One of the things we said we’d do when we moved out here was explore all the roads and trails and towns and lakes, so this winter when we saw how cold it was and how much we needed AWD we bought the RAV4. I immediately put giant off-road tires on it, because I’m a man. So those morning I woke up and decided we should scope out three little lakes on the East side, which would mean forestry service roads and backcountry trails. I wasn’t prepared for what came next. I’m downing a beer now trying to come back to reality.

So, we followed a general purpose, wide and smooth gravel forestry road that started almost right on the edge of town. We could do 70 or so, nice and fast enough, but slow enough to avoid errant rocks and ditches. Lake 1, so far so good.

We continued up the mountain to the next lake, full of campers and giant lifted 4x4s and county music. Next!

The next lake was off the main road, on my GPS trail map it turned from solid orange to dotted orange, I figured that meant it was a decommissioned or 1 lane access road. Well, it was until the 3rd lake.

Then it narrowed a bit and there was a culvert dug out across it. I wasn’t sure if it was just washout from rain or spring thaw, so we gently coaxed the car truck SUV CUV whatever the hell this stupid thing is, across it gently and successfully.

The next one was bigger, but doable. Although I had to scope it out first in person, and figured the best angle to avoid pivoting or grounding the back bumper. Good, we made it.

We crossed the next 30 or so and every time I thought, hmmmmmmmmmmmmm.

But I didn’t hmmmmmmm hard enough. Now the purposefully dug out culverts (meant to stop idiots like me?) were replaced by genuine stretches of washed out downhill sections of terror. I went down the first without much thought, or rather thinking “this must be over soon”. Oh no. How completely wrong I was. Suddenly it was an Apolo 13 mission.

The trails got steeper, the washouts worse. Now I had to legit plan out every rock, every ditch, for fear of getting stuck or busting something underneath. Soon we were at the point of no return. Look, this isn’t a real 4×4. I know this. It did stupendously well, but we were going downhill on these spooky sections. The trail was now so steep and narrow that I’d never be able to climb up. Going down is one thing, but going up, the wheels bounce off rocks, the car slides when the wheels spin, there’s no more careful planning, it’s usually chaos going uphill. And there was a lot of uphill. We had to keep going.

Really, there was no turning back.

So Anita would get out and plan routes, I’d avoid getting the side of the car impaled on a rock outcrop or driving over a boulder that would have is landing on the frame, or puncturing on a sharp tip. Hour after hour. One stretch at a time. Pee break after pee break. Erik was really freaked out and just sank into the back seat with headphones on and eyes closed. No joke, I honestly thought I’d completely fucked us.

Then the worst, steepest part of the trail came up. It was one washed out switchback after another, steep as hell but with a great view of town. I mean, great if you’re in a plane but we were in a family car on the side of a mountain heading into a stupidly deep valley. Look at this, 4000 feet to 800.

See that dotted orange trail? That cliff at the bottom left where it goes back and forth, it was hard to walk up, nevermind drive down.

But clearly I’m alive, we made it. Suddenly a house appeared, the last house on the dirt road out of town. We went straight to the ice cream hut for Erik, then the beer store for me. Tonight we picnic at the beach. I’m spent.

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