I Left it All on China Wall

China Wall

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Being a Jeep lover and an adrenaline junkie it should come as no surprise my eyes lit up when I heard our Jeep dealership sponsored Jeep Trail Rides periodically throughout the year. They would pick the trail, send the invite and lead the rally to the 4 wheeling adventure of the day. The best part was they would then carefully lead you through the steps of breaking in your Jeep on a real deal jaw breaking 4-wheel drive trail Colorado Style. White knuckling was considered just part of the initiation process for me.

China Wall is one of those trails that if you are a newbie can seem fairly intimidating and depending on the amount of snow received in the previous winter or the power of the spring run offs, the rocky, rutted and steeply angled trail can leave the more faint at heart trembling. The day we tackled it was rougher than normal according to a few Jeep veterans, but by then we were committed because the trail is so narrow once you start you can’t really go back until you have done the scary stuff.

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There must have been 30 Jeeps that day all creeping along the trail like an army of ants dutifully following a leader. One by one we took a deep breath and putting the game for anything Wrangler in 4 wheel drive Low I excitedly pushed the gas pedal and took my turn. This was it, now I was committed, like it or not, now I had to push on no matter what came next.

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Anticipation can be a good thing and a bad thing. That day it was a bit of both for me! This was what I’d always wanted to do, and this was a perfect way to test the waters so to speak, but like anything else that you have never done before, I had a case of the nervous jitters anyway. I had recruited my youngest daughter as my adventure co-pilot that day, she was torn between admitting she was excited, maintaining her teenager life- is-so-boring stance, and a tad of fear that she was with her mother instead of her father for this particular adventure. When I took one last look at her before we started the steep assent up China Wall I thought I could see fear in her eyes, I grinned and faked a round of rousing confidence and said, “Here goes nothing!”

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I don’t think I convinced her I had things under control exactly. Nevertheless, onward we drove. Up, up, and up.

On the right the trail dropped very suddenly into a deep gully. The trail was only one vehicle wide, very rocky and with a Jeep Wrangler suspension we bounced up and down, right and left and everything in-between. Rowdy, the Golden Retriever hung out in the back and seemed to be enjoying the rib, rattling ride up more than anyone else, but then again, he’s a Golden Retriever and is game for anything!

The steeper it went the rougher it got. With no idea what to expect next and knowing I was totally committed to following through, if only because there was no earthly way to turn around and go back at this point, I was like a fighter pilot on full alert, half scared to death, and half excited like a kid waiting for Santa!

At the top of the first stretch things calmed down a bit, the trail wound around the Aspens and Ponderosa Pines, but at least here you could see more than the spare tire of the Jeep in front of you so you could get some perspective.

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I relaxed and took it all in including a deep breath of fresh mountain air. Feeling instantly more confident, it was about at this point in the adventure I started feeling pretty proud of myself for jumping into something I’d always wanted to do, but had never gotten around to actually doing! Even more pleased with myself because I was doing this one on my own with out having the comfort of my very capable husband by my side. Under normal circumstances, he’d be here and he’d be driving, which would allow me to just sit back and enjoy the ride and not worry about all those pesky details like not leaving the bottom of the Wrangler on the trail or God forbid roll the thing and crush the life out of my child and myself! But reality was wicked and he was out of state working a new job and if I was going to do this I was going to have to pull out those dusty big girl panties and just do it myself. With confidence oozing out of every pore by now, I felt good! “Life was good! Would you just look at me and what I am doing,” I thought.

About then things took a dramatic turn for real. Suddenly, the cute little caravan of Jeep Wranglers came to a quick stop. There were big boulders on all sides of us and the trail had been snaking up and around for quite awhile. I waited. Soon curiosity got the better of me and I jumped out and snapped a few cool pictures to prove I really did this badass trail. As the curiosity started to take over I wandered up the trail, passing a half dozen or more Jeeps all waiting patiently for whatever came next.

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Then I saw it. Right there in front of me the trail took a sharp ninety-degree turn to the right and then just dropped. Before my wondering eyes I could see a dozen of the Jeep dealership staff all standing around on various sides of the trail helping guide and direct the poor sap whose turn it was, as he tried to navigate the simultaneous turn and drop of the trail. To complicate matters, there had been a lot of run off that spring and the trail was deeply washed away and rutted, leaving huge rocks exposed right in the middle of the road.

