22-May-2002 -- After visiting 44N 106W yesterday evening, I spent the night last night at a campground in Buffalo, Wyoming. It was cold when I woke up this morning and the skies were overcast. The radio station said there was a 40% chance of rain. After the grueling day I had yesterday, I was hoping for a better one today, but that didn’t look likely.
I departed Buffalo and headed into the Bighorn Mountains on Highway 16. The temperature started falling and it wasn’t long before a light snow began falling. I thought it was cool that it was late May and it was snowing. I thought I would rather it be snowing than raining because the dirt roads wouldn’t muddy up.
As I drove through the mountain pass, the elevation increased and so did the snowfall. It was beautiful in these mountains. It wasn’t very long before I came to my turn, Hazelton Road. It was a gravel road with more snow covering it than I thought there would be. The wind had picked up and it was snowing harder. I met two snowplows about 10 kilometers (6 miles) up the road. That should have been a warning for me. The snow was coming down harder and harder and the wind was blowing it sideways. The temperature had dropped to -3 degrees Celsius (26 degrees Fahrenheit.)
I proceeded down the road and the snow was beginning to drift and driving through it was precarious, to say the least. I slipped and slid a lot, but apprehensively continued on. The road conditions became worse and worse and I realized I was in the middle of my first snowstorm. Eventually I came to a steep hill and lost traction halfway up it. I looked at the GPS and I was about 4.9 kilometers (3 miles) from the confluence. I was just past Dull Knife Reservoir. Disheartened, I realized there was no way I was going to be able to make it. If I tried to get a running start and get up that hill, I probably would end up in a ditch and there was no way I would be able to get out of it if I did. Besides, I had already driven up and down worse hills than that. We don’t get a lot of snow in Mississippi and I’m unaccustomed to driving on it. I wasn’t sure what the limitations of my 2-wheel drive truck were, so I decided I had better turn around and hoped I could make it back to the highway. I was afraid I wouldn’t.
Heading back, the drifts across the road were much worse and I had a very difficult time keeping the truck on the road. Along the way I passed by the snowplows again. They were parked off the road driverless, and knew I had made the right decision to turn back. There is no telling how long it would have been before someone found me if I had run off the road. I didn’t have the clothing for weather this cold and probably would not have survived.
With much relief, I made it back to the highway and considered myself lucky to be out of danger. Once the weather warms up, someone else will have to attempt this confluence. I don’t think it will be very difficult under better conditions.
Out of seven attempts so far this trip I had made it to six and that was okay by me. The next confluence on the trip was 45N 106W and it was about four hours away. I hoped the rain would stop by the time I made it there and the roads would be passable.