The following story by Cloudcover is from a comment she wrote on an earlier post on this blog. I didn’t want readers to miss it, so I moved it here. In addition to being a great story, I know many folks never look at the comments from readers and this is a wonderful first person narrative about the treachery of mountain passes in Northern New Mexico…
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED november 2012
Last November around Veterans day, I, three of my kids and one of my kid’s friends piled into our pickup and took off on my 2nd treasure hunting trip. My first one was in october of 2011 and I had promised my mom that I wouldn’t go over the Tusas again until spring. So, when we left, nobody knew anything about it except for a short e-mail that I shot to Mr. Fenn on the day we took off. I had a particular country road in mind that was just begging to be explored by this up and coming treasure hunter. We made our way through the Jicarilla Aache reservation, through Chama, on to TA and then turning left towards Tres Piedras. The ride over the Tusas heading to my location was uneventful if you don’t count the spectacular scenery and breathtaking vistas that invade your sight around just about every bend and curve in the road. On other trips over these mountains, I have found myself up at the top late at night, pulled over at the side, outside of my vehicle just staring in awe at the brilliance of the stars whose numbers are so vast that you can almost feel the weight of them pressing down and threatening to crush such a seemingly insignificant creature as a solitary human being. Not that I’ve ever went alone on these trips, I’m too chicken for that. During hunting season in the fall, I never saw elk, but in the spring, drive carefully because they are everywhere up there.
Anyway, after making our way over the mountains, through Taos and stopping at the Vietnam Veterans memorial outside Angel Fire, we were finally nearing my road. We found it easily enough but wouldn’t you just know it. the road itself was on private land and the no trespassing signs were a reminder to me that even in the US, there are places I am not free to go in to. I wondered how much trouble I could get into if I went up the road but the sign saying violators will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law told me quite a bit so I didn’t do it.
After driving around a while, it started to snow a little and a decision was made to head back. There was snow in the canyon heading towards Taos but that was nothing compared to what awaited me in the Tusas. Tres Piedras looked allright, the road was wet but no snow, so we headed up. Everything seemed fine, the sun was even peeking out here and there as if to tell me there would be no problems. We climbed the mountain in my little truck and the sky darkened and became heavy, the air foggy and snow started to appear on the sides of the road. The weather had been busy since the drive through here earlier in the day. The road itself was fine so we kept climbing with no thought of turning around. Spots of snow and ice showed up in the road in ever increasing abundance and then the snow began. From the start, the snowflakes fell hard and thick and visibility was shortened to just a few car lengths in front of me. Other trucks,bigger, probably with four wheel drive and better tires plowed by me at normal speeds while I had slowed down considerably. The road had become snowpacked in frightenly short time. I was up too high already and places to turn around were few and far between. Besides, I couldn’t decide what was worse, turning around and sliding down the mountain or heading on up into the unknown. After thinking that we were past the point of no return anyways, I resigned myself to getting up and over this mountain. I hoped that I would see TA again. After a while, it really was dark, night was upon us and nobody passed us anymore. I knew we were almost at the top and was pretty sure where we were. At the spot where the road was exposed on both sides by huge valleys. The drop on the right(north side) must be at least a thousand feet before a falling vehicle would even hit anything. We were exposed to the wind here and it buffeted the truck violently on all sides. No guard rails, the road was not going around a curve, it was straight here. We were still climbing. And then the truck started sliding. Backwards. I know you are not supposed to hit the breaks when a car is sliding on ice but instinct made me do it anyway. The car slid more and now at a slant heading straight for the edge and all the while backwards.
Some of the kids in the back are asleep and don’t know what is going on but my daughter is awake and she stares with me in silence as the car slides. I start to cry and pray. I ask the blessed mother to plead with her son to save us because my kids don’t deserve to die because their mother is stupid. I force myself to take my foot off of the break against my better judgement as I was just sure the truck would only slide faster. The truck slowly started to right itself and as luck would have it, I had slid to a section that was flat and the truck stopped. Just in time too. The truck had mostly slid backwards along the road but was steadily, although slowly moving to the right and we were almost off the road and well, the shoulder wasn’t much to speak of and beyond the shoulder, the drop. After a few moments, I pressed the gas and the truck was moving again and climbing back up the way we had just slid down. I was surprised the vehicle would climb at all on that snow packed road going only five miles an hour but it did. We crept the rest of the way up and we crept down at the same speed. It took hours but I saw Tierra Amarilla again and knew the worst was over. I was grateful to get home to Farmington but treasure hunting fever has not left me and still lives in me a year later. I hope that I’m forgiven for my foolhardy choices and am not opposed to traveling in late fall and winter to treasure hunt, just not over the Tusas.