I get a phone call from my parents. “We’re trapped!” Hearing their frantic voices say those words made my stomach drop. Huge mud slides caused by the combination of torrential rains and extended drought trapped many people inside the little town of Frazier Park, Ca. After hanging up, I look at my wife and both her and I knew we had to rescue them
All I could feel was my heart beating out of my chest with anticipation as I step into my Jeep Wrangler. Ears perked to the radio, I knew the police had warned people that it was too dangerous to be driving and that police had closed roads. But I thought, “Lucky for me. I know a trail that can bypass all the police roadblocks.” So we turned off the freeway onto a small crumbling dirt road, just as the rain slowed… and ran right into a Land Rover sliding around a muddy corner.
Lighting flashed. Thunder hammered the air. How could such a familiar place, become so alien? Did I belong here? Was this too risky? My sense of adventure emboldens me though as I continue to press forward, splashing into every mud puddle we come across. I start to notice in the distance the gate that we must go through in order descend down the mountainous trail. Coming upon the gate my heart dropped, the US Forest Service locked the gate, the gate that stood between my wife and I, and being able to rescue my parents.
Up to that point the rain was very mild, just little drizzle here and there. I decide to get out of the vehicle, I feel the water drops falling from the trees and the smell of wet dirt fills my nose. I walk over to the gate to confirm that it is indeed locked. “Why is it locked?” I try to think of a solution, franticly looking back and forth along the gate and fence. I see that there is a gap just big enough to get my jeep around the gate and once again we are on our way to complete this rescue expedition. Down the trail we go; we start to see the effects of the rain with all the mini mudslides that cross our path which the Jeep handles without any problem.
Looking at the huge ravine with penetrating fog through the trees, everything is wet and still, what an incredible view. A peaceful spirit came on us, like our conquest is a righteous one. As we traverse on, very quickly heavy rain comes and starts to rush down the trail, and in my mind I was thinking about the possibility of being trapped by mud on this trail. I can hear the engine whine as we negotiate, the steep, windy, rocky trail. Going around the corner I see the police blockade in the valley below, so many cars stuck from people trying cross the thick muck.
Finally my wife and I get to the end of the trail, as we pass the house at the foot of the trail we see the home owner waving us down. I pull up to him and roll down my window, “There is no way you can get out, another mudslide took out our road.” Oh no, my wife looks at me with utter despair, going all this way just to get stuck. I continue on and sure enough, a 4 foot thick by 30 foot wide slide stood between us and the main highway. I notice on the other side of the mud, a red quad stuck up to the handle bars and a man trying to rig it with a chain. Through the wall of rain I see the man frantically waving at me. As I open my door I inspect the slide and notice that it was not moving. First step my foot is submerge in mud, next thing I know it the mud is at my waist but I continue to press forward.
Once getting to the man, he asks me if I could give him a hand with his quad. Looking at his chain and his 4wd I figure that I can trade help for help. “Not a problem, once I get you unstuck can you stick around just in case I can’t make it past the mud?” “Oh yea sure” he replies with a big grin. Sloshing through the mud, I look at the way he had his quad rigged. “Around the front right tire?!” I think to myself. Knowing that he would just rip that tire off, I change his rigging. I yell at him “When I wave at you start driving!” Acting as a counter balance, I give him the signal to go.
My ears are tuned into the revving of his engine, I begin to feel the quad move and tilt from the battle between mud and SUV. “IS THE QUAD IN NEUTRAL?!” he screams out. “YEA! KEEP GOING!” Inch by inch, foot by foot we go. Finally we get it out of the mud. The man runs over to me and thanks me for my help and I again ask him to stay just in case. I felt some relief when he agreed to stay. Making it back to the Jeep, my wife chuckling says “You’re filthy.” I start to smile but something stops it as quickly as it came. The man whom I helped was gone. He must of took off when I was trudging through the mud. I was starting to feel sick, “why did he leave?” “Honey, I’m not sure if I’m going to make it across.” I see the expression on my wife’s face when I said that, she’s scared. Taking a deep breath, I put the Jeep into 4-low, lock both axles, and begun to pray. “Are you ready?” I ask my wife. Her voice so comforting answers “Yes.” I floor it.
Hitting the mud feels like slamming into a brick wall, almost all our momentum being absorbed at impact. The engine whines in protest as I press forward, turning the steering wheel back and forth trying to gain what ever traction I could muster. Third of the way through, I enter the deepest part of this slimy abyss. My mind starts to rush around, every worst case scenario floods my psyche. My Jeep without mud tires, without a lift, and just bare bones is refusing to give up. Even though we where moving just a half a mile per hour our Jeep pressed on. Are we going to make it?
All of a sudden I feel the steering wheel jerk, the front end of our vehicle bounced up. Almost immediately the vehicle lounged forward from what I can tell was traction from a big rock. Two thirds in and this boost launched us to three quarters. The steering wheel then got stiff, we hit asphalt. Excitement came over me, I can feel the tears of joy coming down my cheek. “Almost out, almost there! Keep going!” my wife shouts. We made it.
Out of excitement we both shouted to the top of our lungs. Our stock Jeep did what we thought was impossible. Sitting there I was recalling in my mind what just happened. “Did that really just happen?” “Yes it did.” I pull onto the highway, I see all the people hunker down to wait out the slides. Finally we make it to my parents.