Kayaking is risky … but not necessarily on the river!

Day 2 of solo cabin weekend.  I had decided to paddle the Toccoa, a local class II creek.  It is normally a sleepy trout stream and summer tubing run, but after a good rain it can be a lot of fun. I also only paddle it in the winter when the lake level is low, since the lowered lake level uncovers a bunch of atypical sloping ledges that are normally at the bottom of the lake when it is at full pool in the summer.  It was still pumping after all the rain Wednesday (large basin!) at 700+ cfs, several times the usual levels.  It was fun!  Lots of surfing, and I helped teach a new kayaker who lives up in Blue Ridge.

The takeout is a rough dirt road that leads to the lake, which is a lake bed this time of year.  I would only drive that road with an AWD car, which of course my Subaru is 🙂

The day was fun and without incident.  We got to our cars and were loading our boats to go home.  I was the last to leave, taking my time and enjoying the view and weather.  As I backed my car up near the lake bed, all of a sudden I lost traction.  How?  I have AWD?  Nothing can stop me!  Yet, all my tires were spinning.

I got out of the car and saw this:

Stuck car

AWD doesn’t help when there isn’t much weight on the tires!

I suppose this is why off-road 4WD trucks have high clearance 🙂 I also suppose they have a name for this situation. After 5 minutes of trying turning the wheels, forward, reverse, etc. it was clear I was doing nothing but spinning all four tires. I tried banging some rocks under the front tires for traction but that didn’t help. I tried calling my friends but the cell phone coverage barely works. So I stopped and did some thinking …

The wheels were turning, which means some weight was on them (AWD redirects power to the wheels with traction). But clearly a lot of the car’s weight was being supported by the ground in the middle. I decided to get out the car jack and lift the front left side of the car. My thinking was that it would shift more weight to the rear tires if I got the jack high enough, and would also result in more power being distributed to the rear tires since the front would have no traction at all once lifted. Yes it is a little dicey to try to move a car with a jack under it, but the car was only lifted a few inches and I had a hunch the jack would tilt back, not fall, given how deep it was squished into the ground. Nervous, I started the car, put it in reverse slowly, and the car moved! Not enough – but the car did move back about one foot.  It was again stuck in a similar manner. Encouraged by the positive results, I spent 10 more minutes trying again – move jack, raise jack, put car in reverse and … I was free!

Bumper cover damage

Bumper cover damage 🙁

But I also had some body damage. Reversing down the drop dislodged a bunch of screws/rivets holding part of my front bumper cover in place.   I didn’t notice it at first until I saw a piece of plastic on the ground and wondered where it came from.

Duct tape fixes everything

Duct tape fixes everything.

I suspect I can fix this without going to a body shop – it needs some new reattachment – it is definitely not worth an entirely new bumper cover, paint, etc.  But in the interim, there is always duct tape, which is in my first-aid/rescue/emergency kit that I take kayaking.  It is not pretty, but it works.  100 miles later, 3 of the pieces were still holding strong!

Is there a lesson here?  Look before you leap?  This could have been avoided if I had remembered exactly what the nearby gradient looked like.  Drive an AWD? If this car had been front wheel drive, I would have had to call a tow truck.  On the other hand, if this car was not AWD, I may not have driven it where I was!

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