Sunday, June 3, 2007

Off-Roading in the Rockies

"Take a mental picture - you'll never see this again"
By Carol Bogart

Some years back when I won the inheritance lottery, I promptly invested in a Range Rover. It was a great deal. The Denver dealership was selling 10 "at cost." As the Colorado dealership supplying Aspen movie stars, it had won top sales honors nationwide. The $29,000 Rovers were the prize.

Soon after, the new owners were offered an opportunity to go offroading – a smart move on the dealership's part, designed to hook the owners on Range Rovers for life. It involved a caravan of 8-10 new Rover owners offroading to the top of a 14-footer - no roads, just trails through the forest, driving up over boulders, fording a creek, crossing fallen trees. It was remarkable what that car could do.

They lined us up with me and the two 4-year-olds sandwiched between all the other SUVs - with a grandfather and his 6-year-old directly behind us. The rest of the drivers seemed to be guys in their 30s.

As we neared the peak, all the forest fell away - and we were high enough to look out across snow-covered peaks that were down below us. By that time, I was just about paralyzed with terror. I told the two boys: Take a mental picture, because you will never see this again.

Even skiing, I'd never been up that high.

They'd outfitted everyone with walkie talkies so as to "talk us down" the steep, rock-strewn backside of the peak. When it was my turn, the guy downslope said, "Are you ready?" Strangled with fear, I gurgled, "No." Meantime, all these other SUVs were backed up behind me.

He said, "There's no other way down. You have to do it."

As I remember I put it in first, as instructed, and started down, and it felt as though that rover was vertical. I stopped breathing and edged my way past and around the rocks as he told me, "A little bit to your left. Now cut it right!" and so on. The angle was such that I couldn't see what was in front of me at all.

Meantime, in the back seat, Nicky - Mike's best friend - moaned, "I want my mom." Mike, also 4, whispered, "I want my mom, and she's RIGHT HERE!" Then we all stopped breathing again for a few minutes. Pretty soon, though, Nicky burst out, "I'm scared as a pig." Big pause. "I'm scared as a living hell." If I hadn't been busy having an aneurism, I'd've had to laugh.

Finally the trail leveled out a little and eventually we got to a narrow hardpack dirt road that wound around the mountain, headed down. It was so narrow that you had to drive with your passenger side wheels up the slope a little, with the car tilted to the left. The view from my window was open air, out over an abyss. No guardrails of course. We were petrified.

About halfway down there was a clearing where we stopped and had our box lunches.

The grandfather came up to my window and said, "Have you ever done anything like this before?" Still in semi-shock, I shook my head no. "Ever plan to do anything like this again?" he asked.

I looked at him like he'd lost his mind.

Carol Bogart is a columnist at Contact her at

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