We are having a warm streak here in southwestern Montana. This winter we had an unusual amount of drifting that had to be removed from the road by a front-loader to make it passable. Hence monster piles of snow currently sit alongside the road. This is now all melting. It is causing mud season to arrive early and in full force.
Once you turn off the frontage road, you best have your 4-wheel-drive engaged because you are never going to make it here without. Yesterday the UPS driver arrived with a package and now our driveway is one huge rutted mess. Today the propane delivery man decided to not even enter the drive, but stopped on the road and pulled the hose for yards to the tank behind the garage. Smart man.
We are praying for dry weather, lots of sun and lots of wind so that this soon becomes more than a sink hole of mud.
When I go places in my personal rig I keep two things in mind “is this within your skill level?” and “can your truck handle this?” In my personal rig, I always keep a shovel, sand, a tow strap and even cable chains no matter the season. I have ended up places in snow that I did not imagine it would be there. I always try to be prepared for the worst case scenario when I drive out in the more remote areas I visit.
Last week we had lots of unseasonable rain and it caused lots of problems for the staff not only trying to do our job of doing surveys, but getting places that we needed to complete the surveys.
The sun came out after a day of unseasonable rain, but I was still driving in roads with water and mud.
There was occasion where I was doing a survey and watched a guy drive up the road pass where I was working. His truck threw up a big splash telling me that the water flowing over the road was more serious than I had thought. He backed up and took a second run at it before he came out the other side. I technically need to drive up the road another six miles and do a second survey but the water wasn’t just sitting on the road as a puddle, but a ditch, gully, stream or small creek was flowing over the road. There may have been enough ground for the man to get through, but there was no telling what was flowing away under that water and how fast the erosion was happening. There was no guarantee if I got to the site the conditions of the road when I returned would be suitable for getting out. I passed on the second survey site up that road.
Later that day I found myself making my way slowly down a road in four-wheel drive with the road getting progressively worse. In the end I made the decision that if I was going to get to the survey site, I was going to need to be in four-wheel drive low rather than four-wheel high. I had always been taught 4WD low was for a dire situation, a “rescue me” if you will. I knew at that moment that using 4WD low to get into a place left me with no options if I needed them to get back out. It was time to turn around and mark this as a site not safe under the day’s current conditions.
In both cases for me it was a case no sense in over playing your hand. Sometimes you have to gamble, and other times it makes no sense. Life is about more than the ability to do something but also about the ability to continue on afterwards.
Last week it seemed was rainy everywhere, and Montana was no exception. I blogged earlier about the rain and my field work last week. As I was taking one last look over the photos I had taken before I packed up again to head out again this week. I noticed that there were two photos that reminded me of the dramatic difference that a day, an hour or a minute can make. Most of the week I was rained on in some form, from a light mist to pull off and stop because the rain is so hard you can’t see. There were a few photos taken when the rain stopped and most of them still had grey clouds and threatening skies. Yet I did have one photo where the sky was blue, the clouds were white, the grass was green and the road was calling for me. Life was pretty amazing.
The road is calling my name.
The other was a photo that grabbed me was the one I took sitting in the cab of my truck on my last day. I had been driving down this road that was getting progressively worse while the rain continued to fall. I stopped in the middle of the road and mentally regrouped. Though I could see for miles in all directions, I was alone, I had been praying to not meet anyone on this road because to get off the proven tracks was soft mud. I would drive down this road for another few miles with it getting progressively worse and began to look for a place to turn around. At eight miles from the paved road I would finally come to place to turn around without risking getting stuck and having to walk out. I wrote off the last gypsy moth trap as impossible to safely set. It was a low point to admit defeat, to be so close and not make it. Yet maybe it wasn’t. I did not get stuck. I did not have to walk out in the rain and I got all but one of my traps set. Maybe there are no high points or low points, just points of view.