Monday, January 30, 2012

One Year Ago Today: Almost Stuck!

The day was dark with rain and snow, but we headed out anyway, thinking that we could visit the museum in the small town of Cherry Creek in eastern Nevada. We made our first stop on the side of the road to check out this large antelope herd. Antelope can often be spotted between McGill and old Schellbourne Station.
Cherry Creek, the town, is located on the eastern range front of the Cherry Creek Range, where Cherry Creek, the creek, comes out of a small gap in the mountains. Structurally, Cherry Creek looks like it's situated where the north Egan Range runs into the Cherry Creek Range, but the northern end of the Egan Range as named is located in Egan Canyon, the next gap to the south (MSRMaps location showing the regional Basin and Range structure).

That's State Route 489 (above) cutting across Steptoe Valley toward Cherry Creek. The parallel white lines along the road in the center of the valley are patches of snow; standing water can be seen south of the paved road. This possibly intermittent lake or wetlands has recently appeared to be contiguous with Goshute Lake several miles to the north. (This year's so far extra-dry winter might have changed the extent of the southern wetlands.)
This is most of the small community of Cherry Creek. The museum wasn't open, the light was flat and dark, and we didn't spend much time looking around.
It could be a nice place to live, if you like beautiful scenery, out-of-the-way places, and long drives to market.
We hightailed it back to the center of the valley, where we decided to drive south along the historic Nevada Northern Railway to check out a boxcar or other railroad-related artifact we could see off in the distance. The road was well graveled and dry to begin with; the yellow line in the Google Earth image above shows our traverse from the paved road southward.
We made it about 600 or 700 yards before deciding not to go any farther. At this point, the road was turning into a watery mudhole, with no end in sight. In fact, we'd already driven breathlessly and unwittingly through mud we initially couldn't see the end of, and we had come to this short semi-dry spot. The rail, just off to the left in those prickly bushes, prevented any turnaround options, so I decided to back out.
Backing out meant going through a long stretch I shouldn't have driven through in the first place, but had started into before I could stop, then kept going through while hoping for a break in the mud and a turnaround spot. You can see the closest mud hole easily, a second, even larger hole beyond that, and a hidden muddy spot between the two more obvious holes.
Looking at this after driving backwards through it, makes it look pretty tame, but the truck kept getting pulled sideways into the deeper parts of my own tracks, while I tried to stay to the side on the dryer ground right next to the bushes. Consequently, we experienced a bit of fishtailing, and my dual tracks look like a mess of incompetent driving.
Backing up even farther, the road looked good as we went in, just slightly muddy.

Mud is a deceptive thing to try to drive through. Often, one can see a weakly muddy road ambling off in the distance, and this light mud goes on far enough ahead that one can easily get started into what turns suddenly, or gradually, into heavy-duty, very slippery, or deep mud. Getting out and walking an unfamiliar road is recommended, but one usually only walks so far ahead before deciding that the coast is clear: let's go ahead and drive! Incipient or weak mud might suck you in (so to speak), then suddenly, just around the corner: OMG! You're suddenly stuck if you stop, maybe not stuck if you keep going, or maybe staggeringly stuck far from solid ground if you keep going.

If stuck in winter, waiting until the big freeze early in the morning can be one way of getting out. Sometimes a longer waiting period (say months until spring or summer) is required, along with heavy equipment (a D-8 or D-9 dozer). With all the large bushes along our road, we would have been able to build a road under and behind my truck; this procedure often requires multiple jackings-up of the truck (jacking-ups?).

We weren't far from a routinely traveled road, so if badly stuck we could have walked out (in miserable weather) and hoped that whoever we flagged down could have rustled up a dozer: mechanized extraction is easier, though more costly, than building a road by hand. Overall, my getting stuck preferences include better weather (not too hot, not too cold), and I much prefer to be paid to get stuck and unstuck — rather than to be doing it on my own time — a preference come to by many years of off-roading as part of my job.
After backing through the mud, I finally reached a wide point in the road and turned the truck back to the north. An old pump house from the historic Cherry Creek Station is mostly hidden behind the truck; the remains of the water tower can be seen to the right.
We didn't spend much time looking at the base of the water tower at Cherry Creek Station. Maybe we'll go back someday, preferably when the sun is out!


Utemike said...

Cherry Creek gets a mention in a fun book of old days and old ways in mining camps, "Deep Enough"

Seems appropos to this post as well....

Silver Fox said...

That's a good book I've got lying around at home somewhere, and it may be worth reading again!