“Nine plus hours later, I entered Boise National Forest. Highway 21 was hours of scary twists and turns, crosses signifying deaths lining the steep mountain roads. If you went off the edge of this road, you would die. No doubt about it”
Driving on that road (which I still to this day have a photo of hanging above my bed) and the experience that followed, single-handedly made me get over my fear of driving on winding roads, steep grades, lack of guard rails , driving in reverse trusting the guidance of a stranger and quite possibly made me who I am today. I should also mention at this point that the last city you drive through before you get to this yurt in the forest is Idaho City, which is one of the first gold mining towns that still maintains a population of only 459 people. Needless to say there is no cell phone service for hours surrounding this location. They have one general store which is your last stop before the deep woods and has an abundance of camping gear and a surprisingly amazing beer selection. I stocked up on snacks, ice and a six pack of New Belgium Fat Tire. The blonde behind the counter gabbed with me about the tiny town where everyone knows everyone else, gave me a map of the road, sold me some postcards and wished me luck. Years later while telling this story at the Pub, I told the story to that woman’s sister. Small world. Our minds were blown.
“The drive was a definite white knuckle buster. As I neared the 55 mile marker I had began looking for the number marker that had been previously emailed to me, that i’d scribbled down. There was one to my left at the 55 mile mark. It matched the numbers in the email, except that it started with an “L”. The reviews had described it as a rough dirt road and a tree had fallen in front of the path. I began doubting my tiny rental at this point. I got out, rechecked the number, minus the “L” it matched. I dragged the large tree out of the roadway and began driving slowly up this “road”. This was not meant for a car, it was very narrow and I started getting nervous. It seemed too rough and rigid for even a pick up and I was in a Mazda! I thought “should I stop? Try and turn around?” There was no place to turn around as the path wound steeper and narrowed as it climbed. At this point I was looking for something around each bend to be wide enough for me to attempt a suspenseful 5,000 point turn. I was scared. My hands were shaking on the wheel, this was unsafe and I was stuck traveling uphill with a washed out section that lay ahead, looking detrimental. I got as close as I could to the right (mountainside) and began to try a pivot, but once my back wheel grabbed the silt and loose dirt the car began to pull and turn sideways. It was lifting the back tire and right side of the car into the dirt mound. I stopped. Saying “holy shit, holy shit, holy shit, holy shit, what do I do?!” out loud. I turned off the car and sat with my hands shaking on the wheel, sweating and my voice shaking as I tried to come up with a plan. “
Mind you, there are only 6 of these yurts in all of Boise National Forest and the 2,203,703 acres that make it up. The sun was about to go down within the next few hours and I was deep into this dirt road at least 2 miles, not to mention the 55 miles it was back to “town”.
“The car was tilted so much to the left I was petrified of flipping it, as there was a cliff to my left as well. I began to tear up. I had no idea what to do. I wiped away some tears, took a deep breath, pulled my parking break and opened the car door. The car was so tilted, the door slammed into the ground. I grabbed a fully packed bag with clothes, the taco that I had bought at a rest stop 100 miles back and the keys. I pulled out my phone and attempted to dial 911 without service. No luck. I started down the path yelling “Hello, I need help. Please help me!” at the top of my lungs for about a solid mile. Sandy, steep, rocky and terrifying I hightailed it back down the path to the road, the whole time wondering how my car ever made it as far as it did. My bag was so heavy, but I had made it to the main road. Walking up the winding mountain road I prayed to hear a car or see anyone driving this late in the day. Finally after my second mile someone passed by and pulled over. They explained that they couldn’t let me in their car, but they would wait until someone else come down the street so I wasn’t alone. I felt helpless. Then the second car arrived. A man and his two teenage daughters. He agreed to drive me to the tallest point in the mountain to try and get cell service, we did, no signal, no luck. I was upset and was trying to figure out how to get back 60 miles, with a 35 lb bag, before its dark through dangerous mountain roads full of predatory animals. The man made a decision that changed my life. He decided to add 100 miles to his drive to go set up camp, while it was still light out, to drive me back to Idaho Springs to the Sheriff’s office. He had told me if he didn’t drive me back, he wouldn’t have been able to sleep. He was excited to have a new story to tell, that I would have one as well and told me to not let this experience deter me from visiting Idaho again.”
