This was supposed to be a triumphant blog post. I had been writing it in my head all day. After my really scary near-death experience where I plunged down a steep hillside in my snowmobile (read more about that here), I decided to get back up on that horse, so to speak, and face my fear. (As a matter of fact, I planned to title the post, “I Got Back on the Horse!”)
Long story short, we went snowmobiling again.
It was a really beautiful day. The sun was shining, so the snow was sparkling like diamonds. I don’t know if my shoulder was aching because I was tense from the PTSD of the previous week’s scare, or if I was tense because my shoulder was aching, but I was really worried about my ability to control this 450 pound machine that had already proven to me that things can go very quickly south when it decides to have a mind of its own. So I was being extra careful.
But I was going to face my fear and emerge triumphant, by God! Even if it killed me. Hubris strikes again.
I actually did conquer that ridge. I rode up the other side of it and then down the 400 vertical feet of incline behind me. It was scary. My heart was pounding. But I did it. I did it! Afterward, my husband took this picture of me below. I was feeling all triumphant. That would have been the perfect end note for that planned blog post.
Sadly, that wasn’t the end of our day.
I was feeling all cocky, so when my husband offered to show me other parts of the Sno-Park that I had never seen, but that he’d been to about 50 times, I was all for it.
It was beautiful. Pristine, powdery snow. Mountain views. I was feeling so happy and alive.
I was following my husband up a track through some trees, and I lost sight of him as he went around a curve. I wasn’t more than a few seconds behind, but when I went around the curve, I still didn’t see him. And then I realized he was way off to the side, and he was on all fours in the snow, coughing. And his snowmobile was further on, wedged in the trees.
I stopped my snowmobile so abruptly that it stalled. I jumped off and started running toward him (if you can call stumbling through a foot of snow running). My mind was in a state of confusion.
“My God, are you okay?”
“It knocked the wind out of me.”
It seems that in that brief period when he was out of my sight, he hit a bump, and just as I did the previous week, he gripped the handlebars tightly, thus squeezing the throttle. The next thing he knew, he was airborne.
The snowmobile flew more than 25 feet and hit the trees. I know this for certain because I saw where the tracks disappeared from the snow. Fortunately, he was thrown (or he threw himself. He can’t remember.) off the snowmobile before it hit. But that also means that his 25 foot flight was abruptly terminated by hitting a tree himself. Thank God he was wearing a rigid safety vest.
So now, here we were, in the middle of nowhere, in the silent, snowy wilderness, in the late afternoon. Beautiful nature suddenly seemed a lot more deadly. This was bad.
Right, then. Time to get his snowmobile out of the trees.
It wouldn’t back out on its own. That would have been too easy. But every attempt to reverse dug the snowmobile deeper into the soft powdery snow that had been accumulating under the trees for weeks. And we had no rope, so we couldn’t tow it out. So we began to shovel the snow from around the smoking machine.
After an hour, we had only been able to drag it about 4 feet, but it still had to go another 8 before it would hit solid snow. I’m not very strong, and my husband seemed less super-heroic than usual. And the sun kept getting lower on the horizon. I was getting kind of nervous.
We had tried contacting people on the emergency radio, but we appeared to have the entire park to ourselves. That seemed like a good thing earlier in the day. Now it seemed like a very, very bad thing. Even if we had been able to get a cell phone signal, it would have been awfully hard to describe where we were, as we were off the established trail.
There was nothing for it. We were both going to have to ride out on my snowmobile, even though it wasn’t made for two people. I climbed on behind my husband, and had to hang on for dear life, leaning back at a severe angle. We hadn’t gone very far at all before I realized I was going to be in a lot of pain quite soon. This was going to be a long 10-mile slog.
I had been thinking about all the ways this could have been worse. He could have died or been impaled by a tree branch. He could have been knocked out. I’m not strong enough to pull the ripcord to start my snowmobile, so I couldn’t have gotten help. I had no idea where we were. I wouldn’t have been able to save him or contact anyone or walk out. We’d have frozen to death. I began to realize that I wasn’t a help in this instance. I was more of a liability. And that made me feel horrible. How could I have been that stupid?
While I was having all those awful thoughts, we came around yet another curve, and there were two beautiful, young, strong guys, sitting on their snowmobiles, having their lunch. I wanted to cry with relief.
They were able to dig Cris’ snowmobile out, and we were ready to go. But it was becoming increasingly apparent to me that my husband was a lot more hurt than he was letting on. He had been calm and collected the whole time, but I think he did that so that I wouldn’t freak out. He could no longer pull the cords to start our engines. Our heroes had to do that.
We were able to drive out of there, but I could tell that my husband was feeling every single bump of that 10 mile trek.
As soon as we got to the truck and manhandled the snowmobiles onto the trailer, we headed straight toward civilization, and finally, gratefully, to an emergency room, where I was promptly kicked out because of a fear of spreading COVID-19.
He was there for hours, and I couldn’t even hold his hand. We found out he had broken two ribs but had no internal injuries or bleeding. By the next day, he looked like I had beaten him with a baseball bat.
He has a 6-8 week recovery ahead of him, but he’s alive. No more snowmobiling for us. We have too much to live for.
A special thank you to Mike and Josh from North Bend, Washington, for saving our lives. I wish I had gotten their last names. Things would have been much worse if they hadn’t been there.
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7 thoughts on “The Fickle Finger of Fate”
https://crosscut.com/2020/03/natures-not-closed-during-coronavirus-should-you-still-go-hiking …or snowmobiling? I’m sure all the exhausted, overworked EMTs, nurses and doctors appreciate your decision to not take anymore unnecessary risks right now. So do I.
Very good point. And for what it’s worth, not that I’d want to repeat it, we had the entire emergency room to ourselves. People are actually using emergency rooms for emergencies for a change. I have a friend who works in one who says he’s bored silly. But I suspect that will be changing very quickly.
Thank you for the more detailed description of the incident, Cris provided a PG (parent-guarding) description that was not as exciting and harrowing as yours. Glad you both are safe, maybe not sound.
Trust Cris to put a positive spin on things!
That sounds like a harrowing experience. I’m glad you’re both ok.
Thanks. So am I!