Last Friday, a good friend and I left my Sherwood (home) for a weekend of photography. The purpose was 3 fold. One, to see the wildflower display up at My Rainier (it was AWESOME!) and then drive over to Olympic National Park. Second, was to show my friend, and fellow photographer from San Diego, Greg, areas he hadn’t seen and get some good images. Third, was to shoot some video for workshop promotion and other projects (which we did and was pretty funny in itself at times). This was not a workshop but rather a few days out shooting in some of the nicest, but remote areas in the country.
We got up to Mt Rainier late on the morning in Friday. The mountain was socked in (fog) but we did get some great images of the wildflowers and the area. Since we exhausted the possibilities there due to the weather, we left after lunch for Olympic, via Seattle, and Port Townsend ferry for Olympic National Park. We spent the night in Port Angeles. Saturday’s sunrise at Hurricane Ridge wasn’t great but much better than we thought or expected. We then shot over in the Sol Duc area, as well as the Hoa Rain forest on the west side of the Olympic peninsula. We spent Saturday night in Kalaloch.
We took a few detours through some forest service roads to look for more shots and decided to take the loop around Lake Quinault.
The lake is about 15miles long and has a north road and south road. We got to the point where the road was about 17 ‘wide with loose gravel. We were about ¾ around the lake when we came into a pretty big curve (about 45 degrees). About ½ way through the curve a motor home (most of you know how I feel about them) came barreling toward us, really fast and I mean fast!.
The choice was to hit the RV head on or try and avoid him. We had a shallow part of the river, which feed into the lake on our right and about a 20-25’ embankment. I had a split second to make this decision. Well, I decided to try and avoid the RV and swerved to the right. My front right tire went over the embankment.
Both Greg and I though it would stop the truck by bottoming out but the dirt was so loose on the embankment that we went into a roll , sideways down the embankment, and landed tires up in about 2-3′ of water, in the river that feeds into Lake Quinault. We rolled at least once and maybe twice.
I gatherd some important papers and the Canon G10 I carried along and began to try and get out of the water. Greg followed. We managed to climb up the embankment ( again,about 20-25′). The soil was really dry and not easy to get hardly any traction in, but we made it. The RV drivers wife was standing there and she asked if we were ok. I indicated I didn’t really know! ( What I wanted to say was…” Yea, I’m feeling great, how about you?” but for once I avoided saying the wrong thing.
Here is the amazing part. It was drizzling lightly and I was standing there pretty shocked, wet, in a short sleeve shirt and wet pants. The RV folks were in a big hurry to get out of there, before any rangers showed up. Instead of saying, why don’t you guys come on in and stay dry etc….The RV guy (driver) took off pretty quick after we made it up the embankment. I practically had to beg him for his name & phone #. When I asked him for it, he asked me “why do you need my name # phone #” duhhhhhhh?????…..I really don’t like to (well I guess I do) pre judge folks but this guy knew he caused the accident and hi-tailed it away as soon as he could. His wife actually told him to give me the info… he didn’t want to. He scribbled it down on a paper plate as he looked at me and again says…”I don’t know why you need this”.
… there they go!
This road is only 17′ wide… Why are RV’s even allowed in this section of the road? . I grabbed my Canon G10 (as you can see) and took a lot of images of the road and everything else (and the license plate of the RV guy!)
Keep in mind we were 5-8 miles from the nearest building, 15 miles or so from the nearest little ( and I mean little) town, out in the middle of nowhere with no cell service. After a while the ranger came by and did his thing. He was super nice and extremely friendly and helpful. Next time you all get into the National Parks, be courteous to these folks. they are here for you, as I witnessed in person. In fact he had one of his other rangers personally drive us south about an hour to deal with the car in tow and meet my wife, who drove up 4 hrs from home to get us. They were really helpful and get me through the afternoon. Thank you George!!! About 2 hours later the tow truck arrived (they were located 1 hr 15 minutes south in Aberdeen!) and they somehow pulled the truck up the embankment.
I can tell you on thing … both Greg and I are convinced that this vehicle saved our lived.
So here’s the bottom line
1) We are both OK. Greg is just a little sore and so am I. My back is pretty screwed up but we both had seat belts on (l don’t wear mine a lot of the time. I was lucky)
2) Camera bags were scattered in the water as were a lot of the truck’s contents flew out of the blow out windows.
3) We have 2 dead cameras, a few dead lenses (due to water), both all memory cards survived and images were intact.
4) My good old Explorer is totaled and begin the process of dealing with the insurance company etc.
We are both in a lot better shape than we could have been. Most everyone who was there was surprised we were walking around and not dead. It’s really funny what goes through your mind in the 20-30 seconds of this kind of an event. It’s like your life replays itself in really fast motion. It was a very weird feeling, one I hope you all never have to experience.
Since I know a lot of other travelers and photographers might read this…… I have a few things for you all to consider:
I know we all get out to some pretty remote areas. This accident happened in one. Don’t take anything for granted. Be prepared. We had lots of food, water and supplies in the event we got stranded. Let someone know where you are going. I had called my wife about 2 hrs before the accident, and told here we would be back around 4-5pm and where we were when I called. Always let someone know where you are if you can.
This truck of mine had 145,000 miles on it and it was in tip top condition. It’s been to some very remote areas and frankly was in great shape with good tires and up to date everything. This was the 4thFord Explorer I’ve driven so I bet I’ve driven over a mjillion miles in some crazy areas without an accident (this was y 1st and almost my last), so maybe the odds were that I was due. If you think you might be due as well, be extra careful. I was reminded of another photographer friend, Garry Crabbe who sustained much worse injuries than us in Death Valley earlier this year when he slipped off a ridge. Understand where you are and please be careful. Could I have avoided this accident? Probably not but it could have been a lot worse.
As my dear friend Bill Fortney of Nikon told me….. This was a message from above, that God’s trying to get my attention…. well He did… big time! That’s why we survived.
Be careful , fellow photogrphers as well as other who venture out into these kind of areas.. You never know what’s around the next curve.