©Photos by Oma Liz
Dear Pastor: This email is being sent because I really must let you know why I didn’t come to church this past Sunday.
During the week, I had volunteered to pick up the AZMMM exhibit from the Gila County Fairgrounds Mineral Show on Sunday morning. Ninety miles isn’t really that far from here in Phoenix to Globe, so I figured if I left around 7 am, it would no problem to load the car and get back in time for the 11:00 am service. The evening weather prediction for Phoenix was light rain. However all day snow showers would be popping up in the mountains. It makes sense. Phoenix is only nine hundred feet above sea level.
For some reason I awoke a little after five on Sunday morning and, of course, checked the weather. The forecaster was just saying, “Well, I guess we have to change the weather for Globe (three thousand, seven feet elevation) and the mountain highways (two thousand feet or so) and the pass at Top of the Word (four thousand five hundred twenty eight feet). The snow showers have been changed to a severe, all-day snow warning starting at around nine a.m.”
Why do they call it a ‘mountain pass’ at that elevation? I suppose because the road is about a thousand feet below the summits. I mused, as I pulled out of my driveway at 5:40. Out of respect for you, I hadn’t telephoned at that hour to tell you I wouldn’t be there to do the reading.
By the time I got up-country to Apache Junction (elevation 1700 feet) on US 60, it was cloudy. The pass at Top of the World (elevation 4528 feet) had an inch of snow. Ten miles further on (elevation 2700 feet), at Superior, there were still snow flurries. Those mountain peaks certainly loom another thousand or so feet higher than the road. Traffic was moving along without problems. Occasionally, I would come up to a salt /sand truck parked by the side of the road, waiting for Armageddon. Arrival at the fairgrounds in Globe was a few minutes after seven a.m. I might make it after all, I mused, good thing I didn’t call Pastor this morning.
Without further ado, I parked and stopped to chat with the sheriff’s deputies. “Liz, that road’s closed because someone slid over the canyon wall on the US60 about ten minutes ago. Settle in and have breakfast. It being the only road up here between her and Phoenix, you have to wait a coupla hours till the occupants are rescued. Traffic isn’t moving.”
I packed the exhibit and put it into my car. Then I socialized with people. We watched the blizzard arrive. It was a white-out. An hour and a half later, the deputies came back. “Leave NOW! There are two’ of snow at the pass – and it’s getting bad.” The deputies had me follow a snow plow to US60. Then they waved goodbye. Slowly, I joined a snail’s pace line of cars as we climbed upward towards Top of the World. Just outside of Superior, the traffic stopped. Then it continued to snake upwards. The snow in the tire tracks was packed down and turned to ice.
Two hours later we made it as far as the approach to Top of the World. I used my cell phone to take pictures. The picture with the windshield was taken in Globe. The one with the red car was taken at “Top of the World” near Superior Mountain Pass. A truck, doing 4 mph was about 300 feet ahead of me. You can barely make it out: a 16 wheeler, poor guy. About 50 cars/trucks were behind me.
Cars were all over the road – into rock walls, hanging over ditches, doing 360’s, etc. Everyone was following behind each other’s tracks and the road was packed solid ice. I knew enough not to drive in the now frozen tire tracks.
The road shoulder looked wide enough for a car, so I moved over to the shoulder for traction and took off. No cars were coming in the opposite direction – road conditions were awful. We made it to the top of the pass and then went down the thousand foot drop in elevation. A car on the road ahead of me finally moved to the left – there was no upward traffic – and passed a truck on a relatively straight mile of road. I soon followed onto the road again.
After that, it wasn’t so bad because the road was covered with two inches of almost untouched snow and, because there was no slow moving traffic, no ice. About ten minutes later, several people who had caught on to my strategy as I passed on the right, had also moved over, being careful not to go in my tracks. Eventually I a motorcade led about 30 of them to the downhill side of the mountain at fifteen mph.
When we arrived at lower elevations, the snow had turned to rain. I was passed by the motorcade. They waved at me and gave me the high sign! I waved my red hat at them.
The sun was shining and it was warm.
I got home after three and thought I would email you.