Going out the back way of the state park, meant going out on very narrow one lane dirt roads (sometimes grass) that were twisty, turny, and steep. I went on miles and miles and miles of these.
At one point, these exited from the wooded type area I had been in, and opened into a field.
The "road".. uh... path maybe. Before long it was barely discernable as two ruts that were slightly less vegetated than thye rest of the field, which was full of small shrubs about a foot high. The path was basically just the area where the gaps between the shrubs were actually aligned... If you got off the path, it was almost impossible to see it, from even a few feet away. Can you see the path?
But I managed it, with the help of the GPS, where these barely visible ruts in the sand were marked quite clearly as roads. Eventually the path took me to a real road. A paved road. But the path I was on ended facing a ten foot ditch separating me from the road. I had to drive along the side of the ditch, waiting for it to be slightly less steep, at which time I went across and got onto the main road. I went a few more miles along this road. Then the pavement ended, and this became a dirt road, although a well maintained and wide dirt road. Then after a few more miles, the GPS told me to turn left off the road... onto another one of the small paths barely noticible as a "road".
Now, rather than writing something new to describe what happened next, I'll quote directly from an email I wrote that evening. I sent this to the current "top ten" from my email contest off my website:
OK, you all will get a kick out of this I'm sure. I was going to save it for when I write up my whole vacation and put up the website with all the pictures and such, but hell, right now I have nothing else to do really, so here goes...
I was on final approach to my random spot. About 4 miles away. I've already been on small dirt roads for miles, but I am temporarily for a bit back on a bit larger dirt road that is actually maintained. I get directed to the left onto a small dirt road. No biggie. I'd been on roads like this a lot in the last two days, and especially in the previous few hours.
After a couple 1000 feet, the path goes through a bit of a ditch. There is a puddle in the bottom. Looks muddy. Too muddy. I examine the possibilities. It looks like it is dry to the right of the puddle. I start heading over there. But I didn't go over enough. The ground to the side of the puddle was in fact very soft mud. I immediately sink and get stuck.
I switch to 4WD. No luck. Trying just gets me deeper and deeper. The right side has sunk just a little bit (not too much) but the left is way down. I am not at all happy with the angle the truck is at. For awhile I thought it was going to go over. But it didn't. I get out to assess the situation. The entire front left of the truck is under mud up to the bumper. There is no way I'll be going anywhere. And I was increasingly nervous of messing with the truck, for fear of it going over. Probably unlikely, but I did NOT want to risk being under it if it came over. If I had to get in and out, I did from the other side. And I minimized my time inside.
I half heartedly try a few things like putting my jacket, rocks and newspapers under the tires, but it does no good at all.
To paint the picture slightly better, there is no cell coverage. It had probably been 50 miles since the last town I had been in with cell coverage. It is about 7 miles as the crow flies to the ranger station at Berlin-Ichthyosaur State Park, where I'd been a couple hours earlier. Farther by road. About 14 miles by road it looks like. The nearest town is Ione, a very small mostly abandoned mining town. About 12 miles away as the crow flies. Again, longer by road... About 20 miles. Even including the little dirt roads. Ione did have a small general store though. And I think I last passed houses and such perhaps five miles back along the road I had came on. I wasn't 100% sure of that though.
In any case, I figured it would take me a few hours to walk to one of the places where I could get help. It was only an hour or so away from sunset. It looked like there was rain on the horizon. I wasn't going to walk anywhere tonight.
I had been thinking about going back to Berlin State park after getting a bit closer to my spot to camp for the night. They had a camping area not too far from the ghost town of Berlin, and the dinosaur stuff. My plan had been to go back to camp there for the night, and then in the morning see their fossil tour, then the tour of an abandoned mine they do there.
Well... That wasn't going to happen now. But, precisely to "be prepared" I did indeed have the tent, my sleeping bag, a bunch of water, etc. I was ready for this. A few hundred feet back from where I was stuck, there was actually a campfire, and a cleared area around where the fire stones were. So I pitched my tent there.
I also put one of my shirts up on a post back at the main road as a flag, on the off chance someone were to come by.
More from the email, continuing with the next few hours:
I sat by my tent and read awhile, until it started to get too dark for that.
