I knew there was no chance I was going to make it to a gas station in time… might as well just enjoy the ride. After passing what seemed like the fifth exit in a row without services, I hoped that when I inevitably had to pull over to the side of the highway, I would at least find cell phone service, so I could call AAA. But I wasn’t optimistic. Southern Idaho seemed to be a dead zone as far as the petrochemical industry was concerned. Perhaps people drove around on potato-based biodiesel in these parts.
With its gas gauge a quarter-inch below empty, my Jeep still managed to cruise down the highway until, beyond all expectations, we came within sight of an exit and a big sign for Exxon-Mobil. Saved! But then the Jeep sputtered and died right at the end of the off-ramp. So close.
I jumped out the door and cranked the steering wheel while I used some leg muscle to move the Jeep off the ramp and onto the side of the road. The gas station lay on the opposite side of the highway. Now, what to do about a gas can …
When I packed up my Montana home that morning and hit the road, I had brought a quarter-filled milk jug with me, even though I knew the milk would curdle within hours in the summer heat. It was a senseless action, but perhaps intuition had played a part. Once the jug was rinsed out, I was able to easily carry a gallon of gas back to my vehicle and continue onwards to the Jarbridge Mountains in Northeast Nevada.
My plan was no different than the usual… to climb the highest mountain in the Jarbridge Wilderness: 10,838-foot Matterhorn Peak. Approaching from Idaho, the long, narrow mountain range looked like a ship capsizing in a sea of sagebrush. With bits of snow clinging to its cliffs and ledges, the ridgeline looked out of place, unsure of what it was doing out there in such arid country. Come to think of it, I wasn’t quite sure what I was doing out here either, except that there was a mountain on a map, and I felt obligated to climb it.