Off-Roading and The Dumbest Thing We've Ever Done

It was around 7:30 when we headed out after dinner. We took the Jeep (affectionately called Brother Sport, or Bro Spo) to Page Meadows to do a evening hike but soon found the bugs to be overwhelming. Walking back to Bro Spo, Paul had an idea.
"What if we took Bro Spo through?"
The "road" was wide enough, but the trailhead cautioned "only off-highway vehicles."
Paul shrugged.
"It's got good tires!"

The drive was amazing. It was built for 4-wheelers, obviously, as we tramped over man-made sand hills. We had no idea where we were headed, but it was beautiful. We were finally dumped out into a main road half an hour later.
We were hooked.
We headed to the Blackwood Canyon, where miles of paved road winds you up to the Ellis Peak trailhead. Getting out of Bro Spo for a quickly-fading sunset, Ellis Peak was a 3 mile hike, too much for sunset time and no illuminating devices. We took in the amazing view of the canyon, dwarfed by the massive mountains and monstrous pine trees, and the pink and yellow sky.

The road had us turning around back towards the lake, but ahead of us was a dirt road.
"Want to see where it goes?"
And without hesitation, we were off-roading again.
Dusk fell as we turned off our lights wanting to steal peeks of wildlife. We drove passed the signs that cautioned cars with x's drawn through them "not recommended."
We scoffed.
"We're in a Jeep!"

It got dark real quick. Our short joy ride in the wilderness had Bro Spo climbing further into the mountain. Whenever we felt like we were descending, another road jogged up the canyon. I felt the unease creep in. What if we don't find the end of the road?
"It's fine, babe," Paul said, patting my leg.
I took a breath.
Enjoy the ride, I told myself. All roads lead to somewhere, right?

But the road got worse. What began as a worn dirt path turned into piles of rocks and deep holes of water.
Adventure flew out the window and I started to seriously worry.
We set out around 8 and it was nearly 9. We had no idea where we were or if we were going the right way, only hoping that this road would lead to somewhere.
Then the gas light turned on.
I shot Paul a worried stare.
"Are we going to make it out?"
"We're fine! We have at least 25 more miles on the gas light."

That's when we saw our first sign.
Tahoe city, 8 miles.
"Does that say 0.8?"
I felt better knowing, sort of, where we were.
And I wanted to believe in the 0.8 miles.

But the road got even worse. Piles of rocks became boulders sloping down. And just when the road became bearable again, it sloped back down and shook Bro Spo so hard that I had to hold on to the door frame. Jostled nearly out of my seat for an hour, I just wanted to be home.
I started coming unglued when Paul took his hat off declaring this isn't fun anymore.
And then we came to the biggest boulder yet. It would test Bro Spo.
Paul gingerly peeled his foot off the brake, easing Bro Spo through the treachery, and with a very loud thud, Bro Spo came down hard on his right side.
"NO!" Paul yelled. "No no no!"
He tried reverse. Drive.

We were stuck on a boulder in the middle of nowhere. We both hadn't brought our cell phones and only had half a Nalgene of water between us. No food. Bear, mountain lion country. I started crying hysterically as Paul reached for his flashlight to check the damage. I sat in Bro Spo, severely leaning down on the right side, my mind racing with what would happen next.
Bro Spo is totaled.
We would have to sleep in the Jeep on the side of this boulder until someone came and rescued us.
We would starve to death.
A bear would eat us.

Paul came back and climbed inside.
"No damage. Just need to rock it back and stick it in 4 wheel drive."
I knew what he wasn't telling me. One bad move and it could crack something underneath, and we could really be stuck.

Paul maneuvered Bro Spo so beautifully that I almost felt better. We glided down Boulder Alley that tossed our bodies in every direction possible, but after another hour, with the gas light still on and no easement of the road, I just started praying.

I prayed to Jesus, I prayed to the mountain, I even did 8 Hail Mary's  (Ok, I just repeated the only part I know "Hail Mary, Full of Grace). And then flashes of light.

Is that a car? I said excitedly.


Paul slammed Bro Spo in park and rushed outside.
Stumbling in the pitch black with a wind up flashlight, we scrambled to figure out where we were.

The Rubicon Trail.
We drove half of the Rubicon Trail. In the dark. By accident.
If you aren't familiar, the Rubicon Trail is one of the toughest OHV (off-highway vehicles) roads out there. Jeep named one of their Wrangler models after the trail.

(I learned later that they call many of these rock-infested trails "rock valleys," quite fitting and extremely jarring.)

A poorly marked map showed us halfway through. Grabbing a paper map from the trailhead, we hurried to get back in the car and were elated to find a paved road. It was over.

Our drive into town to get gas was amazing.
Can you believe that? I can't believe we did that. Man that was crazy.

 I've never been so thankful to see a paved road in my life.
It was 11 when we finally made it home. Paul struggled to stay awake and read the map, trying to figure out how it all happened.

We will hang that map of the Rubicon Trail on our wall tonight, marking the dumbest and coolest thing we've ever done. And I will now never leave this house without a cell phone and a protein bar, and contemplate getting a Jeep of my own. (Paved road driving only, of course. At least for now.)