March 8, 2019
My courage is something that both grows and diminishes. It grows when I navigate through a situation where I feel fearful, and it diminishes when I give in to my worries and concerns and don’t even try to deal with something scary.
Moving out of the suburban environment of Silicon Valley and up to my new home up in the Sierra foothills has brought PLENTY of opportunities to confront fear. Fear of the unknown, fear of anticipated problems, fear of the forces of nature, fear of situations where I had no previous experience.
Crossing the creek is by FAR the biggest challenge for me. Yep, to get to my house, you go through a creek. Not OVER it on a bridge, but through it. As in driving your vehicle down the bank, into the water, across the rocks, and up the far bank to the dirt road.
Growing up in Oklahoma I never had to drive through a creek! We had them, but geeez, there were bridges across them! I learned how to drive in snow and on ice, and even through mud, I learned how to drive in torrential rain and high winds, but I never learned how to drive through bodies of water, let alone through ones with currents!
The first time I drove through, my fiancé Dave was quite confident that I could, in fact he hopped out to take a video of my first crossing. Of course once I was on the other side I had to put my Bronco in reverse and BACK through to pick him up! Ai yai yai. I remember feeling quite proud of myself, and grateful that he had given me the advice to just steer to the right, go slow, and keep moving.
Shortly after I moved in, the UPS driver showed me a video of the raging torrent that the creek had turned into in March of 2018. 4 feet high, and so full and fast that he decided not to go through (one of the few times, it turned out, that he wasn’t willing to take his big truck across the creek to deliver packages.)
I heard stories about another neighbor’s son getting stuck in the creek with his big, jacked up Ford truck, and having to be towed out by the Fire Department (which, incidentally, resulted in residents up here no longer being able to get fire insurance). GREAT.
Then a neighbor showed me videos of his sister trying to drive up the road in her 4-wheel-drive vehicle when it was icy, and he casually commented that when the weather was bad and the creek was up he and his family had had to get gas for their generator sent across the creek on a rope! Whaaaaaat???? This family has lived here for decades, yet they couldn’t cross the creek when they needed to? Yikes.
Dave dismissed those stories as hyperbole (my word, not his) and said my Bronco could go through 4 feet of water with no problems. I silently thought “Well, it could with YOU driving, but I have no idea how to do that!” HE has had a lifetime of 4-wheeling in the mountains, so he has skills and knowledge that I don’t have!
Then the delivery guys bringing my new washer and dryer got stuck in the creek (in the summer, when it was less than a foot deep) and had to get towed out by the propane guy coming up to my house. He pulled them out after watching them struggle for thirty minutes and charged them $40.
I got used to crossing the creek, and Dave bought a new Ford F150 4-wheel-drive truck so he could get up here to see me even if the weather sucked and the creek was high. Whew. In late August the logging company dumped tons of rock in the crossing, filling it in and making it a road, at least for a few months. The rock actually lasted until the big storms hit in January.
But oh boy, did the rain come in January.
My daughter, Catie, and her boyfriend came up to celebrate her birthday, right after we had our first major series of storms. I said I’d come down to pick them up, since her little car is not up to creek crossings. I drove down in the rain, and when I reached the crossing saw several vehicles and people on the other side. One was my neighbor, Jennifer. When I got out to look at the water that was flowing through (yes, visualize a RIVER, not a creek) she said that a guy in a Dodge truck had just gone through with no problem.
Well, my daughter was on the other side, so I set off hoping that Dave was right about me being able to cross in my Bronco!
I punched it, and blasted through the water, across the rocks, and made it safely to the other side. When I stopped, Jennifer came over and said very sweetly “Girl! That was fun to watch. But… When you go back through, go a weeeeeee bit slower, ok? So you don’t splash water up inside your engine and stall out in the middle.” Oh. Okie dokie!
I went across slower on the way back, and it was fine. WHEW. I was proud of myself again! Another fear conquered!! That was waaaaaaay worse than it was in June!!
Since then we've had very few dry days. Picture two solid months of rainstorms and snow. So. Much. Precipitation.
The ground is saturated. There are streams running down the hills, and the creek is not a creek anymore, it is a little river fed by ALL the runoff from the Sierras, all the water that can’t soak into the ground, and it is full, wide, and running fast.
But over the weekend I noticed one of my neighbors had gone down the hill and back a few times, so I figured the creek must be passable. Not having gone to town in a week, I thought I’d pop in to get some groceries. I drove all the way down, noticing as I went the numerous streams of water flowing into the creek, the way the creek had become so full that it had created new pathways to accommodate all the water, the way it had crept up to almost the edge of the road (easy to see where the bank is crumbling away!).
When I got to the crossing, I got out and looked. Holy cow. The sound alone brought Niagara Falls to mind. I know that’s not ACTUALLY how full it was, but in my mind it loomed that large. It was twice as wide as usual, so full that you couldn’t see the bottom, and flowing so fast that there were actually white caps popping up all the way across.
Nope nope nope. No way. MAYBE with Dave with me, but definitely not attempting that alone!!!
I backed up about a quarter of a mile til I could turn around and headed home, where I told Dave about the creek and showed him my video. In true Dave style he said he’d come down with me.
Having him come along gave me confidence and more courage. I knew that if he thought it was ok to cross, it most likely was, and if by chance we got stuck he’d know how to get us out (even without a winch on my truck!). I also knew that he’d be calm, and not freak out if I did something “wrong” – that’s really important, because who wants to try something scary if they think they’re going to get criticized or yelled at?
We got back down to the crossing and got out, looking at how the water was flowing and strategizing the best way to cross. Dave thought staying to the left would be smoothest, but I remembered about the story of my neighbor being pushed downstream so I suggested crossing on the right (the upstream side) so if I got pushed I’d still be able to get to the bank on the other side. Dave thought that made sense and so that’s what I decided to do.
As we went back to the Bronco another man arrived and walked over from his truck to look at the creek – he decided not to go through. He asked “Are you going across?” and we both said “Yes we are!!”
We climbed back in and I set off, going slowly but not stopping. I could definitely feel the current pushing against the truck, but I was able to stay on course and reach the other side with no issues. Wooooohooooo!
When I hopped out to unlock my hubs and switch back out of four-wheel drive, I noticed that there was a clear line about six inches up the door: the water had washed all the mud below that right off my Bronco. The line was definitely higher up than my tires reach, so no wonder I could feel the current pushing on the truck!
Now THAT was a confidence and courage booster!
After running my errands we headed home and of course had to cross again, this time going against the flow, heading upstream. A fellow in a big white truck went by as I was locking my hubs and getting ready to go in 4-wheel drive, and I watched him going across, listening to his engine revving as he pushed through the water. Eeeeek.
He stopped on the other side and just sat there. I wondered why he was just sitting there, and Dave said “To watch you go through!” GREAT. Now I had an audience!
I took the same line across going up as I had coming down, and it was definitely harder, but we made it through, and Dave got a cool video on my phone of the water smashing up and over my front bumper.
I’m not saying I now have no qualms about driving across the creek when it’s swollen and fast with runoff, but I do know that if I absolutely HAD to do it alone, I could.
And that, my friends, is one way that living up in Coyoteville is providing opportunities to develop my courage!