were good sized and flat, maybe 3 to 4 inches in thickness, and several were as much as a hundred pounds in weight, which meant more ground area was surfaced I good time.  By 13:10 I deemed that I might be more or less finished, so I had a bite to eat, and studied my proposed moves.  How good was my road building?  I would soon find out. 

At 13:50 I reversed straight back about 8 feet, which got me off the trackway part of my construction … that is those narrow portions that went from each respective front tire to their respective rear ones.  After inspecting the road, I pulled forward 3 feet and slightly to the right, got out and studied the situation.  I next reversed towards the right so that my left front tire went up onto the left bank as I made the turn, ending up onto the right hand bank, with my front tires on the main roadway … I was at the extreme end of my roadway, and near the edge of the paved area of the turning area on the right bank.  I now saw that my turnaround was probably not large enough.  Nevertheless I pulled forward onto the left-hand bank and reversed back onto the right-hand turnaround, and was now 90º to the road, but still within 3 feet from the extreme left edge of the turnaround.  If I were to pull forward across the road and onto the left hand bank there was not enough paved area on that left bank to allow me to reverse at the correct angle onto the right-hand turnaround that would allow me to come forward off of it and away the way I had originally come seven days ago.  Even though the turning circle of my SUV is tight and better than many small cars, I had been optimistic about it.  I had also torn up the paved banks since they were so much softer beneath my paving than the roadway itself.

After much deliberation, I realized that I would not be able to utilize the right-hand area of the turnaround as planned (that area closest to where my vehicle had been all these days), which would have allowed me to approach my getaway at a shallow angle to the main roadway itself.  I would have to do it from my present 90º angle.  But I would have to do some more road-building first.  The sun was well on its western path, and rain was on its way.  I needed to do what I had to do, and to do it in a timely manner.  I began to prize up the rocks I had laid on the right-hand side of the turnaround, many of which I had laid that morning, and move them behind my truck, onto the main roadway and also onto the left hand bank.  The bigger stones went behind the SUV, since I had to reverse at least 4½ feet, otherwise when I made my final move I would not be able to make the roadway, since I would have been too far up onto the left-hand bank, when making that final turn.  But the ground was saturated and muddy behind the truck so I had to build big. 

I saw that the sun would be setting soon, and I didn’t want to spend the night on the turnaround, as I worried that the weight of my vehicle, might cause even these big stones to sink down into the mud, or worse still, that it might slide into the mud if the weight caused it to slide in between the stones so that the tires were in the mud itself.  The moment of truth … 16:25 … the sun would set in a few minutes … I had no time to extend the paved area on the left-hand bank as much as I wanted to, but I hoped that once I was in low 4-wheel drive, and with a run of about 6 or 8 feet that I would be able to plow my front right tire through that soft left-hand (which by then would now be on my right), and onto the main roadway itself.  I gritted my teeth, reversed 4½ feet, went immediately into forward gear, and plowed down off the turnaround onto the main roadway (and immediately off my paved construction), the right-hand front tire indeed plowing itself through the soft left (now right) bank, straightened back out onto the main road-way, my rear tires now off my paved construction as well, and fish-tailed the 600 yards to the tree-line, and onto the duff covered part of the road under the trees!  A couple hundred yards further and I pulled off onto a wide spot, where I would camp the night.  That night I was sore and stiff in spots, mainly due to that last couple of hours of construction, once I realized I needed to do some extending.  Rain did come in overnight, but it ended by morning.  I wanted to walk back in the morning and see where the ruts on the banks were that my tires had incised while making my escape.  That was not to be … once out of the mud, I didn’t feel like slogging through hundreds of yards of it again; even if I may have learned something useful … I was tired of the mud.  I spent the next morning cleaning equipment, and finally changing into fresh clothing, and thought over my ordeal.

I have always been of the mind that if I got myself into a situation, it was up to me to get myself out of it, and this I was determined to do.  Once I realized that it would not be a 3 hour job, there was nothing for it but to keep at it until I succeeded or my food and water began to run low; that would have been another couple of weeks.  If I had to walk out of there it would have been costly to have got a tow-truck in there to retrieve me.  I carry tools, such as shovel, axe, bow-saw, machete, and my trusty poker, am always well supplied with food and water, but I’m no longer a young man, and it surprised me how I managed to carry all those stones, out of shape as I really am for such endeavor.  I didn’t get stiff or sore until the last couple of hours, and didn’t feel that until the morning after, once I was out.  I can only think that the fact of swimming 1250 meters once a week, had a hand in my success.  Rough calculations are that I had moved somewhere between 10 and 12 tons of rock, and walked about 15 miles, constructing that roadway, half of that distance carrying weights; not really that much or that far over 46 hours of actual labor, but considering that much time was spent finding, choosing and prizing out the rocks, it was a good weeks work.  I also didn’t think about it until I was safely out, but I had just done all that work at an altitude of 5500 feet … I never felt breathless in an altitude sort of way, but more as one would in the normal course of laboring … I guess slow and steady was the way to go.

But let’s not beat around the bush; I was in a dangerous situation.  People do get stranded out in the Oregon Wild, and they do die out there.  But the ones I can bring to mind, were not prepared with tools and supplies, and hadn’t thought about the what-ifs before heading out.  As I said at the beginning of this blog/journal … I have entered the food chain, whenever I leave the beaten track.  What about the possibility of a heart attack or a stroke out there by yourself, I’ve been asked?  As the Sioux chief said to Dustin Hoffman, back at the end of the 1971 film, Little Big Man, “Today is a good day to die.”  I cannot fault that; I’d rather it happened out there in the Wild, rather in a city parking lot!  Almost any day out in the Wild is a good day to die, especially since I’m out there doing what I need to do … studying the beauties of the Natural World through paint.  Valuable lessons were learned, not only about my own capabilities when in a tight spot, but also more about the High Desert in Winter, and the decisions that should take greater consideration before they are followed.  I should have turned around before I followed the road out onto the flat, even if I might have bogged down at that point; extraction would have been easier there than where I did get stuck. 

I have extended these Posts about the road building episode, over seven days; as long as the actual occurrence.  I wanted my readers to get some sort of feel as to the length of time that was actually involved, and to also get an idea what I’m prepared to experience in my exploration of the Wild with my paintbrush.  The next Post will resume with the next Oil Sketch done after I escaped the mud.  Oh and by the way … for you historians out there, I escaped the mud on Pearl Harbor Day … a day to remember in future, in more ways than one.

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