Dead Car - Asahel Curtis Nature Trail

Have you ever had one of those weeks? You know, one where high expectations are first dashed and then crushed? Well I have. In fact, I'm not sure it's over yet. This time last week I was putting the final touches on plans for another trip to Sun Valley, Idaho with a backpacking trip in the White Cloud Mountains. My one vacation this year and it would be spectacular. Then the fires took off. The Halstead fire, just north of Stanley, grew from 58,000 acres to 85,000  acres in less than two days. By Thursday the trip was officially canceled. Oh well... Instead John and I looked at doing a four day backpacking trip in the high peaks and meadows of the North Cascades. Then two days of thunderstorms hit the forecast. Probably not the best time to be camping in high meadows and climbing peaks.

We dialed it down once again and planned an overnight forest loop near Snoqualmie Pass. Six lakes in two days. I had only been to Kaleetan Lake one time. That was back in July 1988. Reagan was the president and the Berlin Wall was still standing. I was in my 20s. That was a while back. We planned to meet at the Denny Creek trailhead and take one car to the Pratt Lake trailhead to get started.  That all seemed pretty reasonable. I was on the road at 6:15 am heading east. After a few blocks the "Theft Deterrent System" light lit up on my dashboard. I do not have a theft deterrent system. I stopped, turned off the engine, and started it up again. The light went off. Okay,  not sure what the problem is but it seemed to be minor.

Somewhere around North Bend the battery icon lit up. That is not good. Is it just a messed up computer? Soon the Anti-Lock Brake icon lit up. The dashboard was starting to look like a Christmas tree. Still, not far from the trailhead now. I did not take my phone along as I did not expect service in the backcountry. I could not call Gary and John to tell them if I chose to turn around. I looked at the odometer and it was not there. Just a blank space. No electricity, no odometer. I turned off the lights and the odometer came back. The battery icon went out. Things were looking better. Once off the freeway it got a little crazy. Only a few miles to the trailhead and the gauges started to jump up and down. As I entered the parking lot they all went dead. Really not a good sign. Of course I was a few minutes early and Gary was a little late. I idled the engine for 8 minutes not wanting to turn it off. They arrived and slowly got out of their car while I was frantically waving them to get in mine.

I tried to open the trunk so they could put in their gear. It is electric. It would not open without the key. To get the key I had to turn off the engine. Catch-22. They piled in with their gear and then the car died. The dashboard went blank. No electricity. Crap. Now I was 60 miles from home with a dead car. This week just kept getting better and better... I opened the hood and the engine seemed hotter than normal. And the electric fans were not spinning. How long had they not been working? On the freeway I had cold air rushing by the radiator. On the 30 mph Denny Creek Road I did not. At idle I had no cool air. We waited about 15 minutes and I tried the key. All the gauges were working once again. Not the starter motor. We waited a little longer then pulled out the jumper cables.

Perhaps I could get back on the freeway, monitor the temperature gauge and make it back to Seattle. At least back to where a tow is not $400. The car started right up. Great! I backed up and it immediately died. Not so great. No choice now but to call for a tow. The tow truck was soon on its way and we headed to the highway exit to meet the truck and lead him back to the trailhead. We had some extra time so drove the short distance to the Annette Lake trailhead. Unlike the zoo that we found at Denny Creek at 8:00 am with most parking spots taken, the Annette Lake lot was 3/4ths empty. I did get in a hike. One half mile around the Asahel Curtis Nature Trail. From a week in the high mountains of Idaho to the Asahel Curtis Nature Trail. That is quite a come down in just a few days.

We met the tow truck and led him back to the trailhead. It was now a full fledged zoo. Nearly every spot where a car could be crammed was filled all the way back to the Denny Creek Road. It was interesting to see the flatbed tow truck maneuver up the road, pull my car out of its front end in space, and winch it aboard the truck. An hour and a half later I was at the  repair shop in Ballard. Sounds like it may just be a bad alternator. If so, that would be the best news all week. I had one more hike to do. A mile from the shop to  my house with my overnight pack on my back, poles, and a bag with my boots and camera. So I guess I did get in a mile and a half today.

I'm a little afraid of going outside today. There is a chance of thunderstorms I just know one of those lightening bolts has my name on it. At least this week. And so it goes. Maybe next week life will get back to normal. Oh, and this is my 500th trip report on Hiking Northwest. Not quite the trip I imagined for number 500.

All photos courtesy of John Sluder

Crossing Bridge
Humpback Creek
Big Log
Gary On Bench
Hooking Her Up
No, Not A Tear
End Of Trip Report 500
Click on thumbnails to get larger pictures.

Trips - 2012