I spent a day and night in Buena Vista, Colorado, passing the time between a hotel room, a restaurant, and the local library. As I waited out the storm, I remember thinking about how there was a fine line between conquering one’s greatest fears and being stupid; it is sometimes a mistake to separate the two.
I reflected on making that error previously in my life:
Shifting the truck into four-wheel-drive, I decided to drive across a mountain during a blizzard. The roads were already coated with snow and a storm was bearing down on the switchbacks leading up to the top (as seen in the image above). I had the supplies to survive if I had to pull over, but a startling revelation hit me after I made it to the top -- I now had to drive down the other side, and it was in far worse condition.
Two men were standing at the top and were just about to close off the road down the other side. I was the last vehicle through. I shifted into low gear and began the descent. The road grade was incredibly steep on the other side with tight turns and few railings that weren’t already covered in deep snow. If the tires lost their grip, there would be no stopping what was going to happen. The truck would slide off the road, over the edge, and tumble who knows how many hundreds of feet with my supplies in it and me, too -- if I was unable to escape in time. The nightmarish tales I had heard about people being found dead in their vehicles who had run off the road and left no tracks behind began to hit me. But it was too late, there was no turning back.
I used the brakes as little as possible. My fingers gripped the steering wheel tightly as if at any moment traction would be lost. One bad move and it could mean death. Too much speed or too much pressure applied to the breaks and…. “Maybe.” I remembered telling myself, “I’m not cut out for this.”
Turn after sharp turn, blinding snow along with what I was beginning to feel was my increasing foolishness continued to worsen. It felt like hours before I finally made it to the bottom. Some cars on the other side were wisely turning around as I pulled over and shifted the truck back into two-wheel-drive before continuing on. The feeling of accomplishment was astounding, but the reality was that I was down right lucky not to have slid off the side of that mountain.
Back in the warm library in Buena Vista, my thoughts returned from that event. There are those moments in life where one can be defined by moving forward or turning back. I think if I had not crossed that mountain during the storm, I might not have had the courage to be making this journey now. That being said, it also gave me the wisdom of what not to do again.
The following day the skies cleared and I continued north through Leadville and on toward Wyoming. There was still a storm brewing, but this one was within me. I had seen the roadsigns over the years and a part of me feared this journey was merely a distraction. A truth was that grief had only been the surface of my internalized snowpack. Shockwaves were on the horizon, and an avalanche was in my future. My only hope was that this journey would give me the confidence to see it through.