Our time at Vogel has come finally come to a close. Leaving Vogel was full of mixed feelings.
The long, cold, wet winter had us dreaming of a change and looking forward to new adventures at Black Rock. But in the last week or two the sun had begun to shine more, the flowers were beginning to bloom, the weather was getting warmer, and we were reminded of why we loved the place so much. Winter has a way of dulling the shine of a beautiful landscape and, though the snow and frost provided a fresh perspective of the beautiful landscape some days, Vogel was not immune to harshness of a long, grey winter.
Now that spring is upon us, we found ourselves a little saddened to leave our home of almost 6 months. The staff at Vogel have become like family to us and made us feel so welcome. There were even mornings where I couldn’t get Junior to get into the golf cart for our morning ride to the Visitor’s center until I said “wanna go see Miss Terri or Mikayla?” At this he would grin, nod, and climb in eagerly. We’ll miss our catch ups with the friendly maintenance crew and passing the time with them just shooting the breeze. I’ll miss strapping Junior into the backpack carrier and taking long walks around the lake and through the many trails.
But all good things must come to an end, and though we are saddened to leave, we are also anxious to leave behind the throngs of city folks ignorantly endangering the area. We’re excited for what’s ahead.
Friday night we sat by the fire talking about our plans to leave the next day – a venture which has not exactly gone smoothly or to plan for us in the past. Moving always brings a certain level of anxiety. Will we forget anything? Will we be able to time it all right with Junior’s schedule? Will we forget to close something or do something to the camper before we leave that will result in disaster?
Don’t even get me started on the drive to Black Rock. The narrow, winding, STEEP road up was enough to give me a panic attack on our last visit there a couple of weeks ago. Luckily, we are staying at the maintenance unit, which is nearer to the bottom of the mountain. This means we don’t even have to attempt about 60% of the hellacious drive up the mountain, a fact that makes it easier to remain calm about the move.
Saturday morning was moving day and, against all the odds and expectations of my husband, I managed to rise at 7:30am. Neither of us are morning people. In fact, our marriage is based on a firm understanding that we just shouldn’t communicate with each other before I’ve had coffee and Chris has had an energy drink. Life is just better that way. But on Saturday we managed a very not unpleasant morning with no arguments or stress. We put Home Alone on for the kid and set about our duties – I packed up and cleaned inside while Chris packed up outside.
Miraculously, and again against the expectations of my dear husband, we pulled out of Vogel at 11:52am – bang on schedule. It was just in time, too, as the hoards of vacationers who refuse to stay at home during the pandemic were pouring in by the dozens. We said a quick goodbye to the rangers who were out directing traffic, and went on our way.
As mentioned in previous posts, when we travel we use two way radios. Chris drives the Ram with the camper in tow, and I drive my old Chevy that Chris uses for a work truck with his small utility trailer in tow. I led the way to warn of any obstructions, sharp curves, or steep grade ahead.
This all went remarkably well. It was a clear, sunny day with a gentle breeze but no strong cross winds. We chose our timing and route based on avoiding traffic and it went to plan. Until we got about 100 yards from our destination, that is.
The road to the maintenance complex at Black Rock is a mostly gravel road about 300 yards long. Being ahead of Chris, I pulled into the complex first and breathed a sigh of relief and allowed the excitement of setting up at our new home to set in. Then Chris, still coming up the road behind me, came over the radio, “I’m stuck.”
“Ok, I’m coming. What’s up?” I parked the truck, jumped out, and went running back down the road to assist him. Radio silence. “Talk to me, are you ok?”
The small loose gravel on the road, the steep gradient, and the 6,500 lbs trailer with a steep drop off to one side and a ditch on the other created a very bad situation. I ran as fast as I could in crocs with no socks on, cussing my horrible choice of footwear (in general, but particularly for this undertaking). I turned the corner to see the truck, wheels cocked to one side, slowly sliding back down the hill. The road curved gently to the left behind Chris and gently to the right in front of him. Sliding straight back with no control meant sliding straight off the side of the road into the 100 ft drop off.
I dug deep to find the calmest voice I could and assessed the situation quickly.
“Ok, just stop for a second.” Sound advice, Rachael.
“My foot is on the brake, I’m sliding, I can’t stop, there’s no traction!”
