When I left the mountain to head to my brother’s house for a family dinner last Sunday, it had already been raining since Friday. Other than water draining over the highway, road conditions weren’t too bad. There’s a drainage—“the dip”—across the road about a half mile from my cabin, and when I drove through it, my thought was, ‘That’s gonna be deep when I get home.’ Indeed it was.
When I returned at 6:00p.m., there was a bulldozer down in the dip, pushing rocks and debris over the side and into the canyon. Several cars were waiting to cross. I watched a Honda Passport make it across, so I knew the Tacoma would easily. I wasn’t expecting the water to splash all the way up and over the cab. Whoa. Deep. I planned to stay home for a few days, until the rain stopped falling or turned to snow. Good thing.
The next, day, Monday, it continued to rain, and by the end of the day the water flowing near the dip had undermined, then broken, a water main. We were without running water.
By the next morning, the highway just below the cabin was a riverbed. I walked down early in the morning, only to find that the entire road in both directions had become the run-off for the higher elevations, and it wasn’t just water—the pavement was covered over with aggregate, rocks, branches, chunks of trees and a few boulders. The dip had filled with dirt and debris and the water was now diverted in front of it, creating a huge gash in the top of the canyon over which the water was falling.
My phone started ringing Monday night and didn’t stop until the rain did. I averaged one call every 30 minutes during that time—people on the mountain were calling to make sure I had food and water, people down the mountain who couldn’t get home were wondering if I could accomplish one small chore or another, turning off heaters, checking on pets. At one point, I had the keys to three different cabins. No way could I run out of food or water.
In the meantime, stories began to be exchanged. While I was sitting before a roaring fire, catching up on my reading or watching my recorded NCIS marathon, brave Baldyites were out in the pouring rain, cutting dead trees to divert the flow of water back into the streambed, bringing in heavy equipment to start work on the washed out road—and repairing the water system. (By Tuesday afternoon, our water was completely restored. I had expected to be without running water for days. Fourteen hours didn’t seem long at all—but man, was I glad to take a hot bath.) Others did what they could; two of my neighbors are nurses. On Tuesday, as I brought in firewood, they stopped to chat—in the pouring rain. They were soaked to the skin, and had hiked in from their cabin a mile or so away. They were making the rounds of the cabins in my neighborhood, checking to make sure everyone was OK, asking if anyone needed food or water.
When I found out last month that the, er, gentlemen who were going to buy my cabin had changed their minds, someone said they were “sorry” and hoped I wasn’t “too disappointed.” No. Eventually, when the cabin sells for real, I will cry when I leave this community. People wonder why I ‘put up with’ the challenges of living on a mountain. It’s more beautiful here than I can say. Beyond that, I love these people who are willing to experience inconvenience and to sacrifice personal comfort in order to make the lives of those in their community better. In a world that becomes increasingly more selfish with every passing day, I cherish that quality.