Gravel Roads and Gardens
I can’t recall the last time I drove down a gravel road. The mountain roads winding through our Rim of the World communities are primarily paved, and at this time of year, just before winter, they are newly graded and smooth blanketed in black asphalt. Bright white and yellow lines mark the lanes, carved in divits with standing fog reflectors have been freshly placed to help us stay on the road when the dreaded mountain white-outs appear. Fog, rain, sleet, falling rocks, and accumulating snow make these precarious roads into a challenging and sometimes deadly course.
The primary road here is Highway 18, a spectacular ride that climbs up from the valley and traverses locals and visitors up the ridges of the San Bernardino Mountains providing access to the mountain communities ranging from Cedar Pines Park and Valley of Enchantment on the lower elevations up past Crestline with its public Lake Gregory up through Twin Peaks, Lake Arrowhead, Rim Forest, Sky Forest, Running Springs, which brings us to approximately 7,000 feet of elevation. It doesn’t stop there! It works its way up past Snow Valley Ski Resort and opens out onto the starkly sensational section of the road known as The Arctic Circle. It finally reaches the spectacular view of Big Bear Lake at the new damn, and then winds around the lake into Big Bear Village and its environs that contain Bear Valley and Bear Mountain Ski Resorts, and from there the highway heads down the back side of the range into the desert community of Lucerne Valley.
Some of our other, smaller roads, often unmaintained access roads that connect homes built on different elevations in difficult to reach forested mountainsides. They are narrow, compacted earth, often deeply rutted and littered with fallen tree limbs, trunks, and boulders. Jeeps and Pickups with ploughs attached, are the vehicle of choice for many mountain folk.
In contrast, the roads in the city below are always paved. They look like an endless parade of glistening fairies beneath us, rolling along in a miniature world. In reality these city streets and freeways are crowded with SUVs, beat-up looking foreign economy cars, big trucks, squad cars, and busses.
Gravel roads are from different places, special places. Civilized country places, I speculate. There’s the attractive clean fresh white color of the gravel, of course; so often curving appealingly through green grassy lawns and past froggy lily ponds, flowering trees and shrubs, and all the while there’s that wonderful satisfying crunch, crunch, crunch as your car’s rubber tires roll over the rocks, rubbing and crushing, sometimes spitting small hard mouthfuls into the sumac or maples at the edge of the road. You just know after a drive down a gravel road, there’s a wildly spectacular garden, and some kind of spectacular dwelling around the last curve, be it a mobile home, a mansion, or a vintage cottage… it’s the last house on a gravel road, one that invites the romantic part of you to slow down, say hello, and stay awhile.
©Rachel L Pohlman, 2013
Mission Inn Writing Retreat, Riverside, CA
A Short Writing Prompt from the Mission!