January 2012 in the Poconos

My brother has this lovely hunting cabin in Upstate PA, on the side of a mountain. It’s about a 2.5 mile dirt road leading back to it, into the woods. We decided we would go up in January of 2012, when they were expecting 1-2 inches of snow. Now I only had a Ford Fiesta at the time, with 4 of us squeezed into it. We got up there the night before the snow started, with my buddy and his GF supposed to be coming in his pickup truck later that night. Since he had the pickup truck, he was going to grab the heating kerosene, the gasoline for the generators, and food for us. We thoughtfully only had room for liquor, and the regular equipment one needs to make the cabin nice.

So we’re up at the cabin, drinking and enjoying the cold weather, smoking some pipes and whatnot when the snow starts coming down lightly from the pitch black sky, only illuminated by the sparking fire we had built. We walk up the mountain a bit to call my buddy in the pickup to find out how far out he was. His response? “I can’t come.” Well shit, drunk Kyle talked to his buddy Drunk Bailey and decided to stop drinking, and wake-up super early before the snow hit too bad to go into town to get supplies.

*cut to 6am the next morning, Dawn is lightly rising over the mountain with the snow still gently falling, nearing 4-6 inches deep now*

Bailey and myself trudge out in the snow, and into the go-kart that is a Ford Fiesta. We manage to get it out for the 2.5 dirt road that twists and winds along the edge of the mountain. On our left is the forest, to our right is a hill so steep that you can look right down into the valley and see the snow building, thicker and thicker by the moment, steadily building it’s ice fortress over the landscape. We leave the 2 girls that came with us behind, sleeping in the cabin, burning the last of the heating kerosene. Silently we curse our friend with his Pickup truck, safe and warm at his home, sleeping in.

In town we buy 10 gallons of kerosene, 5 gallons of gasoline and numerous groceries. Bacon and Eggs top our list. We silently pull out of the town and start heading for the mountain, silently watching the road, and seeing the snow building up on the windshield between wipes of the blade.

 

We start the approach to the mountain, barely creeping along the mountain roads at 5 or 10 miles a hour, hearing the snow compact under my tiny tires. We decide to take the direct approach, the steeper, nearer side of the mountain. We cross the Lehigh River bridge, a tiny affair this far north along the Lehigh’s banks, and stop. Bailey asks me why I would stop here, at the bottom of the hill. I explain that I had not touched the brake pedal, but rather, the snow was too thick. The tires turned uselessly against the thick blanket of ice.

As Bailey swears, I shift the car into reverse and he steps out to push. Backing up and turning around. We take the long pass, around the bottom of the mountain, losing precious time against the building blanket of snow. Slowly we begin the trek up the far side of the mountain. We paused at the very peak. The great breath before the risky ride down the mountain and to the entrance to the dirt road. Bailey thinks we’re all-clear. I know the dirt road is the challenge that lies ahead.

The car slides smoothly down the patch of ice. Not too shabby for a little car. It’s light weight makes it ride on top of the snow, instead of the treacherous ice beneath. I slow down to a crawl as we approach the gate. Bailey hops out and opens it quickly, hoping I can break through the thicker wall of snow left on the roadside, and up the short hill onto the road.

I don’t.

We audibly curse the pickup truck friend, our voices booming across the valley as we trudge in the snow. We have 2 options. Do we allow the ladies to pack up what they can and trudge 2.5 miles out to use? Or we do carry 15 gallons of fuel and tons of groceries in through the snow? I light a pipe as Bailey and I both realize what the next few hours are going to be like. The snow starts to come down in thick, sticky flakes. My fleece jacket once black and green starts to blend in with the valley around us. I curse one final time and spit into the snow leaving a tiny hole. I open the trunk and grab the kerosene and put them by the gate. Bailey takes the rest, and we quickly manuever the car as far off the icy road as we can. I have a 5 gallon sealed bucket in each hand. The snow becomes so thick, that the tops of each quickly become obscured by the snow. We trudge forward, in 8 inches of thick, wet snow.

We quickly push through the first mile in about 45 minutes. During which we curse our pickup truck friend, contemplate the danger of smoking a pipe while carrying 10 gallons of kerosene, and feel our fingers start to burn from carrying over 40 pounds in each hand by wire handles. Soon we stop to catch our breath when Bailey says he sees something ahead. I brush it off to a possum or skunk. The snow is coming down so thick and so fast that it’s hard to see more than 50 feet in any direction. I tamp my pipe and crudely make a harness to hold one of the kerosene tanks over my shoulder like a large messenger bag.

We start trudging forward again, until we come to the turn that Bailey saw some movement. I look around in the snow and bushes expecting to see a family of possums bundled together against the storm. Instead I find a large depression in the snow: a large kidney bean shape with 4 smaller ovals in front. As big as my hand. I sweat a little depsite the cold. There’s a black bear somewhere near us. I realize the situation as we’re cold, tired, overburdened , trudging through the snow – and we can barely see the road in the distance. I take a long draw of my pipe, and hold it. We have no options, so we continue the cold, wet march. I keep a buck knife strapped to my hip while at the cabin. I unsnap it, in case a hungry bear comes nearby.

2 hours of nervously looking over our shoulder later, we see the cabin in the distance, and what appears to be smoke behind it. We make the final approach, and drop the fuel and food, exhausted. The girls started a fire, and it burns so hot that the snow is melting and turning to steam in a large dome. Bailey and I refill the heaters and change into dry clothes as the girls start cooking.

We both eat our eggs inside, sitting nex to the heaters.

Later that night we stroll out to the pond at top of the hill. It’s frozen solid, and the snow just stopped. We cautiosly stroll out to the middle of the pond and lay on our backs, each smoking a cigar, a pipe, a cigarette…. staring at the most amazingly clear sky. The trees around the pond stand seem to loom over us, pitch black compared to the glowing night sky. I smile, and close my eyes; Not seeing the stars as they are, but as I’ll always remember them.

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