In hindsight, I do recall briefly questioning the wisdom of driving to a trailhead at the end of a forest road with the words "Avalanche Creek" in its name. And then there was that sign that perhaps could have been onto something...
45 minutes later, just as I had finished cleaning up – precisely the moment when it was time to decide whether to proceed to the trailhead or not, a truck came rumbling down the road, and without hesitation rolled right through the stream and over to the other side. It was a sign. Mind you, the truck was a 4x4 pick-up with dual rear wheels, so the sign's message may well have been "turn the hell around and go back to the pavement you silly fool," but I figured if he could manage the crossing with such ease, then surely the van could handle it with just a bit of coaxing if necessary.
I fired up the engine, inched the front wheels up to the water's edge, took a deep breath, and plunged forward. A piece of cake, it turned out, and before I could say "super-cool go-almost-anywhere adventure rig," I was on the other side of the water and making my way to the trailhead that lay at the end of that portentous sounding forest road. In the movies, this is where the low string tremolos typically enter.
A six or seven mile hike ensued through the forest. Entirely pleasant aside from the fact that rain came down in buckets for the last two. Back at the van afterwards, I stripped down in the mud room (the front passenger seat area), climbed in back to get clean and put on some dry clothes, and then headed back down Avalanche Creek Road. More low string tremolos.
As you can see above, that stream had swollen considerably since the downpour, and a wiser man would have turned around at this point and camped out at the trailhead for the night. I, on the other hand, plunged forward, and let out a most triumphant "yeah!" when I once again successfully made it to the other side. Home free now.
Having previously read about a free hot spring just a few miles down the road, and with that last hurdle out of the way, I was pretty pumped to get my rain-soaked bones in that soothing hot mineral water. Down, down, down I rolled, when the van suddenly started sinking deep into the road. What the...? She stalled after only about 15 feet, and it dawned on me that I was, for the second time in less than a week, stuck. This time, quite royally so:
It was my very first mudslide, so you'll forgive me for unwittingly plowing straight into it. There is, after all, precious little from the typical suburban New Jersey upbringing that prepares one for this sort of thing. Anyway, getting out to investigate, I quickly found myself crotch-deep in mud, and it was clear that there would be no hot springs for Glenn on this day. A near full-body mud bath was, however, very much in the cards.
With zero cell signal (of course), there wasn't much to do but wait, and as the afternoon progressed, one by one, the remaining vehicles up at the trailhead came down to join in on the fun. First, it was Walt the college history professor from Akron and his groovy pooch Zoe, with whom I passed a couple of pleasant hours getting acquainted. Then environmentalism advocate Dave and physical therapist Dawn happened by, and I found myself in the company some very cool and interesting people fully equipped to make the best of a challenging situation. Powerful evidence of my claim from just a few days ago that, with a tiny bit of perspective, every experience offers opportunity for enrichment, and that there is in fact no such thing as "stuck."
As the sun settled behind the mountains, it became clear that rescue wasn't coming until the morning, so I bid my new friends a good evening, envious of their level parking spots on terra firma, and waded back through the mud to spend the night at a pretty suboptimal angle:
I told myself, "this isn't so bad," and was almost starting to believe it an hour or two later when, like a scene out of a Hollywood western, two cowboys appeared to pull my humble chariot from the muck and back onto level and considerably drier land. Still stranded, but with a fully stocked van, I was now prepared to ride this thing out in comfort for as long as it took. That makes two rescues from dudes with horses in just five days. Needless to say, a big fan of all things equine, I am fast becoming.
The distant sound of a bulldozer served as my wake-up call early this morning, as I slowly regained enough consciousness to recall my predicament. Stepping outside, I found the Forest Service workers well on their way to reconnecting us to the main road...