The Day I Thought I Might Die On a Jeep Road
Updated: Oct 5, 2022
For a long time, my husband has wanted to take this forest road from Hwy 50 down to Carson City. We've been down it a little ways in the Land Cruiser, but after researching and talking with a friend who has taken his Jeep on the road, we didn't feel confident that it was the right type of road for the Land Cruiser.
So now that we have a Jeep, he decides that today is the day that we're taking this road down to Carson. (It's officially Kings Canyon Road.) As we enter the road from Hwy 50 near Spooner Summit, I catch a glimpse of a homemade sign posted and as we're driving past it, all I see is the word "rockslide." I mention it to my husband and he says, "Yeah, there's a rockslide. Should we go back and read it?" And I said, "Yeah, maybe." Except that he continues driving.
We start down the road and it's a bit snowy at first with a few icy spots until we get down to lower elevation where it's more muddy and wet/sloppy and some ice. We did stop and park at a couple of pretty overlooks and take some photos.
We came across several "water crossings" with a small creek flowing over the road. Not a huge deal. But then we arrive at "the rockslide." My husband stops and parks the Jeep, gets out, and walks several hundred feet ahead to investigate the area. He comes back to the Jeep, only he doesn't get back in. He comes to the passenger side and motions for me to open my window.
"You're going to drive. I'm going to direct you."
"This was not part of the plan when you told me what we were doing today. I do not feel comfortable driving. What if I break something or get stuck?"
"You're not going to break anything. This is the best way to get across the rockslide."
Mind you, this Jeep is brand-new. Now its future is entirely in my hands. No pressure.
My heart is pounding. I get out and make my way over to the driver's side, get in, make seat adjustments, and open both windows so I can hear him better... or maybe hear something break better.
He starts directing me with hand signals and I give it my best, but still extremely tentative. You see, there are large rocks I'm driving over and around and trying not to get stuck in the dips or hung up or scrape anything or get high-centered. Oh, and then there's the chance that I'll give it too much gas and I'll find myself and the Jeep over the edge of the cliff below the road. No pressure. So, I'm concentrating hard on balancing accuracy and control while building and using enough momentum to get over the rocks, but not too much that I end up over the edge of the road.
We spend probably 10 or 15 minutes working together to navigate over the rockslide. I had to back up a few times and attempt again, but luckily I didn't get fully stuck or break anything. At this point, I thought (we both thought) we were in the clear for the rest of the route.
A little farther down from the rockslide was a huge washout with very steep approach and departure angles and a creek at the bottom washout "pit" in between. To our left is close trees on the mountainside and to our right is a cliff drop-off with more trees and bushes.
The abrupt downhill directly in front of us wasn't too bad, but it was so steep, the hook on our back bumper caught behind us. The abrupt uphill in front of us was layers of mud, 2 inches of ice, and snow. With the abruptness on both sides of this washout, and the slippery surface on the uphill side, using momentum to get up and over the other side was going to be a challenge.
The first two attempts we were not in 4WD, so we didn't get very far up the uphill side and all we did was slip and slide, edging ever closer to the drop-off cliff. At this point, I was nearly in full-on panic mode, thinking we are either going to get seriously stuck in the washout or we are going to slide off the edge and down the cliff, possibly even rolling the Jeep. Either way, getting stuck. Once again, my heart is racing, it feels like it's going to explode. Even more than when I was driving over the rockslide.
Both of the times we had to back down for another attempt, the hook on our back bumper collided with the earth behind us. Third time was the charm, but mostly because we put it in 4WD. Somehow, we were able to get enough traction and momentum to get the Jeep up and over the slippery uphill side. We still did slip and slide some and easily could have gone over the edge, but at some point, Thank God, we got over the top.
From there, I was so ready to be done with this trip. All of this stress just to drive to Carson City to pick up an order at Lowe's. Too much.
Perhaps the saving grace of this stressful trip was getting out to take a short hike up to Kings Canyon Waterfall at the end of the Jeep road. Hiking to something beautiful like a waterfall can do wonders for stress relief! And waterfalls are one of my favorite natural features to hike to. It was a pleasant surprise to see water still flowing this time of year, too.
Update: A few days after our off-road excursion, my husband saw a post on Facebook from a guy who got his GMC Sonoma pick-up truck stuck in the same washout area where we almost got stuck in the Jeep. And in that same post, the poster said he can see a black Jeep Wrangler stuck in the trees down the cliff, as well. (That Jeep required a bulldozer to get rescued.) Since then, we've seen photos of a total of 4 vehicles that have gotten stuck in that same area. And someone has now posted a large homemade spray-painted sign warning of icy conditions. Part of me feels vindicated by this fact, knowing that maybe I wasn't overreacting that day! We got dang lucky.