Each driver had to carefully position their vehicle at the start in just the right spot so that when they inched forward the vehicle could both clear the nasty rock below them and still be in a spot so that when the Jeep rocked forward it did not fall into the next series of rocks. The men on the side would squat down and watch the Jeep as it inched it forward bit by bit until it finally cleared one hurdle and pushed on to make it past the next one.

“Holy crap!” I apologize for the language but that is honestly all I could think at this point. Suddenly, my big idea to go 4-wheeling in the mountains seemed about the stupidest thing I had ever come up with. Desperately I looked around for a way out.

There was none. Jeeps were lined up before mine as far as I could see and as far behind as I could see. I scanned the crowd for a sympathetic face. Maybe someone would do this for me? Mostly I saw my own fear reflected back at me in the other drivers, but a couple of the more seasoned drivers just grinned an ornery grin back at me and one even laughed and told me everything would be just fine, ya right!

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I watched in horror as the six Jeeps before me all inched their way past the obstacle. Some did better than others, many of them sounded like they were leaving thousands of dollars of variously important Jeep parts behind as they scraped along the rock. I swear one even looked like it was going to roll over because the driver got too far to the right side.

The moment came, I had no choice to but to assume my position in the drivers seat and pull forward. My daughter was speechless as reality set in for her, hell even the dog layed down, as if he couldn’t bear to see what was coming next.

When my beautiful black Wrangler with only 25,000 miles on it took the lead spot I was pretty sure there would be nothing left of it by the time this day ended. Motherhood responsibilities took over and I kicked my daughter out and made her stand on the sidelines, presumably to take the pictures, but honestly, I viewed it as my last show of love for a child who would soon be motherless! At least I would save my baby!

I stuck my head out the window and did a hasty confession to the Jeep staffer charged with motivating me to push the accelerator and launch my own death fall.

“Um, hi, I um, have no idea what the HELL I am doing! Are you sure I have to go this way? “ I uttered as fast as I could.

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“You will be just fine. Just follow my signals and only watch me,” he answered. I looked around. I could suddenly see a potential problem. A dozen men stood all around me ready to offer helpful advice. “Just watch him,” I repeated to my self.

Deep breath, ok, I tentatively pushed the gas. Nothing happened because the tires were up against rocks and I had not given the vehicle enough juice to go up and get on the first rock. I tried again, still very fearful to give it too much gas and launch myself like a rocket to a surefire death.

It took about a half dozen tries with my eyes locked into whomever he was standing beside me waving me on. Finally, the Jeep lurched up and forward and I instantly hit the breaks.

“Turn the wheels all the way this way,” he said. I complied.

“Now go forward until I say stop” he said. I complied.

Then my stomach hit the floor, I think Rowdy passed out, and I threw up a little in my mouth, because all of a sudden the Jeep rocked forward and to the right. My right wheel had dropped into the vast hole between the big boulders. As this happened, my back rear tire went airborne. I was certain this was it. My husband was going to kill me once he found out what I was doing. Then it dawned on me it wouldn’t matter because I was already going to be dead!

“It’s ok,” mister whoever he was said from behind me.

I am sure the look on my face was priceless about now because I could not figure out how in the HELL things were ok right now! Eyes as wide as saucers I stared at him, ready to bolt like a scared deer, if I could only figure out what way to go.

“You just need to give it gas now. You might here a scraping sound, but I will tell you if you need to stop. OK?” Mystery man directed me.

With no other option in sight I complied, but to say I might hear a scraping sound is putting it mildly. I heard only ear shattering, this must be expensive as hell scrapping sounds for what seemed like hours as my Jeep crept forward.

Finally after what seemed a lifetime I heard what’s his name say enthusiastically “You did it!”

“I did? Really? Are you sure? Did I mess anything up on my Jeep?” I asked.

“No you are good, I swear!” He grinned back at me!

Wave after wave of relief washed over me! I searched the crowd for my daughter and found her riveted to the sidelines. I am pretty sure she will never admit it but I hope secretly she was even just a tiny bit impressed at what she witnessed me do that day because I was scared to death and I did it anyway!

Another bucket list adventure for the books for me, but the lesson learned is that no great thing ever came from my comfort zone. I was the only female that day driving and I realized just how scary life could be when you can’t see what’s ahead in life, but maybe that’s the way it is supposed to be. When I think back on this day, if I had known what I had to do to get past that part of the trail, I know darn well I would have chickened out. Because the trail and life don’t work that way though, once I made the commitment and get on the trail in the drivers seat, I had to keep going even through the unknown parts where I had butterflies in my stomach and even when I could finally see the biggest fear I had to face. Just commit and do it.

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So my friend, what’s next on your list?

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