Alaskan Trail Adventure – Part 2
“That was a good day,” Brian said, grinning.
“Yes, it was.” I knew he was happy that he got to play with his new toys, and nothing terrible happened.
“Huh,” Brian checked his GPS.
“Well, I thought we were headed home, but I guess we’re taking a different trail out.”
“Maybe Scout wanted to show us something else?”
“Maybe,” Brian sounded worried.
Up ahead, Scout turned his big truck off the main trail. After only a few hundred yards, he stopped and got out. Brian stayed in the Durango and waited for Scout to come to the window.
“It’s blocked. We’ll have to go back.”
“I thought we were headed out?” Brian asked him.
“We are, but Tabitha wanted to check out some of the side trails we haven’t been down before. I figured we could take a little detour. You okay with that?”
“Yeah, as long as it’s not too long. Abby is only a few months old.”
“Oh, right, no problem. Let’s get out of here, and we’ll try one more spot before heading back.” Scout walked back to his rig.
Brian’s skilled driving always amazes me, and this time was no different. He backed out of the dead-end trail without running into any trees or getting us stuck. Scout followed but ended up taking out a few small trees along the way.
The gravel bed had a few other trails branching off from it, and Scout picked another one.
This trail was very muddy right from the start, with large puddles covering some areas. The alder trees were close in and scratched the sides of the truck. Brian kept saying things like, “This doesn’t look right,” and, “this is not good. I don’t like it.”
We were following Scout but staying back, so everyone had room to maneuver. He went around a corner through a two-foot deep puddle that stretched across the trail and was a good twenty feet long. Scout gunned it through the next spot, and the path curved a little to the right. Brain waited at the start of the puddle, and when we didn’t hear Scout’s truck getting further away, we thought he was either stuck or waiting for us.
“I’ll be right back.” Brian stepped out of the Durango and walked the edge of the puddle until he could see around the corner.
I watched as he yelled something to Scout, then laughed and shook his head.
He returned to the Durango and began to change out of his hiking boots and into his mud boots.
“So, I’m guessing he’s stuck?” I asked.
“Stuck is an understatement. He’s completely buried the rear axle in the mud. We’re going to have to go through this mini-lake to get a good angle for the winch. But I’m not going further than that.”
Brian jumped back in the Durango, and we went through the giant puddle quickly. He stopped on the spot of dry ground before the mud hole and went to help Scout dig his rig out.
I checked the clock. 2:30 pm. “I guess we will stop for pizza on the way home, kids.”
Madelyn and Matthew cheered from the backseat.
We sat in the Durango and watched as Brian and Scout got the jacks out and lifted the truck up out of the mud. Then Brian attached his winch to the rear of the truck. He came back to the Durango and sat on the hood to watch the winch. In just a few minutes, the truck fell off the jacks. I wasn’t sure what the purpose of jacking it up was, but I made a note to ask Brian later.
As they started to jack the truck up again, I turned to Madelyn. “Go ahead and let the babies out. Here, hand me Abby. I don’t think we’re going anywhere soon.” There wasn’t much room in the vehicle, but I figured the boys could play a little in the third row while we waited.
Brian and Scout shoveled some mud out and put branches under the tires. Brian came back to the Durango and saw the babies were out of their car seats.
“A little,” I smiled. “It’s okay.”
“Well, we’re going to try something else. Maybe the kids should be in their car seats for this.” He turned and shouted at Scout, “One minute! Need to buckle the kids in.”
Once the kids were settled in their seats, Brian signaled. Scout climbed in the driver’s seat and started the winch. As the winch began to pull on the truck, I noticed that we were being pulled forward.
“We’re sliding,” I said.
“Yeah, hang on.” Brian put his truck in reverse and gave it a little gas. “I’m trying to set the tires.”
Suddenly, there was a loud “POP!” Then it sounded like the starter was turning over and over.
“Stop! Stop!” Brian yelled to Scout, then turned the Durango off.
He couldn’t turn it back on again. He got out and looked under the hood, and then crawled under the front end to look at the engine. He came to my side of the vehicle and said in a quiet voice, “Well, we’re screwed.”
“What do you mean?” I felt panic rising in my chest.
“There’s a huge crack in the differential and the axle. The only way we’re leaving this trail is with a tow.”
I checked my cell phone. “I don’t have service.”
“I guess we need to get Scout’s truck unstuck then.”
As the men worked, I let the older kids out to go potty, changed the babies’ diapers, and then gave everyone some snacks. I tried keeping them distracted with silly songs, but they were getting restless.
At 4 p.m., Brian came back to the Durango.
“Can you go with Tabitha to find help or get a cell phone signal? You’ll have to hike away from the mountain to get a signal.
“Sure, okay.” I was pleased to know that my husband remembered that I was capable in the woods and wanted to rely on me.
As I was getting the kids settled so they would be semi-happy while I was gone, there was a spring avalanche on the mountain right above us. We all stood and watched it, and for a few minutes, the valley was filled with the thundering sound of snow rushing down the mountain.
“I’ve never seen an avalanche in person,” I said as I hugged Brian.
“Me, either. Here, I wrote down the GPS coordinates of our location. If you find someone or get a cell signal, give them the coordinates. Tabitha’s parents live nearby, so they’re probably our best shot at getting out of here before dark.
“Got it.” I took the slip of paper and shoved it deep in my jean’s pocket.
Tabitha and I set off. I took only my water bottle. I was wearing my Earth Shoe sandals with no socks, as I didn’t expect to be hiking in the woods today. Tabitha was carrying her 15-month-old daughter and stopping every five feet, trying her cell phone. I knew that we weren’t going to get a good signal until we were a little further out from the mountain. I also knew that it was going to be difficult for Tabitha to hike through the dense trees while carrying her baby.
“Hey, why don’t you take your baby and go back. I can do this.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yep. I grew up in the woods. Well, practically.” I grinned. “My dad loved to camp, and I’ve spent some time in the wilderness.”
“Oh, good. I didn’t want to leave the safety of the trucks. There are bears out here.”
I tried not to roll my eyes. City people. “Listen, we’re not that far. I can hear our husbands talking.”
As she left, I mentally marked two points on the mountain above where we were. Then I turned 180 degrees and marked out a jagged peak on the mountain range on the opposite side. I was going to aim for that point, no matter how much I had to detour around brush or deep water.
As I walked, I started talking to myself. “There’s some fresh moose tracks. That dung looks recently dropped. It’s not bear, though. I’m not sure if that’s good or bad. I hope it doesn’t take too long to get a signal.”
I knew that if I was making noise, there was less chance of startling an animal and getting hurt. Also, if someone was close, maybe they would hear me. I paused for a moment to take my sweatshirt off and tie it around my waist. I checked my cell phone, still no service. That’s when I realized that I would need a little help from the inhabitants of the forest.