: This too will be a long story...Disclaimer #2
: I don't own a motorcycle...(give it a chance, keep reading, and you'll see why I'm here and hopefully have a laugh or two as well)
First of all, I'll start by saying that I enjoyed your story immensely. I managed to come across it while searching the internet for some information about FS637. Why would I be looking up info on a random forest service road? Well, my buddy and I just spent the weekend in the Cooper Creek WMA where we were camping and doing some trout fishing, and we ran across this "road" FS637. It was our second day in the WMA, and we were driving around looking for some less crowded fishing spots as every place we had been was loaded up with people. We knew based on our map that we were traveling on FS33 which followed a creek. After a few miles we came across a small side spur on our right with a marker dubbed "FS637"...
We looked on our map and didn't see it anywhere. We decided that we'd go down it a little ways to see if we could find a good fishing hole off the beaten path. It seemed like any other service road, and with it already being 6:00 P.M. Saturday we decided we needed to make up our mind and fish for an hour or two so we'd still have enough time to get back to our camp.
These were mistakes #1 and #2. Never go explore a road that you don't have a map for, and if you do...doing it just hours before dark is not the right time to try.
We rode down this gravel road for what seemed like a couple miles. We passed Spriggs Chapel Cemetery, and a cool creek crossing. Eventually we came to a very rough and rocky section of the road. We noticed that there was a muffler
sitting in the middle of the path and we decided that someone must have done the same thing as us, but with a car.
Thankfully, it sounds like you gave Randy good advice...
I told him there was no way in hell that an Odyssey cold navigate the road ahead.
You couldn't have been more right as we soon found out...
Since we were heading downhill now, we both agreed that we should be coming to some streams that we hoped would yield big trout. We therefore decided to continue on. This was our third mistake...
A little further down the road we turned a corner and saw what I can only describe as a canyon. The ruts were feet deep and the gravel we had been traveling on was replaced with clay and a few large river rocks. I knew I couldn't reverse far enough back up the road to get to a place to turn around as it must have been almost a mile back. I also didn't think my vehicle (a decently modified jeep) could make it down this ravine. We were in a jam. On the left of the trail there was a small cleared area before the canyon walls came up that I thought we may be able to turn around on. We built a makeshift bridge out of stacked rocks and attempted to turn around. This process took the better part of 45 minutes, bringing us to roughly 7:30 P.M. As you can probably guess by the fact that I have a story to share...this endeavor did not work.
A twinge of panic started to set in as darkness was beginning to fall and we realized the only way out was to attempt to drive down the canyon, or to turn around and walk back on foot.
As Selden pointed out, there is NO cell phone reception in the area. In fact, we drove almost 20 miles earlier that day on a trip to get gas before we got a signal. This left us concerned with what we'd do if we decided to walk out. We would still have to find someone to give us a ride until we could use our phone to call somebody to come tow us out...yeah right.
That left us with only one option. So, down we went. It was challenging and my passenger side mirror was rubbing on the canyon wall while the jeep was tilted sideways at about a 45 degree angle from the deep ruts in the canyon.
We ended up making it through and got down to the bottom of a valley where we crossed a stream and found a small clearing or sorts. At this point, fishing was the last thought on our mind and we were starting to wonder how we'd get out of this. We continued following the trail as we didn't have a much better plan. We noticed some motorcycle tracks and had seen some guys riding around earlier in the day so we thought it was a good idea to follow them since maybe they knew where they were going.
This was a critical mistake. This is some serious foreshadowing here, but no, I'm not giving away spoilers yet. You'll just have to keep reading.
We kept traveling and the trail got smaller and more windy. We got stuck several more times and had to chop down small trees for ramps and use rocks get through some spots. The trail also began getting extremely wet, and there were LOTS of mud holes. Fortunately for us these weren't too big an issue, but the shrinking trail was. I noticed that there were an increasing number of Laurel trees and that they began to form almost a tunnel of sorts. This tunnel became roughly as big as my jeep as we trudged on with branches and limbs smacking and dragging down the sides and top.
We could still see we were following a motorcycle track. However, instead of the multiple tracks we had seen before, we now only saw one. We proceeded to follow it through the gauntlet of Laurels in the pitch black at 9:00 P.M. Unsure of how far we'd come, and how far we still had to go compounded with deteriorating trail conditions left us concerned. Very concerned. It was about that time that we came to this...
