When we last left, we were sitting in the middle of the road, at 11 pm at night, on a blind curve with a stalled truck, just having attempted our first cow enema with a half-ton Dodge Dakota. The cattle were standing on the side of the road, with wide eyes and snorty plumes of warm air blowing from their nostrils. Poor cows. One moment they are having a nice little layabout, on warmed asphault, chewing cud and dreaming cow dreams. The next moment they are being harassed by a screeching loud, brightly lit monster.
We were so lucky we didn't end up with a cow hood ornament.
Inside the truck we were hysterical with laughter. Stuff was being said like, "I didn't ask for the anal probe!" or "Did you see that cow's butthole? It was all I could see." "I can't believe we got stopped without hitting them." and "OMG, I couldn't believe it when that cow slipped trying to get up." "All I was thinking was go cow! go!"
Tears were running down my face and I had a stitch in my side before I stopped laughing. There was a little voice in the back of my head screaming "You stupid bitch, that's what the sign meant! Open range = cows on the road." But overall, the release of adrenaline ran to the funny, not the angry.
T tried the truck motor and it turned over. That was a relief because it was a big truck and we were miles away from help. She pulled out of the middle of the road and we just sat for a few moments. She decided I should drive, since she was still shaking and feeling exhausted. We switched places and I started up the truck.
Remember, we were on our way to a camping spot T had been to once. We weren't sure where it was, but T thought she remembered the access road. I drove much slower than we had been until we crossed the other cattle guard and left the Open Range behind. As we got close to State Bridge, T had me slow down and just past the bridge was a forest service access road to the right. I turned onto it at T's bidding and we began to bump our way down this dirt road. About a hundred feet in, the grass and brush to the right of the truck disappeared, to be replaced by air. I could see the moonlight shining off the water a long way down.
It was about that point when I realized there was about six inches of edge to the right of the dirt ruts, and the ground to the left of the truck went straight up. Not only that but the road was constructed in such a way that the truck tilted slightly downhill, which was in the direction of the river. The Colorado River, to be exact. (I have knots in my shoulders and tension in my back remembering the drive.) We had gone about a hundred feet in when T said, "you are going to kill me tomorrow when you see where you are driving." I thought but didn't say that we might both die that night and then I wouldn't have to kill her.
We came to the washed out part of the access road. There was a merry little stream trickling it's way down the center and the roadway (if you can even call it that) curved into the hill. There wasn't more than four inches of extra space between the right side rut and an endless slide downward into the water. I crept across, being very specific about where the tire tracks were. As we were crossing the wash, T sucked in her breath. I said, "What?" very sharply. The last thing one wants to hear when driving something like that is a sharply inhaled breath. T said, "I'll tell you when we are down." Not really something I wanted to hear, but I certainly didn't need any more stress at that point.
Once we were across the wash, the road dipped downward toward the river. Once we hit level ground, and maneuvered our way to the campsite, I started to shake. We got camp set up and hit the sleeping bags.
When I woke up I couldn't believe the views. We were just off the river and very isolated. Fishing was great, but T was right, I wanted to kill her when I saw the road we drove in on. It was a very narrow track 150 feet above the water, sandwiched between a rock wall above and a rock wall below. Very little room for error. (On later trips to that spot, I had people get out of the vehicle and walk rather than ride inside on that road. Wimps.) At the spot where the curved through the washout, at the bottom of the cleft was a small stand of trees and a wrecked truck that had obviously gone off road and slid down the wash out and was left to rust in the trees, a few feet above the water.
I took a deep breath and went fishing. It took me a while to make my way down the bank of the river, treacherous with underbrush and washed up drift wood. Finally, I made my way to a sand bar that edged out into the river and began casting. An hour and a half later I caught my first trout since I was 12. It was decent sized and would make a great breakfast. I wanted to get back to camp and get it sizzling over the fire, but I really didn't want to struggle with the underbrush, so I strung the fish on a line and headed up the hill to the access road. It was a struggle, but once I got to the road, it was much easier.
I had taken maybe four steps when out of the underbrush moved a snake. It was about 12" long, about the diameter of my little finger and dusty brown. I thought, 'oh, look, a garter snake.' I watched it slither across the road and start up the very steep side of the mountain. My brain thought 'Oooooo, maybe I can catch it and take it back to camp and scare T with it.' Then my back brain thought, 'What if it's slimy and gross?' My brain thought, 'Oh, I know, I'll touch it first and see before trying to pick it up.'
I started tracking it's progress up the hillside, listening for it's movements, and finally caught sight of it just as it broke into a small patch of open hillside. I reached out and laid my finger on it's back just as it slid it's head under a flat piece of shale. That little fucker whipped out from under the rock faster than my eye could follow. My hand jerked away and I stared in terror as it wound itself into a coil, head poised to strike and it's soundless little tail trying to rattle behind it. I started to shake.
Another of my lives gone. (I think I am worse than a cat and was granted twelve.) A snake that small could have killed me, or at least made me very sick. Also, very thankful for whatever guardian angel stopped me from trying to pick it up.
The fish tasted yummy, though.