We were in a hurry to get down the mountain we were on near Durango, Colorado. We had to get to a predetermined elevation so we could rendezvous with the people we were with. They were hiking down the ridge to the meeting point.
I prodded my son, “Hurry up. We are going to be too late.”
We were camping at about 10,000 feet and needed to descend down the road to about 8,000 feet. However, the night sky before had dropped a light layer of soft downy snowflakes all over the hillside, as well as on the roadway we were about to travel down. When my son finally hopped into our Jeep, I headed down the road.
Mountain roads are amazing feats of excavation. They serpentine up and down the sides of mountains and at times, cause one to wonder how heavy road equipment could have ever gotten there in the first place, and how they could create the stable roadways. In the high Colorado Mountains, some of the drop-offs that these roads look over are simply breathtaking…and at the same time frightening. Then add some snow. It can be absolutely treacherous.
I was trying to move quickly, but carefully. However, I wasn’t moving carefully enough. I came around a switchback in the road and hit a slippery area covered with snow, and we began to slide.
But then something happened. I panicked. Now panic usually ruins everything; but not this time.
When I realized we were about to go over a nearly vertical drop-off that looked to be an least three hundred feet to the ravine floor below; instead of braking, or trying to slow down, I stepped on the gas. As I thought about this later I could see that it made no sense at all to do this. It would only enhance the speed at which our vehicle would roll down the hill, ensuring our deaths. But that is what I did nonetheless. My thinking was, if I hit the gas, the four wheel drive on the front wheels of our Jeep might pull us back up onto the road.
But that didn’t happen. In fact, nothing like it happened. Instead, we rolled off the edge of the road and cliff and did so with frightening speed. However, we rolled only one time down the mountainside and stopped. I didn’t know why we only rolled one time and at that instance, didn’t have the presence of mind to try and figure it out.
But when I came to my senses I said to my son, “We better get out of here. This car may blow.” I think that response was also part of my panic because there was almost no likely-hood of our vehicle exploding. I probably watch too many movies. But when I said it, my son exited our Jeep as quickly as he could. He left me behind to fend for myself! I could see him scurry up the side of the hill as I went to open my door. But my door wouldn’t open. I pushed it harder, but still, nothing happened. It was then I realized that my door, and the whole driver’s side of the vehicle, was resting flat against the hillside. So I struggled to reach the passenger door, exited it and crawled carefully up the side of the cliff to the road where my son was waiting.
When I got up to the roadway and calmed down, I surveyed the situation.
Our jeep was resting against the only two trees in near proximity on the hillside; and they were just about the length of our vehicle away from each other. One tree was no more than two inches in diameter. The edge of our Jeep’s front bumper clung barely to it. The other tree was no more than four inches in diameter, and held the better amount of the weight of our Jeep on its backside bumper. I looked down the road in front of our Cherokee. No trees were on the hillside for one hundred and fifty feet. Then I looked back up the road behind our car. No trees were within one hundred feet of the back of our Jeep.
That is when I put it all together. My panicked and unwise decision to hit the gas in hopes that our front wheels would pull us back up on the road, was the very thing that kept us moving forward on the road long enough so that our vehicle, when it rolled, could rest against the only two trees in a two hundred foot span on the hillside. Furthermore, I looked at the two very small trees that caught our truck. They weren’t nearly strong enough to hold up a vehicle as heavy as ours, let alone stop it going as fast as it was going, and rolling as violently as it did. They should have snapped from the impact, or been uprooted from the weight. So amazed was I about this, while waiting for the tow truck we had called, I climbed down the hill to measure the trees. Sure enough, they were two and four inches in diameter.
I am convinced that my son and I experienced a miracle that day. Apparently, God decided He wasn’t through with us yet. My belief is, He dropped into my thoughts the crazy idea to speed up in our crisis that morning, and sent His angels to strengthen the only two trees that could save us.
I still kid my son about the day he left his dad for dead because he thought our Jeep was going to explode.
“For He shall give His angels charge over you, to keep you in all your ways. They shall bear you up in their hands, lest you dash your foot against a stone” (Psalm 91:11-12).