This is one of those things that you think could NEVER happen to you. When you hear stories about it happening to other people, you think, "What were they thinking?" All it takes is one critical error to end up in a very scary and potentially dangerous situation.
It all started out on Monday with George's idea to load the kids up and find this local sledding hill we've been hearing about. We waited till Olivia woke up from her nap, dressed her from head to toe in appropriate sledding gear, made a batch of hot cocoa for the thermos, packed up the sleds, and headed down the road. We drove about 15 miles down our road, nearly to the point where the road closes in winter because it eventually becomes a mountain pass. We made a right turn onto Rye Creek Road and drove a couple miles until we found the sledding area. Rye Creek Road had some snow on it but wasn't bad to drive on. We didn't even slide around or lose traction. The short road leading to the sled hill, however, was a different story but we didn't discover that until it was too late. When the car began sliding a bit, George decided he should park back out on Rye Creek. He proceeded to turn the car around in a very nifty 5 point turn, and then, we got stuck. I unloaded Olivia and the sled and we played for a while as George was trying various things to get the car unstuck, like digging it out, putting branches under the tires, etc. Having no luck on his own, I jumped in the car to drive while he pushed. No luck. I don't know how to drive in snow well enough to help the situation. In fact, I made it worse. At one point, we actually did get the car to move, but then it just slid farther off the road into the deeper snow. George would try to drive and I would try to push, but I wasn't any help there either. Nathan is sleeping in his carseat through this whole ordeal, bless his heart! Finally, after about an hour after trying every blinking thing we could think of, I was starting to get worried. We hadn't seen a single car or snowmobile since we were there. This was late afternoon and I knew we didn't have much daylight left so we decided that our best chance of rescue depended on George hiking out to find help. Oh, forgot to mention the cell phone was on the kitchen counter charging. Nice thinking Karen. George says we wouldn't have gotten a signal way out there anyways. He was probably just trying to make me feel better. So, George headed down the road and I locked myself and the kids in the car, with the emergency lights blinking. In case you're wondering, there's no picture of the car stuck in the snow. I just couldn't bring myself to document that. LOL
Thank God for Elmo and portable DVD players. That kept Olivia pretty well entertained until it got dark. I'm talking so dark out there - as George would say, "Darker than the inside of a goat." So, we got the toys out of the backseat. Here is a picture of Olivia with her Groucho Marx glasses on. She thinks the nose looks funny and snorts like a pig.
Every now and then Olivia would stand up, look outside the window and call for Daddy. "Honey, daddy will be back soon. Let's keep playing." Then she got hungry, so we had a fruit cup and some raisins. It's getting colder so I break out the hot chocolate. She likes this a lot and keeps asking, "More hot cocoa mama." We have a full tank of gas but I'm hesitant to turn on the car unless we get really cold because of the carbon monoxide. I do start the car every half hour or so, just to make sure we're not draining the battery with the DVD player. Soon, Olivia becomes really upset. She wants her Elmo binky and her special blankie (neither of which I brought for an innocent sleddding trip.) Her crying wakes up Nathan. I hurry over to his side of the car, unbuckle him from his seat, and rush back to the driver's seat. I begin to nurse him and he is none the wiser to the seriousness of our situation. Olivia is still bawling. Then, I remember I have an extra binky in the way back of the car. As soon as Nathan finishes eating, I make my way to the tailgate and hastily grab the binky, worried the whole time some wild animal has been watching us and is waiting for his chance to attack. Could a bear rip off the door? She's slightly comforted by the binky, but still hysterical. I make her a little bed on the front passenger seat with a travel pillow and Buster's folded up doggie bed. She lays down, I cover her with a blanket, and rub her belly while she watches more Elmo and finally settles down. I start to nurse Nathan again on the other side and he drifts off to sleep. At this point, I start to worry about George walking in the pitch black and what if some wild animal attacks him and he never makes it out for help. I start to pray that God will keep him safe and bring him back to us soon. I decide that if he's not back by sun up, I'll have to load the kids on the sled and hike out with them. We still have snacks and hot cocoa left and if I need water I'll put some snow in my empty water bottle. I just need to stay calm for the kids. It's getting colder now and even though Olivia's hands and nose still feel warm, I'm thinking about turning the car on for a bit just to warm up a bit. Just then, after being in the car for 3 hours, I hear a knock on the passenger side window. It's George! He's back with help. A man named Joe with a big truck has come to drive us home. We'll worry about the car later. I begin to sob. Tears of relief that he made it back to us safe and we'll be home soon. The ordeal is almost over. We get the kids out of the car, and Nathan buckled into his car seat and begin to walk down the road about 100 yards or so to where the truck is parked.
You can see George's footprints in the snow, right down the middle of the snowy road as far as eye can see. Joe mentions that he thinks he saw some Bobcat tracks. It may have been following George. I tell George how worried I was about something like that happening, but he says that the hand of God laid out the perfect walking stick for him on the side of the road so he picked that up and figured that if a pack of wolves came after him, he'd just start swinging. He kept looking behind him while he was walking to make sure he didn't have any company and had to keep telling himself that we were safe and warm in the car to "keep his mind from going bad places. "
George had to hike out 6.9 miles before he came to Joe's house. Joe is a super sweet, but very eccentric little man. He cashed in his retirement (was a landscape architect in Vegas) and bought 166 acres in the middle of nowhere Montana for himself and his 7 dogs. He says it's his shangri la. Joe has a 1-ton dualie truck which has no problems on the snowy road but he's very cautious about driving on it, and talking to the truck as she progresses onward like she's an old steam engine. "Come on baby, that's my girl." All the way down the road, Joe keeps talking about how much "wildlife" there is out there. Gee thanks. In the backseat, George and I hold hands. Olivia just chatters away the whole way home, talks about Santa, and riding on my lap on the sled when we were playing. We finally pull into our driveway. Jungle Joe has to pee really bad he says and asks me if he can use the side of the house. LOL I thought he asked to use the bathroom, so I said "yes, of course!" I hope my neighbors weren't looking. We offer him some gas money, some blackberry jam and syrup. He won't take the money or the syrup, but accepts the jam. I ask him if I can give him a hug too. How do you thank someone who helped save your life, and your childrens' lives? I'm sure without Jungle Joe we would still have survived. He says the park rangers drive those roads every morning around 4 a.m. but it would have made for a long cold night in the car. George interruped JJ's fettucine alfredo dinner, and without a thought, this guy jumps in his truck and comes to our rescue. How do you repay that kindness? He tells us next time we're in the area to stop by with a box of dog biscuits for his babies. Will do.
So, we learned a lot of lessons that day, and we won't be heading back to the sledding hill any time soon. Take some time during this busy holiday season and make sure you have enough gear in your car in case of an emergency. It's one of those things that you think can never happen to you but we are living proof that it can. We are very thankful to have emerged from that nightmare unscathed, but humbled by the knowledge that it could have had a far worse outcome.