Some lessons are better taught in real life. I have always lectured my son on every aspect of dealing with crisis, my biggest rule which came from learning to scuba dive is never to panic. Once you panic you lose all logic and one small mistake becomes many larger blunders.
A wonderful day on the road, we ended up later in the afternoon than we planned at the bottom of the lower falls in Yosemite National Park, our only disappointment was not being able to walk the six hour round trip hike to the upper falls. We had just sat and watched a herd of mule deer start their spring ritual of courtship. Both of us had that feeling like it doesn’t get much better than this. After aborting the idea of the six hour hike we climbed the rocks at the lower falls-I stressed myself concerned about him falling off the rocks and once he disappeared behind the rocks he could tell I was not happy and starting to feel that uncomfortable distance between us.
It was time to get on the road, we were driving to an amazing place in Inyo National Forest-a cabin, the high sierras in the back yard, privacy and a new place to hike and maybe even fish. We started out just about dusk, again, it was later than I would have preferred to leave. My son is great at navigation and with his new Iphone he really took over the task. I had forgotten to tell him that the eastern pass was closed for the season-my first mistake. We began driving and noticed some of the terrain was familiar-not the direction we were supposed to be going so after fifteen minutes of navigating through the winding mountain roads it was time to turn around. More time had passed and now I was getting increasingly uncomfortable as the light was getting dim.
I was driving over hills and around caverns and realized that we were getting higher into the mountains. I was not comfortable as with the altitude the presence of snow and ice was increasing. I was sure some ranger had forgotten to close the gate for the season and was at that very time closing us off in the treacherous mountain pass without chains. I had visions of us spending our vacation stuck in some remote road hoping some one would find us. The more snow I saw the more uncomfortable it was getting and the quieter him and I became. There is a silence that suddenly grows between you and you can feel the tension growing as the light dims and the roads get icier.
One problem with being out in the middle of the mountains was a lack of service so as we were navigating with his phone we were getting to realize we had no idea where we were or where we were headed as the signs got less common as we continued deeper into the mountain range. We were both starting to snap at each other as our fatigue grew and the tension increased to a fever pitch. After driving for the last thirty minutes we had decided by looking at a map we could barely read we were heading the wrong way. It was actually a Godsent as if we had ended up in the right direction we would have been heading for the pass that was closed.
Suddenly to bring all of the tension and the confusion to a final pinnacle, enter two deer. Both deer came out of nowhere and in slow motion-I veered to the left and they veered to the right. It was one of those rare moments when man and mother nature enjoyed mutual cooperation. I think I was much more in panic than the deer and I felt that having avoided a major hazard that could have changed our whole vacation it was time to stop and regroup.
I slowed down, instead of going back the other way, we decided to keep going to the nearest town and after hopefully getting some service and finding the charger for his now almost dead phone we would eat and regroup. In an instance, I was doing as I had always preached, instead of reacting and continuing to get more and more tense, we slowed down and methodically made good decisions that would make a bad situation better. We ate really good pizza in a small restraunt, had coffee for the long night ahead and got a grasp on the situation. Because of the closed passes we would have to drive six hours to get to where we needed to go, around a mountain range and through a state forest.
I made the best decision I could make for the situation-find the nearest hotel, relax, eat and get a good night sleep. So I paid for a cabin six hours away and one of the more expensive hotels but it was so worth it. We ended up experiencing a wonderful night sleep in a circa 1800 gold rush hotel, having a wonderful breakfast and living to drive another day. Several things we learned-in a trip through the mountains don’t take passes for granted-they close during the winter months. Be flexible and have a secondary plan, If your going to nearly hit deer make sure they are cooperative deer that don’t panic and the biggest rule of all is don’t panic.