It's been a long winter, and we were itching to get out and explore Blue Mountain. We also had some caches to check on, so we planned for today to go out, check on our caches and have some fun in the mountains (aka find some trails). We packed up a pic-nic lunch after breakfast and headed for the hills. Blue Mountain is just south west of Missoula, MT and so it didn't take any time to get to the bottom of the mountain. There are numerous recreational activities on Blue Mountain, like folf in the Summer and sledding in the winter, but those areas of the mountain are right near the bottom and are usually full.
The real fun starts further up past the observatory (about nine miles from the bottom of the mountain). Usually the gate to the observatory is closed, but when we came upon it today, it was open! We were excited to get up there, but were soon stopped by the ice and snow covered road. Normally, a little slipping and sliding would be no big deal, but when you only have three feet on either side of the trail to play with, you take fewer chances. We plowed through one snowy section and the rear end of the Jeep slid sideways so we didn't continue on, decided that discretion was the better part of valor in this case, and backed out. Then we continued up Blue Mountain road towards the Woodman Saddle, an intersection of dirt roads that are used by the Forest Service and utility companies to maintain their areas. We didn't actually make it to the Saddle.
A few miles beyond the Observatory turn off, we came upon another part of the road that was snow and ice covered, but the road was wide enough to plow through. Our adventure was detoured by the sight of a red Dodge 4x4 perched precariously on the wet, muddy, edge of the trail. We stopped a safe distance away and went to investigate the truck and to see if we could render assistance.
The truck was empty and there was no contact information visible. It was dangerously close to sliding over the edge and down the ravine. It wouldn't have slid TOO far (maybe 50 feet), but it very well could have rolled over a couple times on the way and made for a very bad day for someone. We looked around the Dodge, with "Got God" plates, and decided that without the owner there, we couldn't really do anything. We could stabilize it with the Jeep, but we had no way of knowing when the owner would be back. It was a tough decision to make because the ground was getting softer and more saturated with water from the runoff and the Dodge was slowly (very very slowly) slipping down the embankment. While we watched it, we could see and hear that the rear driver's side tire was slowly lifting out of the mud and off the ground.
We had wanted to go around the Dodge, but decided that it was too dangerous. If the back end slipped, like it had before, we could have bumped the Dodge, sealing it to "Total Loss" insurance claim and a HUGE recovery bill. Instead, we went back down the mountain about one-half mile and found a nice spot for lunch on top of a small hill. I left a note in our Jeep window in case the Dodge owner came back and happened to see it. Then we went and found a Geocache nearby and returned to the Jeep. Just to be certain we couldn't help, we decided to go check on the Dodge before heading home.
When we got back to the Dodge, there was another truck nearby and some people walking back from imperiled Dodge. I got out of the Jeep to see if they were with the stuck truck - and they were. The first thing they asked was whether or not we could give them a hand with our Jeep and winch. We agreed to help and moved the Jeep into position on some clear (not icy and snowy, but still muddy) ground behind the Dodge and hooked the winch up. My wife pointed out that they should probably stabilize the front end of the Dodge to an uphill tree, but they decided not to.
When I started to pull the Dodge back, the front end started to slide. THEN they decided that it might be wise to stabilize the front end to an uphill tree with some tow ropes. The Dodge owner first attached the ropes to his truck onto something behind the tire ("A" bracket?). My wife told them it wasn't a good place to attach the ropes to, but again, they knew best. With the truck stabilized, we winched backwards a few inches and realized we needed to move the stabilization point because the tow rope was putting a lot of forward stress on the front driver's side tire. The frame didn't have any good spot to attach a hook to, but I had the tow cluster in the Jeep too and was able to use that to hook the tow ropes up to some holes in his frame. With the Dodge stabilized, we just started winching it back. The Jeep slipped a little, so we stabilized it too. It was a bit worrisome at some points because the Dodge seemed almost certain to be heading over the edge. I was also concerned that it might try and take the Jeep with it, but, there were no other options (and I was ready to put the winch in free-spooling if I needed to).
(My wife's "told you so" look when they decided to stabilize the front of the Dodge and there is a similar one when they moved the attachment point).
After some scary moments, we finally got it back on solid ground. It was able to drive down the mountain under its own power. Today the mountain lost a Dodge meal, and the Commander once again comes out on top.
The Flying Spaghetti Monster saves the day!
How'd he get in that predicament?
For whatever reason, he tried to go up the trail at midnight on Saturday. He got stuck in the snow and when we tried to back out he slid across the road and to the edge. I don't know how he got down the mountain.