I am now in my tent. Outside there are occasional spurts of high wind and rain, but mostly it is calm. I have been here about 4 hours now, perhaps a little less. Certainly nobody has driven by on the road. But I didn't expect that. I expect the road that I turned off of to get stuck perhaps gets one or two cars a day, max. Perhaps less. Certainly not many at night.
So I am all settled into my sleeping bag. Doing my journal for the website, and answering a little bit of email before turning in for the night. I did bring a portable radio, but I left it in the truck, and I'm not going back for it now. So it is just the sound of me typing, the wind blowing, occasional critters and birds outside, and about every 30 minutes a jet flying high overhead. I probably won't stay up longer, given the whole lack of anything to do. I have enough batteries for my laptop to last maybe 6 hours. But I'm not going to spend six hours on the laptop. I'll go to bed shortly. Sunrise is in about 8 or 9 hours. Once I wake up, I'll put on my hiking shoes, and head back in the direction I came. I figure my first shot should be those last houses I passed, although I am tempted to just make for the ranger station, as the ranger has as his job helping stupid people like me. :-)
In any case, I know all of you will look at this and contemplate how much of a complete idiot I am, but that's OK. I'm having a lot of fun. This is much more adventuresome this way. And I'm into this partially to push the envelope of what I'm comfortable with. Having said that though, I still wish I'd been about two feet further to the right when I tried to pass that spot. I probably would have made it. :-)
Anyway, if you actually get this message, it means I am safe happy and warm at some hotel somewhere, since obviously this email is staying in my computer until I get connected again.
For now, I'm gearing up for the embarrassment I will suffer when having to admit that I was a "dumb easterner" trying to overdo it in the 4x4, which may have been fine with the rugged roads I was on most of the day, but which is NOT set up to go through a two foot puddle of sticky mud!! :-)
Oh well. I'm still having fun.
Well, I'd better get on to some other stuff. I've got about an hour left on this battery, and I'm starting to get tired. I'll probably just do a bit more, then head to sleep. The sooner I get to sleep, the sooner I'll wake up in the morning to find someplace I can call for a tow.
Later kids. I guess I'll send another update later to tell you all how it turned out. :-)
I tossed and turned a decent bit, imagining all sorts of trouble getting help in the morning, or worse, since I was fairly confident I'd find help pretty easily, that I did some permanent damage to the rental truck. But before too long, I dozed off.
As the light from the impending sunrise started to glow outside the tent, I woke up. It was chilly.
Inside my sleeping bag, curled up in a little ball, I was warm enough. But sticking my head or any limbs outside of the bag... brrrr! But in a few minutes I forced myself to get up into the cold.
I ran to the truck and grabbed jeans and a sweatshirt (I had been in shorts and a t-shirt). Slightly better. But not a whole much. I quickly packed up my backback with the essentials that I didn't want to leave in the tent or car while I was gone. I filled up my camelpak with water from the gallon jug I had in the tent. My hands were very cold. Looking at the tent there was frost on the tent. Nice.
So, I got underway. I briefly considered trying to go overland to Berlin, but the terrain was much rougher, plus if I went away from the roads, then if something else happened... I trip and break a leg or something, then I would really be in trouble, as it would be FOREVER until someone found me. And the route by road to Berlin would take me past the last places I saw houses too. So that is where I would go. I let a note in case someone found my truck while I was gone.
Then I went back up to the street and hooked a right and just started walking.
The world goes by a lot more slowly when you are walking. But it is beautiful land out here. Walking through the valley, looking off to any side and seeing mountains rising up. Just breathtaking. And slowly, as I walk, the mountains move and open up and new ones show up around the corner. At one point a bee followed me for a quarter mile or so, but it did not sting me. I saw a couple mice and lizards.
No horses or cows this time. Every 30 minutes or so I would briefly turn on the GPS to check my route, and my phone to make sure I still had no coverage. After about two hours, I turned a corner, and finally there is was. A house.
