I don't think I have ever really had a moment in my life before where real disaster was a genuine possibility. Real disaster being death or serious injury. This afternoon me and Rose had that feeling.. and Im not just being dramatic when I say that. I will backtrack and explain.
After a lazy morning of resting and reading, the sun finally came out and Rose suggested we go snowmobiling. We started to walk to where you hire them but realised that was inpractical as the sidewalks were all mounded up with massive snow from the snow plows that come through each morning. So we went back to the car and navigated our way through the slushy streets to the nearby town of Cle Elum.
There was a gorgeous lake here and everything seemed peachy. We hired a snowmobile without too much fuss (a bit too easily actually). As an afterthought they asked if we wanted any maps of the nearby trails, but I said no we would be fine (that came back to haunt us). We had just assumed the trails would be very well marked and wouldnt stray too far away from the rental company. Our first hour of snowmobiling was amazing. The views were incredible and we were having so much fun. We didnt see one other snowmobile on the tracks that went all around a few mountains - which we thought was a bit odd.
After a while we stopped at an intersection and ate our chips and had a drink. We continued along the Bear Creek Loop which we assumed would loop around to the start, and life was good. After another 5 mins we hit the peak of a mountain and the tracks branched off into 2. Being a bit indecisive as to which one to take, I ended up a bit off trail and the snowmobile got bogged. They had given us instructions about what to do in this situation, and I dug away and did everything right - but because of the incline it was on, there was no way it was getting out.
This is when I started to panic a little bit. We still had about an 2 hours worth of daylight left, but there is no way we could have walked through the foot deep snow and got back down the way we came in that time. We knew however that staying with the snowmobile would be a disaster as conditions would cool down and we needed to keep on the move. Our phone had no network connection at this stage, so we couldnt ring anyone - and even if we could, I didnt have anyones number anyway. (or so I thought)
We made the decision to keep walking along the trail we were on, as it had to loop around eventually. We walked for over an hour, before we came to a sign that said 'danger do not continue - logging in progress'. This is when moral started to droop a bit. I had been trying to keep very calm and upbeat as I knew I needed to be, and Rose had been amazing - plowing through the snow like a true explorer. I suggested to walk back along the trail we had just walked for so long. At least the walking would keep us warm - and if we werent back by 6 they would come and look for us no doubt - so we had to keep on a main trail, that was the most important thing.
After what seemed like an eternity the light started to fade. My legs had just started to cramp, and snow was falling heavily. Every step I seemed to sink down to my knee. We just kept forward following our own footprints until darkness came. At this point we were still keeping calm, and saying things to gee us up. I even bellowed out the song 'thankyou lord for this fine day..'! Lots pf praying was also going on. When darkness came I got my phone out and miraculously I had reception (for one of the only times in the last few days). I had no phone number to ring so I rang 911. I was very excited when a lady answered. We had actually contacted someone! Reception kept breaking up and it was hard to communicate but praise the lord we managed to tell her where we rented the snow mobile and approx where we THOUGHT we were on the mountain. She put us through to a sherriff, and I spoke to him and told him all i knew. He said he would contact the rental company and they would start looking for us immediately. I told him the trail we thought we were on, and assumed he had heard this. He said he would be in contact at 6:30 if we had not been found by then. He also said to stay where we were on the trail and not move. This bit worried me as I know how cold Rose can get, and we needed to keep moving to keep circulation in our bodies. Especially with the dark clouds looming. A storm looked not far away. Thankfully we had our helmets and they kept our faces out of the elements quite well.
The waiting bit was hard. We knew they were looking for us - but as time went on, you start to doubt everything and wonder if we were on some far away trail that no one would know about. We waited about an hour, wiggling our toes, moving our legs and trying to cheer each other up. Rose had been amazing through it all, and I was just trying to mask my inner doubts and keep positive and strong. The moon came out from behind a cloud and seemed like a real answer to prayer for us. The whole area was lit up as if by floodlight. It gave us a real sense of peace. I soon rang back 911 and got onto the same Sherriff. Unfortunately the phone kept breaking up however and I couldnt really find out what was happening. I hung up on him as my battery was getting flat and I knew we might need the phone later on.
So we waited some more. By this time my feet which had been so far kept warm thanks to Grants great Christmas present had started to feel numb, and I could tell Rose was really starting to feel the cold as a strong wind blew up. We had been told there were black bears and mountain lions in the area - but I was trying not to think about that. Still no rev of a snow mobile engine, still no lights. After 10 minutes heavy dark clouds came over again and rain started falling. I tried yelling Cooo Eeee a few times but knew that wouldnt do much as the search party would have helmets and loud snowmobiles. We danced around a bit and did Ring a Ring a Rosie. Time seemed to be going so slow. Maybe that had given up? Maybe conditions were too bad for them to continue the search? We were about as inexperienced as can be in these conditions. If we had to stay the night, I have severe doubts if we would have made it unharmed. I had only worn a thin lycra top under my snow jacket. No other layers. And also no thermals. So I was definitely not set for a night in the open on a snowy, stormy mountain. And I know from experience how cold Rose gets. I really did not want her getting hypothermia.
Lights! Engine Revs!!! Coming towards us! Coming VERY fast towards us. He almost hit us before he saw us and slowed down to a halt. We had been found! We hopped on his snowmobile and held on for dear life as he sped back down the mountain. (nearly as scary as the previous 4 hours!) When we arrived back at the rental place, they gave us a hot mocha and were really nice. They said they would pick up the snowmobile tomorrow. They told us that the search and rescue teams from the Sherriffs office had been mobilised from a nearby town and were ready to join in the search. We were both still in a bit of shock, but chatted a bit to some of the people from the rental company. They said that the Sherriff had told them that we didnt know what trail we were on or where we were!! I had told him the trail we thought we were on (and i was right it turns out) but maybe that was when the phone was breaking up.
Not to worry - we were safe. We couldnt stop thanking God on the drive back to the house. When we got back, we got into the outdoor hot tub (spa) and it was just incredible. The clouds had gone away and the moon was full and shining on us. We were safe, in a lovely warm spa, and SO SO thankful. What a day of extremes. The rental people had said no one had ever got stuck up their at night in 8 years. They also said a huge mountain lion had been spotted in the exact spot where we had been shivering for so long. One thing that blew me away was how brave and strong Rose was. This was the first time she had even seen snow. It must have been so scary for her. She didnt panic though, and that helped me to keep nice and calm also.
It felt funny, lying in the spa - so removed from the potential disaster, and talking about what a cool story it will be. The coolest story Ive ever been involved in!