Finally the sliding ceased for a moment and the truck and camper came to rest. But ahead of the tires was several feet of deep, pea-sized gravel and there was no hope of gaining traction on it with that big of a load in tow. So I told Chris he’d have to just give in to the slide a little and that a few feet behind his tires there was some more solid ground. If he could get to that and bring the rig to a halt then he could try again to make a run up the hill. I could see the frustration oozing out of him and he was trying not to panic. He slid back another foot or two then tried again to no avail – the tires were spinning and he began sliding again, edging closer to the curve and drop-off behind him.
“Alright, I’m going to run back and guide you backwards. Your only hope here is to go back about 10 feet and get behind these ruts. Once you’re on solid ground you’re going to have to steer to the right and make another run up the hill. You can do it if you stay to the right.”
Chris put his head in his hands. Visibility from the drivers seat was minimal, so I was his only eyes and he had to not only trust me to guide him, but hope that when I said “stop” he could actually stop.
“Ok.” He sighed heavily.
I ran to the back of the camper and became abundantly aware of the fact that I was downhill from a large, heavy, out of control vehicle. I swallowed hard, did a quick survey of the area around me for a somewhat safe place to bail to in the event that the following maneuver went south, and gave Chris the OK to start coming backwards.
As soon as I did, the truck began sliding again. I heard Chris’ voice come through the radio, “I’m sliding”, the anxiety was rising. He had about 10 feet before he reached the edge of the road, and the edge of the mountain.
“It’s ok, you’re clear back here, just straighten the wheel and try your best to control it.” More sound advice.
“I CAN’T CONTROL IT. I CAN’T TURN THE WHEEL. I’M STUCK.” Right. Of course.
8 feet now.
“OK, well your fine back here, plenty of room.” That’s about the best I could muster for reassurance.
“Yep, keep coming.”
Should I tell him to stop now in case we need a couple of feet to allow for more sliding?
The truck stopped and didn’t slide. We both let out a little breath. He now had a few feet of solid ground ahead of him which would hopefully allow him to gain the traction and speed he needed to get up the hill.
I ran ahead and reminded him to stay to the right, and gave him some more stellar words of encouragement and advice that he had clearly now come to depend upon. He rolled his eyes, swallowed hard, I gave him a nod, and off he went. The truck slowly began to pull forward, groaning and creaking under the weight of the camper. As the tires hit the gravel they began to spin.
“Keep going, keep going!”
The tires tried desperately to gain traction on the loose ground, spinning then rolling forward, then slipping again. Inch by inch Chris managed to gain enough ground to get over the treacherous gravel ruts and finally onto the solid ground and up the hill. I cheered and began running up the hill after him, again cursing my crocs and lack of fitness.
We finally pulled safely into the maintenance complex around 2pm and, with a few minutes of wiggling, got the camper set and leveled, and hugged each other tightly. We took a few minutes to celebrate and just breathe – both of which were well-deserved.
We looked around at our new home. It was a modest site and significantly different from our site at Vogel.
The complex is about an acre in size with a chainlink fence wrapping all the way around. There’s a large two-story metal warehouse building to the right, and a large open metal barn up the gentle, grassy slope to the left which houses tractors and other heavy machinery. Behind the warehouse, near the fence line, is the 40x20ft gravel pad that we now call home. While it may not be beautiful or picturesque, what our humble home base lacks in eye-candy, it makes up for in commodities and convenience.
The lack of neighbors is a beautiful thing. With maintenance only working 3 days a week, there’s minimal interaction with other people at our new home unless we seek it out. Furthermore, the fence provides security against runaway children or dogs, and extra security for our home when we leave. The big bonus for me is the laundry facilities (no quarters required), full kitchen, and full bathroom just 10 feet from our camper inside the warehouse building for which we have access whenever we want. This means free laundry with nor restrictions on when we can use it, and all the long, hot showers we can swing a cat at – a welcome break from the 7 minute military showers in the camper.
To top the list off, it has cable TV – something that we did pretty well without but are glad to have it back – is only a quick 5 minute drive into town, and is actually closer to the lake than the campground. Plus, we’re only a short 3-4 minute drive up the mountain from the many trails and beautiful vistas from the top.
Numerous factors (which I will go into in greater detail in a later post) make this park much quieter than Vogel, so we hope to enjoy a somewhat easier time of managing the hosting duties. It’s also located in the county that we hope to one day settle in, so it gives us a chance to explore it more closely – assuming that the pandemic issue will be somewhat under control by the end of June.
We are excited about our new set up. Junior and Devon are perhaps the most excited. With a grassy hill for them to play on and lay around on, both have found that there are major benefits to our new abode. As for Chris and I, well we’re just glad we’re not retrieving all of our stuff from a smashed up camper at the bottom of a mountain.