It was the springtime of 2015 and I was itching to ride my skateboard and potentially hit some snow on the same trip. I had always heard about how fun the ditches were in Albuquerque. I checked my contact list to see if I knew anybody in the New Mexico area and sure enough, after one phone call, I was on my way to ABQ. The drive was long and boring to say the least. A straight shot west from Arkansas. West Texas was pretty interesting for a couple western songs and then I realized I wasn’t actually in a cowboy film, I was in the middle of nowhere with not a single friend. I kept trucking and made my way to Jake Sharp’s house in ABQ. We rode the Indian School ditches, famous for their lengthy downhill ride through the city. The ride is a little over 3.5 miles of all downhill.
We skated for a couple days and decided to head into the mountains and snowboard Taos. They had recently got some snow so we were in for a good ride. We bought our passes and the next thing I knew we were on the chairlifts. We hit some backcountry to huck into some powder and gravitated towards the terrain park. We repeated that cycle for a good 4 hours and left a little early to try and make our way to some hot springs.
Now comes the part of the story where we almost die.
Nick, our far too confident tour guide so-to-speak, told us of some awesome hot springs just off one of the scenic highways in the mountains where we were snowboarding. We were stoked because he said they were only about 45 minutes away and we had about 2 hours of daylight. We get on the highway and start to drive along a beautiful national park. after 30 minutes of driving we get to the entrance. It’s gated shut and the sign says “closed for heavy snowfall”. There was snow on the dirt road behind the entrance but it seemed manageable. We decided to drive around the gate and continue our journey into the woods and towards our destination. About 2 miles in we seem to not be getting any closer. Every corner we turn Nick says “yeah I think we are really close now.” Finally we got to a point where I wasn’t sure if we should keep going because the snow was getting a hell of a lot deeper the further we went. Nick convinced me to just go around a couple more turns. We made our way down a small hill and turned left. As we turned left I felt the whole left side of the jeep sink. We lost traction and started to spin out. Everything went flashing through my head instantly - we are a good 15 miles from civilization, we don’t have food and water, we aren’t supposed to be here, we are going to die. We were stuck. As stuck as you could get. The left side of the jeep was 3 feet in the snow. My tires were completely engulfed in the snow that just 1 and a half hours ago we so loved and longed for. It now was trying to destroy us. The first thing we did was try to drive out. It was not happening. Not even with all 4 people pushing while the other manned the wheel. We tried digging the tires out and clearing a path. Still no luck. Soon the jeep was starting to slip even more to the left side of the road every time we tried to turn the tires. To the left was a steep embankment that went about 30 feet down into a flat area. We definitely did not want the truck to slide down that hill. At that point we would surely be screwed. The sun was now down and we were in the middle of nowhere with nothing but the clothes on our back and our snowboards. It was getting late. It wasn’t until around 9pm that we decided to call it a day and hike out to safety. We decided we’d come back to get my jeep the next day.
Our hike out was equally sad, cynical and hilarious. We couldn’t help but laugh. We were idiots and we knew it. For some reason, we loved that. It was a moment of pure bliss for some reason. I didn’t care about anything else going on in the world. There were wars being fought, taxes to be paid and places to be, but I had no mental capacity for any of those scenarios at the time. All my thoughts and my soul were completely wrapped up in this single moment. Nothing else existed. We could very well die but I guess the fear hadn’t caught up to me. My friend Connor was very scared though. “Coyote!” I shouted. He literally hid behind me and pushed me forward. I soon realized that if anything were to actually happen, like a bear attack, I definitely could not count on Connor. Noted. Our hike out of the national park was about 3 miles. Then we got to the main highway. We still had plenty of walking to do. The closest “town” was still over 10 miles away and there was no way anything there was going to be open. It’s a small ho-dunk town that has about 3 buildings. Literally. It was going to be a long one.
This was the moment where I put all my trust in God, my friends and myself. I firmly believed we would be okay. And you would never guess what happened next. There was a small campsite off the main highway a mile down the road that we ran into. We walked into the campsite around 12am and asked for help. There was one guy sitting around a fire drinking. The rest of his friends and family were asleep in their tents and campers. We told him our story and he told us to sit back and relax by the fire. He fed us tacos that they had cooked early and gave us a seemingly endless supply of PBR. It was not the comfiest sleep bundled up on pine branches next to the fire, still in my wet clothes but it was better than that snowy forest. We woke as soon as the sun came up and the kind folks that let us sleep there drove us into town so we could buy supplies to get my jeep out. We bought easily a hundred pounds of salt and a couple snow shovels.
He drove us back to the entrance of where we originally snuck onto the park and we hiked on down. After hours of digging and unfortunately having to cut some branches off the trees to lay down on the snowy surface for tire traction, we got my jeep out. Hoots and hollers filled the land. Every squirrel, bear and mountain lion now knew we were there. I think they were probably scared to be honest. I had never yelled so loud. It was an unbelievable experience.
We drove out and lived happily ever after.