I told Randy that I didn't have the energy or skill to ride it out the road I had walked out in the morning, especially concerned about a section where the "road" was less than 3 feet wide, with a 10-foot drop off the right side.
I'm guessing we saw the same thing. In fact the trail we were following may have even been Selden's! Either way, it appears that the "road" just washed away in a storm or something. It was literally a giant gaping hole where the "road" used to be with only about a 3' wide remnant on the left side (uphill side). We immediately knew that we could go forward no further. To try and fail would mean rolling the jeep down a cliff. This left us in a near panic. As with the canyon before, we had NO room to turn around. We figured we would just reverse back down the trail as far as possible and pray we reached a spot we could turn around in.
With my buddy walking behind me with a headlamp, we proceeded to reverse almost 3/4 of a mile (I finally was smart enough to set the tripometer). We thankfully found a spot I could do a 10 point turn in and get going back forward (the way we came in) again.
At this point we realized that there was no way in hell we were getting back to our camp that night. In fact, I wasn't confident that my jeep was ever getting out of that WMA. Our plan was to continue back to the clearing we saw earlier in the evening because it seemed like the most open and safe spot to spend the night.
At about 10:00 that night, we made it back to the clearing. After a lengthy discussion of how screwed we were, where we went wrong, and how on earth we were going to get out of this jam; we ate a split a hearty meal of a cliff bar and a box of cheezits that we scrounged up in the jeep. At around 11:30 P.M. we reclined the seats as far back as was possible and attempted to get some sleep and reassess our situation in the morning.
After a very long night with little sleep, we got started first thing in the morning. We started walking back the way we came to formulate a plan on how to get up what I had deemed impossible (given our equipment and preparedness) the day before. We slowly but surely crawled our way back up, until we came back to the bottom of the canyon. My buddy and I spent about an hour surveying and building up the trail using large river rocks and logs until we felt we may actually be able to get back up.
The jeep handled the terrain well, only getting stuck twice which required additional backwoods engineering. At about 9:30 A.M. Sunday we made it back to the top of the canyon and breathed a heavy sign of relief that we had made it past the worst of the "road".
We proceeded to drive the rest of the way up the mountain, past the muffler, past the steam, and past the cemetery. At about 10:00 A.M. we made it back to where it all began...the intersection of FS33 and FS637, which I believe is the same place you found yourself Selden...
I figured I was near the intersection of FS637 (aka Flatlands) and FS33, so I hiked out, but when I got to the T where the track (doesn't deserve to be called a road) I was on ended, I found myself on a fire road that eventually turned into Suches Creek Lane, which is a few miles south of Cooper Creek, not at all where I had thought I was.
Ecstatic to have escaped with only a couple dents in the side of the jeep, and ready for a meal and shower; we packed up camp and drove back to Atlanta.
We both knew that this could surely not have been the first time this road had been encountered; so, naturally we resorted to a search on google. I struggled to find FS637 on ANY maps, but I did see your map on the image search and the story that followed sounded all too familiar to us. We can fully appreciate your situation.
if I had any sense at all, I should have turned around that morning). As we walked up the increasingly rutted road, he realized why I had said it was impassable for anything but a rock crawling off road vehicle or a motorcycle.
I could not agree more. I don't now how it was deemed a road, unless the rough sections have just washed out from this years storms and/or people intentionally off roading through it.
I also think I'm going to look into getting a SPOT Messenger....
I have one, and I would highly recommend it. We had it with us but we didn't want to use it because we didn't want our significant others to go in to a panic thinking we were hurt or in serious trouble. That being said, it was probably the only thing keeping us from having a nervous breakdown. The knowledge that with the push of a button someone will be there shortly to hep you provides more peace of mind than you can put a price on.
I, like you, cannot believe I made the mistakes I did. Looking back on the event, they are both numerous and obvious. Fortunately we made it out just fine, but things certainly could have been worse. Some of the obvious mistakes were:
- Not having a detailed enough map
- not paying attention to distance travelled
- not telling anyone our exact location or intentions
- not having a backup GPS
- following a motorcycle track with a vehicle
We are both experienced outdoorsmen and I have a good bit of experience with off-road driving, but this kind of thing can happen to anybody if you are complacent like we were. Thankfully it all worked out fine and is now just quite a story. Hopefully you will find it as funny as we found yours.
P.S. Hopefully the pictures work. I'm just a rookie here.