Usually when we get a forecast with snow, I am optimistic about getting a ton or more than what they call for but I also know that in most cases, it will either be a light dusting, miss us, or a rainy day. Luckily on January 22, 2014 we got a little bit of snowstorm Janus as she passed overhead. Dumping roughly two to three inches in the valley but if one seeks snow, they know Whitetop is the place to go. The day before I had iMessaged my brother asking if he wanted to ride up the mountain after he got off work around three o’clock. I obviously did not want to show him up taking my Ford Fusion to the top of the mountain in the snow, so we took his Jeep Wrangler with big tires instead. Leaving out of town, the roads were clear, salted and graveled up for driving convenience, but starting the climb up Iron Mountain, the roads started to become snow covered. Starting off with the occasional wind blown snow over portions of the road to the well wet snow covered mountain road. We gazed at th
e snow as we drove to the top at started the descent down the other side toward Konnarock before starting the big climb up to the Mount Rogers Recreational area.
Since the roads were covered and untouched, we decided to drive up at a slow pace and only going as far as the recreational area instead to the summit of Whitetop due to the amount of snow still falling at a pretty decent pace. When we pulled into the recreational area, we ventured up the Appalachian Trail a little ways into the woods to admire the snow. While I was snapping photos, my brother asked for a photo for his Facebook and I happily obliged and snapped him a photo then he said we’re going to the top! Both of us were excited as we have never officially been to the top during a snowstorm, last year we were four miles short with a convoy of others but the lead truck busted the valve stem on his rear right tire while putting on his chains. With the darkness starting to fall around us, my brother and I turned around to head home that evening. Yet this time, with just a solo Jeep, he decided to tackle the mountain road. We loaded up and headed to the gravel mountain road to the summit. I have been up it multiple times on clear days to take sunrise and sunset photos and he had not been up there since we were little children. I guess I acted like a navigator and what to expect as we crawled up the snow covered road.
As we slowly advanced up the road, I spotted a deer to the right, I quickly tried to snap a shot but could not focus fast enough then another deer that was standing still right in front of me that I did not see took off. I felt stupid but we laughed it off, especially since he tried to stop quickly but we slid forward thru the snow. Resuming our journey, we finally got to the edge of the woods, to the bare land of the mountainside, with a few trees here and there but nothing to really stop the wind. The snow was whipping along the ground making it virtually whiteout conditions. We could barely see the road as it started to blend in with everything, but still we pushed on. Slowly climbing up, one curve at a time I told him to mind the ditches on the upper side of the road as we peaked from the curves coming to a fork in the road. I described to him the many ways we could drive on, either making a loop going thru the upper parking lot and back down or stay on the current road until the next fork and turn around there. We took the high road, heading for the upper parking lot, the road was being covered in a snow drift, as he tried to edge around it, we sunk into the snow drift on the right side that stopped us cold. We both looked at each other thinking what just happened, he threw it in reverse and gassed it. Moved a mere inch before we stopped and the tires started to spin, put it in drive, same affect, we were stuck.
He turned off the Jeep and jumped out into the storm, my first step landed in the ditch with the snow coming up to my knee, seeing the snow virtually swallowing the tires on the right side was a weird feeling, especially knowing we were the only ones on the mountain. We assessed the problem while the wind driven snow whipped our faces as we gazed at the tires. With no shovel and only our gloves, we tried to clear as much snow as possible away from the tires to try again in a futile effort to get stuck again. We tried again, as I was clearing the snow; I said a little prayer asking for help to get the Jeep back up on the road. Climbing up from my knees, I walked around to the front of the Jeep then started pushing while my brother gassed it, then he came forward and threw it in reverse again. Finally, the jeep moved more than a few inches, still in the ditch he was moving, his front tires turned to the left at about a forty-five degree angle slinging snow out of the ditch as he moved back down the hill. The Jeep finally hit either a solid area of packed snow or the ditch finally evened out and the Jeep popped back up on the road. We were excited, yelling, cheering and still wanting to snap a photo or two of the Jeep and us.
That was the point we decided that it was time to get off the mountain before it was a complete whiteout to the point of not being able to see in front of our hands in front of our faces. The journey on the way back down did not seem as the climb up on the gravel road, after hitting the main highway, we started our way down to Konnarock. Popping around a curve, there they were, those two deer from earlier standing in the middle of the highway. I grabbed my camera and snapped away. Yet again, a fail on my part, I had flicked the camera back to auto and the sun had already started to set resulting in very grainy unusable images. One day, I may shoot those deer…with my camera of course!