I have a story from last March I wanted to share with you today:
When my kids were little we did a lot of stuff in the snow – sledding and tubing and snowmobiling. We also had a long drive, plus the truck garage parking lot area and that meant a lot of plowing, which, when you don’t have your driver’s license, is a lot of fun. (There are still holes in our garage where the boys misjudged the plow and tore back some siding.)
As they got older, one of my kids thought it was terrible that we’d never skied.
I had friends who did, but I always kinda felt like rich people skied. We did fun stuff instead. (And you know to a teenager, fun equals dangerous. : )
People who didn’t grow up in the mountains might not understand, but I’m going to try to explain…we had a state park not far from my home in Spruce Creek.
There was a steep dirt road that led up and over the mountain. It was cut into the mountain—on one side of the road, the mountain went straight up, and on the other side, it went straight down. No guardrails. It was a twisted road with switchbacks and U-turns that followed the side of the mountain around deep ravines.
There were trees, though, so on the occasion when someone ran off the road, they usually didn’t make it more than fifty yards or so down the steep mountainside before a tree stopped them. We saw more than a few cars over the side stopped against a tree over the years.
In the winter, there was no maintenance on that dirt road—basically, no one plowed it. You could go up at your own risk. And people did.
When it snows and you get six or more inches on a road like that, you can usually get traction the first couple of times you run over it, but eventually you pack it down and it becomes like ice. : )
On a sunny day, you might get a little bit of the top layer of that packed, icy snow melting which puts a little water over the ice, which reduces friction, and, holy man, can you get a runner sled to fly down that.
On a really good day, you had to walk up the side of the road because the road would be so icy you couldn’t stand on it, let alone walk. I always walked up the uphill side, because while the downhill side wasn’t a sheer drop-off, it was pretty close.
I think I mentioned the road was pretty twisted, and there weren’t any straight stretches until you got about halfway up where there was a spot that was straight for about a hundred yards. It moved into a sweeping right turn that followed a deep gully, and if you made it around that, a U-turn to the left hugged the mountain on one side with the gully on the other.
I know this is common knowledge to some of you, but you can’t steer a runner sled on ice. If it was really cold, you might be able to use your body weight and lean and kind of guide the sled. You can’t make sharp turns, but you can kind of angle around.
In Pennsylvania where I lived, this time of year is the best time to go, because the road will be nice and packed down, and with the warmer temps and higher angle of the sun, there will be a slick film of water on top.
We spent a lot of fun Sunday afternoons in late February and March sledding down the side of the mountain. You did have to watch for four-wheel-drive trucks and snowmobiles. They don’t want to stop on their way up, of course, because they most likely won’t get started again, and they’ll be going pretty fast so they can make it up.
Usually, one of us would be at the bottom and would yell if there was a vehicle coming. We didn’t always hear, though.
I met a truck once. It was coming up around the turn, and I was flying down the hill. I think he thought I was a little nuts (???), and I had some of the same feelings about him, and I saw a bit of my life flash before my eyes.
So, the way we stopped was to roll off the sled and into the drainage ditch on the uphill side of the road. You had to keep a hold of your sled, or it would skitter down off the edge and into the deep gully.
That’s what I did when I met the truck—rolled into the ditch.
Thankfully the truck missed me. He kept going, and I lay there and watched the rest of my life as it went by.
Usually when we rode down, we stayed on the uphill side where you could roll into the ditch, but I do remember once my little sister got too far out into the middle of the road, and she couldn’t lean herself back.
My little sister was pretty loud (she was), and when she realized she couldn’t make it back over to the side and that she most definitely wasn’t going to make it around the first turn, she started screaming.
She rolled off her sled, but she was pretty much going as fast off of it as on.
I admit, I did not run to her (the road was ice, and you can’t run on ice), but I did watch with horror, thinking she was going to die.
There was a little bit of snow along the edge of the road that hadn’t been packed down, and she dragged her toes as she slid into it. I guess that stopped her. Her sled did go over the edge, but even though she thought she was going to die, she didn’t let go of the rope of her sled.
She lay there for a bit, and we all stood still, kinda watching, you know how it is when something could have gone terribly wrong but didn’t?
So, you’d think we’d have all been scared and gone home, but like typical teens, it took us about thirty-five seconds of silence, then we were laughing about it and heading back up the mountain to do it again.
My kids have been skiing and snowboarding and ice skating and all those fun winter activities, but I never actually told them about the sledding down Colerain mountain. It was too dangerous. While my sisters and I had some common sense (Watson and my brother went too, but Watson can drive anything, even a sled, and my brother was heavily influenced by his sisters growing up), my boys would have killed themselves.
Alright, thank you so much for spending time with me today!
Hugs and love,