Sunday, November 16, 2014

Be Careful What You Ask For

Do any of you have an annoying relative who chooses to take anything you say, react as though it was a literal statement, and point out what’s wrong with what you said? Or take a perfectly understandable question and answer it literally? I’ve been known to act that way myself. As a joke with one friend I torment, whenever she asks if I think/want/know A or B. I’ll answer “yes” – as that logically answers the question (but, of course, provides no useful information.)

She takes great pleasure in turning the tables on me when I mistakenly ask her an OR question.

I am thinking the higher powers in charge of my life may have a touch of that same sense of humor.

I requested that we have some snow before we left our place in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and headed back to the Lowcountry of Georgia for winter. The first snowfall always lifts my spirits.

About a week before we were to leave we received a nice four-inch dusting. Enough to turn everything white, but not enough to hamper driving anywhere – which is an important consideration when we are fourteen miles of logging roads away from a county-maintained road. Indeed, I loved watching the snow come down and felt great that we were able to experience a touch of winter.

I should have thanked my overseers for that tasteful answer to my request, packed quickly and left.

But no. We had set November 13 as the date to leave camp and we kept it.

And then before we quite realized it, a major storm brewed. The National Weather Service set up a three-day storm watch. Snowfall of up to two feet was expected in my area (more along Lake Superior).

Jan and I have overwintered at our place. I have a Bobcat with a snowplow attachment—except I had already pulled the battery from “Bob” and the hydraulics weren’t operating. I reattached the battery but was going to have to rely on using the bucket to clear snow.

The storm was to start Monday morning and continue off and on through Wednesday morning. We were to leave on Thursday and did not have enough time to get everything done in order to leave before the storm hit.

Loggers are active in woods not too far from us, and normally by late Wednesday or early Thursday they would have made the roads passable to their jobs, leaving me maybe 2.5 miles of uncleared road for Bob and his bucket. It wouldn’t be much fun, but it would be doable. But this year rifle deer season opens on Saturday (yesterday 11/15) and, given the storm wasn’t going to end until Wednesday, there was a very good chance they wouldn’t bother taking care of the roads until after opening weekend – or later. (Pretty much the first week of deer season most of the logging shuts down because the guys are out at camp.)

Several years ago I was at a bridge tournament in Madison, WI in early December. Jan had come along, and we were snowed OUT. We had to get back in because we had left our cats in the house. I knew a guy (he had sawed the lumber for our floors and walls from trees off our property) with a snowplow attachment and had him clear a route in for us. He had to drive ten miles to get to where the roads needed clearing. He put his plow down and cleared about eight miles of road.

I thought about calling him this time, but I know some loggers who are working about six miles from my place (they worked my selective cut a few years back) and are going to be working past me later this winter and hauling logs over my property. During the start of the storm, I drove to where they were working and convinced them to make sure that I could get out.

And then the snow came. And came. And came. I used Bob to clear my driveway up to the road and counted on the loggers holding up their end of the bargain. Tuesday afternoon they arrived in a Skidder pulling a mechanism that packed down the snow and pushed the excess aside. We had our one-lane path out through about 14” of snow.

And the snow kept coming the rest of Tuesday and Wednesday, adding another four-five inches or so. But we have a Subaru with high wheel clearance and it soldiered us out on Thursday without incident. Almost.

With twelve miles behind us and two to go to the first maintained road we met a pickup. No loggers had plowed the road, but there had been some dragging done in spots and lots of traffic of hunters getting out to their camps, setting up bait piles, etc. I pulled over to the right and the pick-up pulled over to his right – too far to his right. He felt himself slip a bit and made the major mistake of not continuing forward and correcting back toward the better part of the road. He stopped and when he tried backing up, his front end sluiced off the road.

We tried digging him out. No go. Another pickup arrived with a chainsaw. We cut down several trees that were catching his tire and right front. No go. We tried a towrope to try to jerk him out. Nope. More people arrived. We tried jerking him out the other way and almost lost a second truck down the embankment. Now eight heads present (and seven vehicles in total were now in the area), we decided there was nothing to be done but call a tow truck with a winch. If the logging trucks had been running they could have hauled him out but, as I had predicted, they weren’t working again until after opening day.

So, we drove out—made it safely, although much later than expected. This experience has led some of my friends to question (yet again) my sanity in staying up north as late as we did.

But here’s the thing: Wednesday afternoon I was done with all the closing chores I could do, leaving only the final day’s tasks. That allowed me time for a marvelous snowshoe ramble through my woods. (Jan wants me to insert here that she was cleaning bathrooms and doing laundry…and I will do that since she’s reading over my shoulder. I will also mention that I was up two hours earlier than she in the morning…)

Mine were the only human tracks. I saw deer tracks going from one sheltered area to another, coyote or wolf tracks trotting down the road, squirrel runs between trees, mouse tracks, mole tunnels. The trees were covered with snow, and once away from the lake and the wind, it was so quiet outside I felt as though I had walked into an impressionist’s painting of winter.

