It was snowing last April when we arrived at our cottage in Michigan after driving our new 17-foot Casita travel trailer from Florida. I was expecting lilics and cherry blossoms and I only lasted three snowy days before I told my husband I was heading back to Florida. He was to fly home whenever he was ready and I took off on my first solo adventure towing my little Casita behind me. My only fear was that I would have to back it up since I had never practiced driving in reverse with the camper. But I figured it was a straight shot south on I-75 from Michigan to Florida, what could go wrong?
The snow followed me to Chattanooga, Tennessee and I spent the night in a Comfort Inn since it was too cold to set up the trailer on a campsite. The morning dawned bright and sunny so I decided it was a perfect day to drive up Lookout Mountain to visit Ruby Falls, an underground waterfall, before continuing to the Chickamauga Battle site to do a little Civil War exploring. I planned to reach Atlanta before nightfall.
The drive to Lookout Mountain was easy but I must have taken a wrong turn because as I drove up the mountain higher and higher, the road got narrower and the houses scarcer. I figured what went up must come down so I would just drive to the top and then drive down the other side and eventually find my way to Ruby Falls. I figured wrong. The pitted one lane road ended abruptly with a sheer drop to infinity on the right and a steep rock wall on the left. There were a couple of shacks that looked abandoned. I was too nervous being a woman alone on an isolated road in the middle of nowhere to approach either of the dwellings. I started sweating and praying since the only way down was in reverse.
I tried backing up inch by inch; the same six inches in reverse and then forward again because the trailer and the car kept going in opposite directions. Alone on a 10 foot wide road at the top of a mountain was not the time to practice backing up a travel trailer. My face and neck were flushed with tension, I was practically sweating blood and I was jibbering. Every time I checked the road on my right I was looking at a drop off down to the treetops below. I was scared to move forward or back. I was alternately cussing and praying. I eventually t-boned the car and the trailer and was good and truly stuck with my trailer about 12 inches from infinity. For one of the few times in my 60+ years, I honestly did not know what to do. I didn’t know who to call. I didn’t know where I was. So, I just sat in the car to get my heart rate under control and when my breathing stabilized, after two puffs from my rescue inhaler, I decided to lock everything up and hike back down the road to civilization. I wasn’t worried about leaving my car and camper since I was literally at the end of the road and I hadn’t seen a soul since I started up the road 30 minutes before. I grabbed my purse, locked the car door and turned around to begin my hike.
Standing behind my camper were eight children where there had been no one before. They were a diverse group; Anglo, Latino, black and Asian carrying rakes and shovels and hoes. They appeared to be as astonished by me as I was by them. “Where did you come from?” I asked. They pointed down the road. “Do any of you know how to back up a trailer?” They shook their heads which was understandable since they appeared to be 12-14 year olds. They told me they were with the Lookout Mountain Conservancy and maybe their counselor could help me. Around the bend came a sweet looking woman who assured me she could get me turned around since she was a FedEx driver. She handed her hedge trimmers to one of the kids, got into my SUV and with the help of the kids, we maneuvered the camper in reverse to a small dirt turnoff where she got me headed in the right direction. She told me the teens were inner-city kids who volunteered once a month to help keep the brush and trees from overgrowing the roadway and I was just lucky it was their volunteer day.
I don’t know why or how those children were at the top of that mountain at that exact time on that day but I know they were angels. And, I will pass their good work forward so I, too, can be an angel to someone in need.