It was a ranch actually. While it was still in the distance I saw a horse trailer moving. As I got closer I could see that there was a large pen in the back with horses, and someone was running around with a small 4 wheel vehicle herding them together. As I got yet closer, suddenly about 7 small puppies started barking and running up to me. They were each about a foot long. They were adorable. In a few seconds I had all seven of them at my feet yapping and jumping up at me.
I reached down and started petting one of them. It liked it. I kept walking toward the horse pen where I could now see there were two people. All but one of the puppies headed back to their house. The one I had pet stuck with me and followed me.
When I got to where the two people were, for a few minutes they just kept talking to each other and ignored me. One was a young guy. The other reminded me of Jock Ewing on the old Dallas shows. Older guy. Big cowboy hat.
I excused myself and asked if I could use a phone to call for help as I'd gotten myself stuck in the mud a few miles up the road. "That spot in the field to the left where there is a dip?" "Yes" "Yup, that's where everybody gets stuck".
Turns out after talking to them a bit, that some idiot (like me) gets stuck at that exact same spot about once a month, and they usually end up at this house. Two ones they mentioned specifically, was one guy that got stuck not just with his truck, but was towing a big camping trailer! Then there was another guy who got stuck there in the middle of the winter, and had to walk for help in sub-zero temperatures. OK, those stories made me feel a little better about my stupidity.
In any case, the younger one deferred to the older one, saying "Well, its up to you, its your house." The older one, whose name I learned was S Smith, said no problem, but I'd have to wait for him to finish getting the horses together. Meanwhile, the younger one, J Smith started saying that if his Pa hadn't already hooked up the truck, they should be able to pull me out. So he drove off. S Smith asked me a few questions while he finished rounding up the horses. I noticed that someone that looked like it might be his daughter was also there helping with the horses, but she never said a single word. S asked me where I was trying to get to, what I was doing, where I was from... all the sorts of normal questions. Then when all his horses were loaded in the trailer, he had me hang on to the back of the trailer as he drove them back up to his house.
He showed me the phone, but then asked who I was going to call. I said I was going to start with AAA, then take it from there. He said I should just hold off and wait a minute to see if they would be able to pull me out with their truck. A few minutes later the truck pulls up. J's father Shane (also S's brother) was driving. They had a young girl in the back too. Didn't catch her name. They told me to hop in and they would go pull me out. I thanked S for all his help, and hopped in the back of the truck.
As we were heading to the spot, which they knew exactly without me saying a word, since so many people got stuck there, I mentioned that the front left wheel was stuck pretty good, almost completely encased in mud. J said "Oh, don't you worry, this here is a DODGE truck, it will pull anything out of there."
We got there. Shane: "When you get stuck tenting out in places like this, you need to bring a woman with you to keep you warm!". I agreed that would have been good. Then J and Shane assessed the situation. And aside from having me crawl into the truck and put it in neutral, told me to just keep out of the way. They backed their truck in as far as it would go without getting stuck itself. (Sam: "Don't you guys get stuck yourselves!" J: "Don't you worry, this here is a DODGE TRUCK.") They attached a chain to the back of the Blazer.
Then they just pulled.
I kept saying how I was trying to go to the right of the puddle and just didn't go far enough over. J: "Oh, just admit it, you're like any man and you just wanted to play in the mud." He also pointed out about five other routes I could have taken to get around the area I got stuck in.
The Blazer lurched all over the place and came popping up out of where it had got stuck and sliding to the left, into the puddle further! "Whoa Whoa!" J yelled to Shane (who was driving). J said someone needed to be steering at that point. He hopped right in the driver's side. Then yelled for Shane to go again. They then just pulled it straight up and out back onto solid grass.
I thanked them a lot, and gave them some cash for their troubles. Yeah, theoretically AAA might have done this for free, but I would have waited a lot longer, and might have gotten some grief for being off-road in the middle of a field. So it was worth it. After all, look what I had been stuck in.
Shane then told me that if I was trying to go in that direction, I could "go a little bit further ahead, up to about where those houses are, then take a left and it will take you to a much better and well traveled road."
Hold it! "where those houses are". I looked where he was pointing, and sure enough, to the left, there were a few little specks that were clearly houses. Probably would have taken me less than half an hour to walk there, as opposed to the two hours to get back to the Smith ranch, but I hadn't seen them at all, plus I knew and remembered the Smith ranch. Oh well. Besides, the Smiths had the truck, and it worked out well.
