Fear and Loathing (and Terror) Off the Grid

| 4/6/2011 9:24:56 AM

Sometimes I get scared. I’m probably not scared of the same things as most people, or at least not city people. I’m not scared of zombies, although I should be. Instead, living in the country and heating with wood and making scrounging a part of my day to day existence, I often find myself in situations way outside of my comfort zone. Certainly my city comfort zone.

I wish I was more like my neighbor Ken Gorter. This man is fearless. Not only did he spend most of his life in prison, working in prisons that is, to get to work he used to drive down the California Road. No one seems to know why it’s called the California Road since it doesn’t take you to California, and it really shouldn’t be called a “road” because it’s more of horse trail. Ken used to drive his rear-wheel-drive “Lada” on it, heading to work, 12 months of the year. He kept a chainsaw in his car to cut any trees that had fallen across the road and he often encountered bears, as well as rushing water on his trips. It’s ten miles of abandoned, desolate, trail with no houses or human beings. I bet Ken would have been playing his radio and singing at the top of his lungs as he drove it.

Ken’s house is at the top of a hill. His wife Alyce owns horses and every week or two she is gracious enough to let me haul away a trailer full of horse manure for my garden. In the snow-less months this is no problem. During the snowy months though it can be a challenge. The trailer is in a tough spot to get to, but I can usually maneuver my truck in to get it. Getting out is another issue. There is a hill up from the barn, then there’s the hill down to the road. This hill is pretty steep and at the bottom there is a culvert with a beautiful beaver pond-fed stream flowing underneath it. In the winter as the snow gets packed down it gets pretty icy. Sometimes it can be really icy, and sometimes it can be glare ice. The challenge is that once you get to the bottom you then have another smaller hill to get back up on to the road. Ideally you should have some momentum when you hit the little bridge if you hope to get up the other side. Especially since I’m hauling a trailer that can be a pretty big drag on the truck.

winter stream 

If I don’t make it up that hill the options aren’t good. I have to try and back down to the lower spot and this isn’t easy with a load of manure. So on those days I’ve got to run the ice bridge gauntlet. Oh it’s not like I’m freebasing, but if things don’t go well, it’s gonna mess up the rest of my day. These photos show what happened one night during an ice storm when Ken arrived home and didn’t have the momentum to make it up the hill to the house. This is what I’m usually thinking about when I race over the ice bridge with a loaded truck and trailer.


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