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  • Writer's pictureA Musing Pastor


Caution: Contents are extremely hot! (Should I gulp this drink?)

Caution: Objects in mirror are closer than they appear! (Really? Crunch!)

Caution: Turn off engine before replacing serpentine belt. (Ouch!)

Caution: Do not feed the bears. (Run!)

Caution: This blog post is quite long. (Oh! No!)

It’s no secret I love the outdoors which can be traced back to my days growing up on the farm and exploring the woods, streams, and ponds that were nearby. The free-spirit of adventure was hiding just around the next tree to climb, or the barn rafters to scale, or the salamanders, tadpoles and an occasional snake to catch and see.

My parents offered me the freedom to explore my world and use my imagination to understand it. I was taught to live responsibly, venture cautiously, and learn from mistakes along the way. My love for the outdoors when I was an 8-16 year old remains at a high level now at 60 years of age. I always take calculated risks when hiking through venomous snake habitat or traipsing through bear territory. Head on a swivel would be a good way to describe these forays. I understand the inherent dangers and plan contingencies just in case.

{Victim of a bad choice}

{Photo Creds. - A. Bailey from Moshannon State Forest - Clearfield County, 2021}

Just a few weeks ago in a mid-winter post snowfall, I decided to check out Poe Valley State Park on my day off. I had checked the state forestry websites and Facebook page for Rothrock forest and saw the usual warnings that roads were not maintained during the winter months. In my head I thought, “Surely they will have the road into the State Park open to accommodate ice fishers and such.” As an afterthought, I grabbed a snow shovel and threw in the bed of the truck just in case I might run into problems. (I’m not a Boy Scout but do like to have a contingency plan in place.)

Turning off Route 322 and traversing Sand Mountain Road produced no issues and as I lowered into Poe Valley camp area, I noted a Jeep vehicle trailing behind me. The road remained fine. Just past the last camp heading toward the park, the road was no longer plowed but packed down from snowmobiles and other ATVs. The road was still manageable but I did note the truck was laboring a little and spinning some. I remembered the snow shovel that I smartly brought with me and smiled a little.

Approximately a quarter mile past that last camp, I felt a tightness welling up in my chest. Anxiety of the road conditions and thoughts of getting stuck were beginning to take root. I thought of the person following in the Jeep having a good laugh at my expense and so pride pushed me onward. I thought, “Surely, the road will improve.” It didn’t.

Panic was trying to raise its ugly head and I pushed back on it. Another quarter mile did nothing for road improvement and now brought me to a place of decision. My choice to explore wasn’t wrong. Misguided? Perhaps. I was shifting from completing the adventurous drive to now finding a suitable place to turn around and retreat.

I spied a wide area leading into a camp that looked suitable for the task. While the road was covered with 4-6 inches of snow, both edges of the road were piled high with 12-15 inches of packed snow. No problem, I have a snow shovel!!!!

I stopped the truck, grabbed the shovel and began the assault on the snow. After some time I took a break to grab a snack, take some water, and reassess the situation. No panic.

At some point I decided to try backing the truck into the cleared area. I jumped into the truck and shifted into reverse and all that occurred was wheels spinning on snow that was covering ice. I tried going forward then backward to no avail. In fact, the wheels spun little troughs into the snow which made movement of the vehicle impossible. I began to think of the person in the Jeep who might come and snicker at my predicament. I shoveled out in front and back of all four tires and then widened and deepened the turn-around area some more. I looked up to see the Jeep roll up to within thirty feet of my stuck truck. GREAT! Here it goes with the Jeep superiority over common four-wheel drive trucks….

Instead, I watched the fellow get out, go to the back of his Jeep and grab a snow shovel and walk toward me to assist. I will call this Good Samaritan, Jerry (not his real name). My bad assumption of the Jeep driver felt like the time, as a kid, I tried syphoning gas and drew a little too hard on the hose. As he approached I embarrassingly mentioned my bad judgment of the road and my desire to get turned around to get out of his way so he could continue. His startled look and subsequent response took me by surprise. He said, “Oh, no, if you get turned around I’m going to do the same.” He continued, “I was going to try the road that connects into Millheim but after seeing this road and knowing my Jeep doesn’t get around well, I’m ready to retreat.”

As we talked and shoveled, there was a bond of support sprinkled with futility. He mentioned his Jeep was four-wheel drive but wasn’t doing so well. I mentioned my stupidity for assuming the road in Poe Valley would have been passable. He agreed…..not to my stupidity but to the road condition. (I think.) [Insert sheepish grin here]

Eventually, we paused shoveling and I was able to rock, thrash, and mash my truck into the turn-around. He readied his vehicle to drive by and clear my path back the way we had come. He passed by and I pulled out only to get stuck in the far bank of snow. Seeing my movement, Jerry quickly backed into the vacant turn-around.

After an assessment of my predicament and his placement, we decided he would have to pull back out of the spot until I extricated myself. With more shoveling, some laughing between us, and a little silent praying on my part, I was able to get straightened out heading back to the Promised Land of plowed roads. I told Jerry I would wait to see if he was able to do likewise.

I drove about 150 yards up the road to where the snow was more packed and less icy. I watched as Jerry eased out onto the road. He spun and then got out of the vehicle to shovel a little. I jumped out of my truck, grabbed the shovel and ran back toward him to help. With some assistance we cleared the tires and he began to creep forward. I skedaddled toward my truck and jumped in and started out of this hellhole.

At some point I realized the right hand turn ahead led to a fairly long ascent. It was here as I spun and fought the wheel that I thought, “This hill, the snow, and ice underneath are going to strand both of us here.” My days on the farm took over and I mashed the throttle and occasionally looked in my rear-view to check Jerry’s progress. I prayed out loud, “Lord, tell Jerry to stand on his gas-feed and don’t let up once he hits the hill.”

The truck pawed and clawed its way up the road and my prayers and utterings grew louder. As I made the left turn back onto the plowed road, there was a partial sense of relief. What of my new-found friend Jerry? Having nowhere to pull off the road I drove on for another several hundred yards and stopped. Grabbing my shovel, I headed back down the road. As I trudged along, a little red Jeep came burrowing around the corner and pulled up to me and stopped. Jerry looked like I looked, both stressed and relieved. As it turned out, Jerry lives in Lewistown and not far from where we live. We both agreed, as we parted company, that we were glad we met (Not necessarily under these circumstances).

Proverbs 19:21 Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.

Proverbs 21:2, 5 -- A person may think their own ways are right, but the Lord weighs the heart…The plans of the diligent lead to profit as surely as haste leads to poverty.

Adventure is fine and calculated risks should always rest in the hand of the Lord. Trust in Him with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding and He will set your course straight. This isn’t a caution, just solid advice.

“A Musing Pastor”

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