So, the Smiths said good bye, that I was welcome, etc, and went off on their way, and left me to pack my tent and stuff back up again.
So, I packed everything up. I was somewhat rushed though, and didn't properly put the tent back in its little bag and stuff. I just threw all the parts in the back seat of the explorer. I know I should have put it away properly, but I wanted to hurry up and get on with things. Then, as I finished packing, I realized something... I had left my bag in the back seat of the Smith's Dodge Truck!!!! And I had put all the most important stuff in that bag. My GPSs were in there. My laptop was in there. A lot of my water was in there. My toiletries bag was in there. Etc, etc, etc. Argh!!!
I finished getting my stuff in the truck then headed off down the road back to the Smith house. There was nobody there. S Smith was gone. He must have taken his horse trailer and driven off to wherever he was going with them. Argh! I thought about leaving a note, but realized all my paper and pens were in the bag.
Well, when I'd seen J go off to get Shane, he had gone off to the right. How many houses can there be on this road within a 10 minute drive? So I followed down that road, with my eyes open for the blue Dodge truck that had pulled me out. After a few minutes I saw another ranch on the right and a house up on a hill to the left. And there by the house was the truck. Whew! I drove up there and started walking toward the house. Shane popped his head out and said "Missin' something? We were about to send someone back out to you with your bag!" He pointed at this other guy (never caught his name) with one of the small four wheelers and said he would get them for me. He said he would give me my stuff over on the other side and to follow him.
The guy drove down into the ranch on the other side of the road, then held up my bag. I got out of the Blazer and collected my stuff and thanked the guy a few times. "No problem, if you have any more difficulties, just let us know!"
Now, I'll point out now that as I drove the Blazer was squealing awefully. The guy noticed, and looking at my wheels, diagnosed it as just a lot of mud in the brakes, and shouldn't be any big deal. The mud would dry and it would all be back to normal before too long. Great! So I headed off.
My goal was Berlin. It was still early. I had time to get to the fossil and mine tours I'd seen signs for the day before. So I headed back toward Berlin. My route took me past Grantsville Summit where I had gone a few days earlier, and past Grantsville proper, then up and through some canyons on steep narrow dirt roads, and then I was at Berlin. Well, I emerged from a canyon in the middle of the park, between the town of Berlin and the fossil place. I stopped first at the front entrance to sign up for the mine tour. Then I headed over to the fossil end of the park. I was a few minutes early, so I just hung out for a bit.
But then the ranger arrived. And slowly other people started showing up. Then it was time for the fossil tour.
There were about ten people for the fossil tour. The guide was a very good guide.
Well informed and funny. He was very personable. This site apparently was the best find in the world of Ichthyosaur fossils. In the preserved dig that was left with the actual fossils in situ, there were about 8 ichthyosaurs.
As he went through the tour, he told us all about the animals, and started pointing out parts of the skeletons.
I was just amazed at how people could pick out the bones and make sense of them. The animals were squished and compressed into weird positions, many portions were missing, etc... it was hard to recognize if you didn't really know exactly what you were looking for. And these were the best preserved in the world!!! The fact that where I was standing, at some 7000 feet above sea level, was once about 500 feet below sea level, and the fact that these ichthyosaurs were in this spot before the mountains were, really gives a sense of time... it was a great tour. I recommend it to anybody coming to the area.
But before long it was over, and it was time to go to the mine tour.
The same guy was doing the mine tour. Unlike the dinosaur tour, you need to sign up for the mine tour in advance, because there is not that much room in the mine and they don't have enough equipment. The main mine at Berlin is one with a diagonal shaft into the mountain, with spurs going off to the sides at various levels. It had been closed off as unsafe for many many decades, being very prone to cave ins and the like. The Diana mine was around to the other side of the hill, a horizontal shaft going straight in. It was still safe. That was what we would get a tour of. They handed out the little hard hats with lights on them that you always see on the stereotype of miners.
The guide used me as an example to show how to put it on and use them. (Our group had about 10 people in it.) Then it was off to the mines.
