There are times in life when you have to face the fact you are totally, royally screwed. There is a look you give the person you are with – a nonverbal exchange that says, “There is no easy fix here, we’re going to have to get creative and there’s probably going to be some heavy lifting involved…” In my case, the cohort usually says, “You’re going to write about this aren’t you?” And of course I am already thinking about taking the accompanying photos. As Claudio says, “It didn’t happen if you don’t have the pictures…”
Last weekend I went up north with Annie, a longtime friend who lives in Michigan, to stay at Ross’s cabin on Six Mile Lake. This is a trip I orchestrated: a novice’s half-baked attempt at implementing the suggestion to “get out” and “meet people”. After three straight hours of talking, Annie and I arrived in East Jordan, a place where “river, lake and friendly people meet” according to their web page, and I gave Suri the address.
Ross, apparently one of the “friendly people” of East Jordan, had left the cabin unlocked for two women he barely knew more than thirty years ago. For some reason, when the GPS began to spit out directions I decided they were too far away and wrong. Instead, we pulled into an E Z Mart and went old school – asking a nice man pumping gas how to get to the right road. It was all, “Go over the bridge and east of the hill on the left and around the dogleg,” and both Annie and I tuned out after a while (missing the part where he told us the road the cabin was on wound around the entire county with parts of it impassable until Spring). He even escorted us to the beginning of the labyrinth, where he and his wife waved exuberantly, as if we were leaving for war…
We started up the dirt track and as it steepened, it became muddier and snowier. There was a sign that said, “Seasonal Road”. We decided to take our guide’s suggestion to backtrack, go hither and yon, and pick up the road on the other side of the hill. When we found ourselves at yet another impasse, I decided once again to ignore modern technology and instead asked two children with plastic sleds where we were. There was more pointing and doglegs and left at the red barn where the road bends…
We called Ross, a County Parks and Recreation director who should have (with all due respect) understood we were hell-bent on disaster, when we said in tandem on speaker phone, “It’s really, really muddy Ross.” He said distractedly (thinking we were on the correct part of the serpentine), “It’s always muddy this time of year, just go ahead until you see the red house on the left.”
At this point it was like the scene in the Poseidon Adventure where desperate people listen to the guy who insists that down is up… I think I said, “The road looked better on the first part.” We drove back and Annie gunned the motor of her Chevy Spark. As we crested the hill and went over (too fast to stop the madness) we did a sort of Fast and Furious liftoff, our mouths in cartoon O’s of shock. We were heading down a steep incline, the snow was two feet deep and wet cement with the only tracks from a monster truck, too wide to drive in. There was a valley at the bottom and another, steeper hill on the other side. There was no red house.
Annie did the only thing she could do – drove as fast as possible in a hopeless attempt to build enough speed to get us up the other hill – until we mired the Spark, nose down at the bottom. We spun our tires for a while and I got out and lifted the car (actually lifted it like those mothers who hoist gun safes off their children) and pushed until the pristine, untouched forest smelled like burnt rubber and adrenalin. That’s when we gave each other the look.
It’s weird, but Annie and I never felt afraid or anxious or even really inconvenienced. I assume Ross would not describe the scenario thusly, as we called him at work (again) with the bad news and after he asked a bunch of times, “Wait – you’re where?” he sent Gary. Gary was a jolly guy who lived five minutes away, with a truck and those tethers with hooks that are designed to drag Chevy Sparks backwards out of impossible situations.
While we waited for rescue, I hiked around and took pictures. It was one of those unbroken places sane people ride horses with saddlebags and provisions to visit. I’m sure we were/are the talk of the neighborhood – a sort of Children of the Corn, remote locale that probably doesn’t see many visitors even when the Spring comes.