Mountain Musings


Take a Back Road


Recalling the horror that befell our mountain on the morning of Oct. 25, 2003 (the so-called “Old Fire”) – which was ignited by a madman near the bottom of Old Waterman Canyon and raged across the mountain for nine straight days, scorching some 91,000 acres, destroying 1,003 homes and killing six mountain area residents – I couldn’t help but wonder whether it would be possible to use a tiny fraction of the federal government’s $2 trillion plus infrastructure repair funds to widen and pave Highway 173 as a safe escape route down the backside of the mountain.


“Sit in that six-lane backed up traffic, horns-a-honkin, I’ve about had it. I’m looking for an exit sign, gotta get out of here, get it all off my mind. And it makes me wanna take a back road, makes me wanna take the long way home…” (“Take A Back Road” – Rodney Atkins – 2011)


So, I fired off an email to Caltrans two weeks ago, requesting that they look into it, and they did. They emailed me back a week later, saying, “After checking with Caltrans staff and San Bernardino County to see if they have any new plans for SR-173, I can now confirm that the status of SR-173 is not expected to change in the near future.”


“Dang,” I said (actually, I used a word similar to that), they don’t seem to give a gall durned dang if we burn to death trying to escape another disaster, whether it be a raging inferno, catastrophic flood or calamitous earthquake. They don’t seem to realize that many of the other roads off the mountain during the Old Fire were closed and people trying to get outta here were busting their axles and getting stranded on some of the rutted, bumpy and windy dirt excuses for roads.


Access to some of the roads leading onto and off the mountain will be limited, as it was in the past, due to lanes being used by fire departments and other emergency services, while others will be shrouded in flames and, in the event of a catastrophic earthquake, some will be non-existent.


You wanna know what I think? OK, you with your hand raised, I’m glad you asked. I think it’s high time we start writing letters, emailing and phoning our county, state and federal legislators, or paying them a personal visit to engage them in discussion of how important this is to all of us mountain residents… well, most of us anyway, after all, there are those who still refuse to get vaccinated or wear a COVID mask, much to the detriment of the rest of us.


“Makes me wanna grab my honey, tear down some two-lane country highway. Who knows, get lost and get right with my soul. Makes me wanna take, makes me wanna take a back road.”


Keep it flyin’ Uncle Mott