The mine was just what you would see on an old cartoon or something. Just a man sized hole in the side of the mountain, with a wooden sign on top saying "Diana".
We went in single file. The helmet was a good thing, as I hit my head several times. It was very close quarters for the first bit.
Just a narrow tunnel straight in.
Every once and awhile the guide would explain what we were seeing.
After awhile, it opened up into some slightly larger chambers, where there were various pieces of mining equipment or other things that the guide would explain.
The conditions the actual miners were under 100 years ago must have just been horrible. Unbelievable. We got to one point where there was an escape shaft, going 300 feet straight up, with a little wooden ladder heading up. There were places where veins had been mined off to the sides, above, or below, which created huge cave like pockets, some braced up by old wood, some just left naturally. Then we got to the end of the Diana shaft proper. Ahead was a tunnel to join this mine with the Berlin mine.
Apperantly some guy had bought the rights to the Diana mine in the 1950's, with the sole purpose of digging this tunnel to connect Diana to Berlin. Now, at that time both mines had been played out, and had no significant remaining gold or silver, for over 40 years. So it was a rather pointless endeavor. He apparently got that connecting shaft built, then stopped and went home and the whole place has been abandoned ever since.
We got the warning again about not going further, because it was unsafe beyond. Then we headed back out.
Oh yeah, at one point the guide had us turn out all the lights to experience complete darkness and the way your eyes just make up things in that condition. That was fun. But soon there was sunlight again at the end of the tunnel, and we were out.
I hung with the stragglers in the crowd for a little bit listening to the guide tell additional stories about the mine and the area around here. Then I decided it was time to go, and hopped in my car.
I decided that I would not be making another attempt on the random point on this day. I was ready to eat. I figured I would actually first find some place to stay for the night, then get showered and cleaned up, then find someplace to eat near wherever I was staying. So I once again checked what the GPS thought was the closest place, even though I know its database is incomplete. It identified the closest lodging as the Beth Mitzvah Hotel and Casino. Fine. That is where I would go. (This was also the place I was originally trying to get to when I was low on gas a few days earlier.) The route took me back out of the park, then south. Before long I came to the spot where the previous day it had pointed me left onto a 66 mile dirt road. Back then I was short on gas. This time I had plenty of gas. Left it was.
The road was straight as an arrow for 66 miles. At least it was in horizontal direction. Vertically, it was like a roller coaster, big dips and hills constantly. Up and down, up and down... When I first got onto the road, I passed a heard of cows. Then there was some sort of industrial facility off to the right. But then after that, for the next 60 miles, there was just about nothing at all, just the road and desert all around.
With an occasional cross road and a sign saying that if you turned and drive 50+ miles you'd get to somewhere or another. Or a dead car.
Eventually though I came out the other side, just east of Tonopah. Now, the route to the Beth Mitzvah Hotel would take me through Tonopah, then back North... basically coming back up the eastern side of the mountain range I had gone south on the western side of. But when I got into Tonopah I saw... the Beth Mitzvah hotel! Hmmm... it apperantly wasn't where the GPS thought it was, but about 50 miles south. The hotel had signs saying it was newly renovated and such. And that it was "historical". Well, I passed right on by it, determined to find the place the GPS thought it was so I could see what was there.
I continued North, sometimes on the main road, sometimes back off on little dirt roads again. Eventually I made it to where the GPS thought the hotel would be. Right in the middle of Manhattan Nevada, a town just one or two steps up from a ghost town. Still inhabited, but lots of abandoned buildings too. My best theory was that the hotel was once in Manhattan, but moved to Tonopah at some point. But that is pure speculation. In any case, there was no sign of it here.
I decided to continue North to Austin to find a place to stay. It is one of the towns I'd picked out on the web before leaving as possible places to stay. And I thought I'd remembered seeing a hotel listing for it online too. A Holiday Inn or something.
This time I went mostly on the main road, as I was getting tired. North for awhile, then west up and over some spectacular mountains.
Then I came down very steeply into Austin. Austin was smaller than I thought it would be. There was no Holiday Inn. There were a few motels though. I picked one, and booked myself for the night.