Day 148: Elephant Butte Lake State Park, NM
Sunny and cold.
Bosque Del Apache National Wildlife Refuge was an hour’s drive up the road. We got there around 10 AM. We did a drive through the wetlands and saw thousands of sandhill cranes, ducks, geese, and a bald eagle. Perhaps if we had more time to really explore we would’ve seen more wildlife. Or if we had been there earlier in the day. There are supposed to be wild cats and deer and javelina. It was just… nice.
Terror on ice
We drove into a nightmare and should’ve checked the conditions beforehand.
We were happily driving north past Albuquerque into Santa Fe. It was a sunny afternoon. Santa Fe was so pretty, with all of the adobe buildings. The temperature was in the 40s. When we got into town, we saw piles of snow around the buildings. It was so pretty.
We continued past town, following Google maps, to Hyde Memorial State Park, where we planned on camping. The road began to wind through tall pine trees covered with snow, and started to go uphill.
Several cars coming from the opposite direction were flashing their lights at us.
“What’s that about?” asked Jen.
“There’s a cop down the hill or an accident,” said Tom.
Around the next curve there was a young man standing alongside of the road. He was waving his arms for us to slow down. We stopped and asked him what was going on. He said, “There’s a truck in the ditch. It’s really slippery down around the corner! Go slow.“
The road was really slippery. We saw the truck in the snow on the right, rocking back-and-forth in the air, and it finally got onto the road. Two young women were standing in the road waiting to get back into the truck. While the truck was waiting for them, we started sliding towards it. We couldn’t stop!
“Tell him I can’t stop!” Tom warned the girls that the truck had to keep moving or we would hit it. So the truck went down a little ways, turned around, picked up its passengers and drove away.
We were creeping along with nowhere to pull over and nowhere to turn around. The road was covered with patches of ice from melting snow, curving, going up and up and up, with trees on both sides of it now. Around the next curve on the next uphill slope there was a Prius sideways in the road. A young man was standing next to the car and Tom asked him what the heck they were doing. They were trying to turn the Prius around and go back down the hill. That took them some time as they were in an awkward position. We were worried that they would slide down the hill into us while we waited for them.
In the meantime, a car like a Dodge Charger snaked between us and the Prius and kept on going up the hill, moving sideways much of the time. Finally, the Prius made its way downhill and we sat there for several moments, trying to figure out what to do. We were one and a half miles from Hyde State Park.
The whole time I was praying to God and Tom was thinking about what to do. I called 911 for help, but we had no phone service. Tom tried driving forward, but the wheels would only spin and the van drifted towards the ditch. Finally he decided to turn Arvi around and go back down the hill.
This was a marvelous feat of driving on Tom’s part. He only went back-and-forth a couple times and down the hill we were going. I had my foot on the passenger brake, praying, and asking him to slow down the whole time. Mind you, he really wasn’t going very fast at all.
My thinking while calling 911 was that we couldn’t go forward or backward and would end up spending the night there unless someone came and helped us out of there. The other possibility was, if we made it to Hyde State Park, we would ask them to get us some chains so that we can go back down the next day when the sun was at its highest over the road. The temperature while we were doing all this was 33° and we were over 8000 feet up.
We made it back to town, found an RV park, and took some deep breaths.
We winterized Arvi at this point (in the dark) and that took us maybe an hour. This means that we put antifreeze in all of the water lines and waste lines. We won’t be able to use the water in Arvi now, until we flush the antifreeze out and put fresh water in. We will keep it this way until we are out of freezing temperatures, hopefully just a couple of days.
Since we are here in Santa Fe, we plan on looking at some historical spots tomorrow in town, and then hightailing it out of here before the weather gets worse Tuesday and Wednesday. We will go south. Not sure where though.
Today’s experience was worse than the Bear Day in Alaska on August 31 because the tension lasted much, much longer – almost an hour. Looking back at the bear incident, the tension was only seconds long, as the bears ran past us, but the repercussions could’ve been worse – we could’ve been killed. In this ice incident, the worst could have been that we were stuck on that hill and spending the night, and another car hitting us and damaging Arvi or us. We are thankful and thanking God to be unscathed and sitting in our warm camper as we write this.