And that experience made all the rest worthwhile.

But next time, I’ll try to be a bit more careful how I frame my wish.

~ Jim


E. B. Davis said...

Your pictures of the snow are beautiful, Jim. Had you not been trying to leave, I think you would have enjoyed the snow. I've heard that the storm affected many areas of the Midwest. Once you got out of your area, did you have any trouble traveling?

PS--I know the drill, Jan. Every time we leave the beach, I clean the entire house, change all the sheets, clean the bathrooms, and wash our beach truck. The environment is ripe for mold and fungus so being diligent protects your home. Salt corrosion eats away at metal so the beach truck, which is already rusting, must be thoroughly cleaned. In the long run, your work saves money and avoids big hassles. Kudos to you!

Warren Bull said...

It sounds like an adventure. Now you have a story you can tell your southern friends. They'll think of you as a modern pioneer.

Donnell Ann Bell said...

Jim, what kind of a camera did you use to take those photos. Those are incredible. But, hey, you did want to go snow-shoeing.

As for people taking everything you say literally or out of context, I had a bad habit of answering every statement someone said with, "Really?"

An old boyfriend would say, "No, I'm lying to you." That broke me of the habit, and needless to say he ended up being my ex-boyfriend.

Great post. Safe travels.

Jim Jackson said...

EB -- I fully enjoyed the snow. I always knew we would get out, the only question was when! By Thursday the main roads we traveled were in fine shape, so once we got to them we had no issues driving.

Donnell -- I took these pictures with my Nikon pocket camera (a P330) since I didn't want to schlep my big Nikon out while I was snowshoeing. The P330 has a "snow" mode, which I used for the first time. I suspect it adjusts the white balance. Whatever it did, it did it well.

~ Jim

Jim Jackson said...

Warren -- my southern friends mostly think of me as nuts.

~ Jim

KM Rockwood said...

Beautiful pictures!

A few years ago, our 4wd pickup slid off our own driveway into the woods. We had to get someone with a tractor to haul it out. Then we set off in it--only to discover at the first hill that the brake lines had been torn out and we couldn't stop. We did find a driveway that went uphill a bit and were able to turn around in it and get home. But we needed to have the truck towed in for brake repair.

Hope your weather adventures for the year are over! Enjoy your winter.

Jim Jackson said...

KM -- Your brake lines story reminds me of a few years ago when I drove my Ford Expedition through an area flooded by beavers. The car was a trooper and pulled right through the high water.

The first few times I tried the brakes, I thought they were still wet and that's why they weren't holding. Then after a couple of slow miles (this was in the woods heading toward camp) I pulled off and checked. Sure enough, beavie had left sticks in the water and one tore my brake line.

The next day I had to limp into town on back roads to get the brake line replaced.

~ Jim

Shari Randall said...

I was thinking how nuts you are to live so far from civilization and enjoy/endure all these auto related hardships, and then I see the last photo of your essay - ahhh! It's all worth it!
I hope Jan has her feet up with no major housekeeping in sight for a very long time.

Jim Jackson said...

Shari -- we all make trade-offs, don't we? Jan is currently relaxing at our friend's house reading a book. Unfortunately, there will be a bit of cleaning necessary when we reopen our place in Savannah. Despite no one being around for six months the place does need a bit of cleaning, but it's not nearly as time consuming as closing up.

~ Jim

Gloria Alden said...

Jim, those pictures are so gorgeous, I'd almost be willing to hibernate for the winter there, if I were you.
I actually don't mind being snowed in - although it's never as bad as what you had - because I like a good excuse to stay home as long as the electric and furnace is on.

Kara Cerise said...

What an adventure, Jim. I'm glad that you and Jan made it out okay. Your photos are gorgeous! There must be days when you would rather be outside enjoying nature instead of inside typing on your computer.

Pam De Voe said...

This is such a great story. I particularly loved the part with all you guys trying to help get that truck out: every guy coming along pitching in & all willing to try extreme methods. Really, you cut down 2 trees? The snow covered scene is impressive, yes, and the unwavering support of those people is also impressive.

Jim Jackson said...

Gloria -- We thoroughly enjoyed the 2006-7 winter we spent up at camp. I would do it again. I might have convinced Jan when Cincinnati was our "southern" home -- but I have no chance now that we winter in Savannah. ~ Jim

Jim Jackson said...

Kara -- During the winter months, the amount of daylight is small (9.5 hours now shrinking to slightly more than 8.5 hours at the winter solstice). That leaves plenty of time for writing in the dark and being outside during the light.

~ Jim

Jim Jackson said...

Pam -- One thing I have found true in every remote place is people will always stop to help other people. Usually when someone sees me jogging the back roads and someone sees me they'll stop to make sure everything is okay. If they know me, they'll stop to catch up on news and gossip -- which is the country aspect.

~ Jim