In case you forgot, Nov. 1 marked the first day Oregon drivers can legally use studded snow tires.
For Central Oregon, that’s important to note. The area is experiencing that bridge season of still technically being fall, yet it feels and looks like winter. Short days, frigid temperatures and snow is becoming a common sight.
That said, if you plan on exploring Central Oregon — better yet, anywhere — over the next couple of months, make sure your vehicle has all-wheel drive. Or snow tires. Or at the very least, carry tire chains
Take it from me.
Wednesday morning, I ventured out to Paulina and East Lake, north of La Pine, in my two-wheel drive, snow tire-less mid-2000s sedan to see just what people would be doing during this not-quite fall, not-quite winter day.
A scenic drive through the Deschutes National Forest to find people enjoying the outdoors quickly turned to a cautionary tale.
After turning east off Highway 97 and traveling further up Paulina-East Lake Road, snow became more prominent than the small patches that were found throughout Bend. Driving a few more miles up the peak brought several inches of snow and slick driving conditions.
I was dreading the thought of putting on chains.
A pair of cars in a parking lot covered with half a foot of fresh snow seemed like a good place to pull over. The plan was to find someone for a quick interview. After 15 stagnant minutes, I decided to move on to another spot.
To my surprise, my car was able to move through the snow without any issues. That is until I had to clear the final small bank of snow to get back onto the main road. Suddenly, my car was stuck on a treadmill of snow and ice going nowhere.
Then came the decision I was hoping to avoid. I was going to have to put on chains. A truly frustrating task, but it needed to be done.
Just my luck, there were no chains to be found.
Science may never be able to accurately explain how the tires of my car gripped onto the road, but somehow, the car made it back to the road, and I was back on my way.
I ran into a pair of fishermen hoping to catch some trout in the lake’s icy waters and hikers out with their dogs.
Winding carefully on the road, enjoying the dampened silence that snow creates. I foolishly pulled over on the side to a seemingly safe shoulder.
Suddenly, my car sunk into the snow.
For the second time within 20 minutes, I was stuck. Only this time, nothing short of divine intervention would bring my car out of the ditch. That was until the gift of a truck dragged my car back to the road.
I consider myself lucky for a number of reasons: no one was hurt, the incidents took place in the early afternoon in the daylight when it was not too cold and I was still within cell service, so I could call a tow company. Others might not have the same luck.
Even luckier, multiple people driving by stopped by, checked in and offered a helping hand, even though there was nothing they could do. I might still be stuck if not for the graciousness from strangers.
So again, make sure you have chains.