Tuesday…. What a day. Not a day I will forget anytime soon. I will cut to the chase I was on my first dirt road of the day and immediately I knew that this was unlike any of the back roads I had been on up to this point. In the valley where the trail starts the sides of the canyon are cliff walls with a mysterious fog lacing the mountain tops, there is a snow line where the rain from the past couple days has become something more at the right altitude. It was an absolutely gorgeous morning. After a pretty decent bumpy drive into the canyon I found the switchbacks that I had been looking for. I had found this road on google maps and had no idea what these switchbacks were. It did not take long for me to realize that this was no ordinary forest service road. These switchbacks were narrow and steep. Once you were on them there was no turning back. You were either going up or going down. Encountering another vehicle on this road would be the stuff of nightmares. I was only two or three switchbacks into the trail before I had to bust out my winch. I had not anticipated needing or wanting my front locker or winch on this trip. Both were to be failsafes. The front locker never made it into the Jeep before the trip and I was longing for it in fairly short order.
It was muddy and coming from Colorado I am not used to this kind of mud. It was clingy mud it packed my tires and flung everywhere. I fought up these switchbacks for two hours or so not encountering another person the entire time. There will be a video of these switchbacks soon. The switchbacks took me about 2.5 hours to concur. Once on top of the switchbacks I thought I was home free….. Then the snow became a factor. Going back down was not an option. The switchbacks were so traumatizing that going back was not an option. I made it a little ways without issue in the lower snow/mud. Then I got into the clouds. Once I was in the cloud I had no concept of time, I only had visibility of 50 yards, there was no other terrain I could see, all I had was the trail in front of me and the trees around. I was so focused on moving forward that I got tunnel vision like I have never experienced before. I had to keep pushing up, going back was not an option. I was in the clouds and trees for about three hours before I saw another person. It was a 4 seater Mule with hunters. I had been following their tracks. It was at this point that the penny dropped. After talking with these very knowledgeable locals I found out that I was 15 miles from my goal of the other side of the trail and 7 miles from tree line. I let them pass me and they continued down as I continued up. Once again I got stuck at the next turn. I had been winching myself up this mountain 100’ at a time fighting for every foot. My phone dinged with a text message. I had one bar of service. It was my mom asking if I had made it to my campsite yet… I couldn't text her back, I couldn't tell her the situation I was in, not yet, but I did need to contact someone. I called my buddy Brandon, I gave him the rundown of my situation and he told me what I already knew. It was time to turn around and head back down.
There was no other choice, I would have been camping in the snow if I didn’t. I had no issues in the snow and mud going back down out of the trees and back to the top of the switchbacks. It was at this point that I realized that I had only gone maybe a half mile in the approximately 3.5 hours that I was in the trees and clouds. That is how tunnel visioned I got, I thought I was making progress up the mountain but I was not. I swallowed my pride and asked one of the hunters to help spot me down the switchbacks. I had made enough bad decisions for the day, the last thing I needed was to get stuck going down the switchbacks and not have any help. At the very least if I rolled my Jeep down the switchbacks there would have been someone that could have gone for help. Ultimately I had no issues going down the switchbacks and had a short chat with the gentleman that had helped me down. Turned out he was the fire Chief of Clark, WY so we had something to talk about. It was getting late and I didn't want to take up any more of his time so I thanked him and we went separate ways. I now had the long drive out of the valley I was in that morning. It was all I wanted to be back out of that canyon and back on pavement. Once back to pavement Goose and I took a moment. I fed goose I changed my soaking pants and shoes, I packed away the jeep, the winch controller, the winch cable, the GoPro that had died hours earlier and got something cold out of the cooler. I was on the trail at 0900 and was back to pavement at 1800. I had an adrenaline rush for 6 hours or so that was now crashing. I was still 8 hours from my bed in Evergreen and I had only made it an 1.5 hours from Billings. It was an easy choice, I called my sister let her know that I was coming back for one more night. Home would have to wait for another day.
Needless to say I felt as though I had gotten the adventure I had come for and no longer required another one on this trip. I made the decision to head home “the boring way” and cannonballed back to Evergreen the next day without incident. There are large portions of this trip that went without documentation (pictures) and that is because there were places that I went that you just have to earn for yourself. I can say that I may never take another major road trip in Liz again. It was a loud, uncomfortable, and cramped experience. That being said I am so glad that I did this trip and experienced the things I did in the vehicle I did, it is not something I will soon forget. Oh, I do plan on returning to the switchbacks of the Morrison Jeep trail and conquering the entirety of the trail.