I am forever grateful to this man and the Sheriff.
“As we headed back towards the station they tried to make small talk. The girls offered me water and Redvines. Once at the office, I thanked the man and waved goodbye. The door was locked. I rang the buzzer several times without any answer. Then a woman with a stern blank face walked up to the door. I explained my situation and she let me in and asked for my ID. I sat in a chair waiting for her to do a background check as I felt my phone start to buzz, buzz, buzz in my pocket. My phone had service in the station! Out of all of the texts pouring in, wondering why I hadn’t checked in for the day, the last one I saw was my sister Kelly’s. It read “Why haven’t you checked in? Were you eaten by a bear?” Without skipping a beat I called her, frantically trying to explain what happened, that I had found help, but could barely get the words out. She told me to stay with the sheriff and call me when I got the car and wished me luck.”
Sheriff B. Glenn. The woman of the century. This woman patrols a 108 mile stretch of winding mountain road, by herself. After having come out of retirement she put in 4 more years as sheriff to help out the small town she moved her and her husband to from Texas. She asked me what weapons I have on to me to defend myself from the bears, wolves and coyotes. Then she proceeded to toss a shotgun bag off the front seat to make room for me.
“We drove back 55 miles to where the dirt road was. We shot the shit about my trip, about Idaho Springs and it’s history with gold, the fact that my brother was an officer, all of the people she’s pulled off of this mountain. When we reached the road, she had pointed out that there are two roads for each number, one is a logging road, one is the road itself. I had gone up the logging road. In a large SUV, she went slow and steady, as there was not much room between the cliff edge and her tire. She said she had no idea how I made it up the cliff as far as I did in that tiny car. “You must’ve been motivated to get there, that’s for sure!” She got down in the dirt and found a place to hook my car and tow it off of the mountain side and have it on all four wheels again. Once we had it straight, she stood behind my car and told me step by step how to turn the wheel, break, turn, break, turn, break in reverse down about a mile, until I found a spot to turn around. She walked back up and miraculously backed her huge SUV down the road. We met at the main highway road and she asked me if I still wanted to stay at the yurt.
Sheriff Glenn had mentioned earlier that they were expecting a storm and that I would’ve been shit out of luck if the road washes out. I mentioned that I did, but not if the road was anything like the logging road. She informed me that it was still a steep, scary road, but nothing like what I just went up and down. I agreed and I went about 100 yards down the road and took the right I should’ve made. Through a few scary turns and we were at a big open area with a cliff and a gate. She got out and told me the yurt was under a mile hike down the road. I asked her for a photo, she hesitantly agreed and even offered called my sister Kelly when she returned to the station to let her know I was safe and at the yurt. She’d mentioned that the forecast didn’t call for rain until the morning, so as long as I was on the road at a reasonable time, I could avoid it.”
My sister still remembers this phone call like a scene from Fargo.
“I expected so much damage to the car, there had been only minor damage in areas that already were scratched. I waved goodbye to Sheriff Glenn, my hero, repacked my bag and headed to the yurt. My excitement and adrenaline was racing. Had today even happened?Was I dreaming? As I walked to the yurt it was a bold version of all of the photos and videos I’d been obsessively viewing, it was just as I’d expected. Once I spotted the shitter and the wood shed I knew I had arrived. It was a narrow path, with cliffs on both sides and in front of the yurt, which was on the edge of a cliff above the tree line.
I walked onto the deck and the view was eye-shattering. I was so happy I didn’t turn back. Filthy, exhausted and eager to relax I entered the code to the yurt, dropped off my gear and opened a beer.”
On this trip I had brought a blanket that has been in our family for about 40 years, we always referred to it as The Mexican Blanket. I tossed it over a bench and began writing this.
“I laid on that blanket and journaled for the next hour or so of sunlight. The birds out here were incredibly colored, as the sun set over the mountains to my right I knew I was really doing it. One week on the road and I’d survived. So much had happened already. I ate the old taco that I brought on my excursion and snapped several photos. I made up my bed and started a fire in the wood burning stove that is currently heating me gloriously. I’m caught up, totally beat and hitting the hay. Pray the wolves and bears don’t get me”