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Deadhorse Point

Golfing with Winthrop’s mayor, Warren Badger, years ago, our conversation focussed on Dead Horse Point on the road to Harts Pass. He related a tale of a group of guys, well likkered up, riding snow machines to Harts Pass. Before reaching the destination they noticed one of the party was missing. Backtracking, they saw tracks that disappeared at the edge of the dropoff. “You could starve to death before you hit bottom,” Badger noted.

The group rode back to where they could access the world below the drop off and found their friend quite alive, unlike his wrecked machine. He was shaken up but basically uninjured and his only request was for a shot of whiskey.

While I had made the journey in both truck and car several times prior to this tale, tall or actual, after hearing it the Mayor’s words about starving to death activated my semi-nascent acrophobia. Fear of Heights.

I made the trip a couple of times after that, but it was not the same. Once past Cache Creek my knees would begin to shake, I broke into a sweat and my hands seemed semi-paralyzed. Four times thereafter I tried and my mind and body absolutely refused and I had to quit.

The final try resulted in putting the right side wheels in the ditch before coming to the Point and backing down. A van was coming up and I stopped my Volkswagen. The van stopped as well and two quite elderly women emerged asking if I was having car trouble. I said I was having problems with my nerves but would make it to where I could turn around. They left and I felt humiliated to the extreme.

The Dead Horse phobia had its roots years before when a friend and I were camping at Meadows Campground at Harts Pass. When we drove up it was a sunny July day. We set up our tent as the clouds began to roll in. Went for little walk and she was feeling sickly. So as the dog and I explored she slept in the tent.

The rains came, and began to turn to snow. I woke her and we struck camp as the white stuff began to accumulate. My vehicle then was a big Ford Gran Tourismo coupe with a power bulge in the hood, a minor obstruction to vision. The car had tires that suited sunny July days, not snowy ones.

We headed downward and just at the beginning of the curve around Deadhorse, encountered a procession of a half dozen or so jeeps coming in the opposite direction. There were about three inches of snow by now. Up hill vehicles had the right of way and I had to ease the big Detroit Iron to what might pass for a turnout for three bicycles abreast. The car stopped, then began to inch forward even with my foot on the brake. I put it in Park and it stopped its slide - momentarily. Both feet on the brake and in reverse it would slide just a bit then stop, and then proceed to eternity (or starvation) again. It seemed like hours, but was probably only minutes before the jeeps passed and I was able to get back on the road.

I was shaking like a wet dog the rest of the way down, all the way to River Bend Campground. Once back it my log cabin I poured a couple of heavy duty brandies and gradually relaxed.

As mentioned previously, I tried four times to overcome the consuming fear and failed at each effort, well before I ever got to the Point. In subsequent years I had weddings to photograph at both Harts Pass and Slate peak.

I rode with the wedding couple both times. It was in the contract.


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