Near-death New Year's experience

Ilove the winter. And, on Saturday, it almost killed me.

Isn't that always the way?

It was New Year's Day. My friend and I had decided to start the year by going to a Buddhist temple in the Colestin Valley, just south of Ashland.

This was after we had celebrated Russian New Year's Eve. My friend was born in Russia and came to the U.S. 10 years ago.

She's always telling me all sorts of interesting facts about Russia, where some of my ancestors also hail from. For example, did you know the Russian words for vodka and water are remarkably similar?

Anyway, we were determined to make a fresh start Saturday and turn the prayer wheels at the temple. We wanted to be mindful of 2011. We wanted to express gratitude for somehow making it this far.

And, then, we almost didn't make it any farther.

Isn't that always the way?

We were driving to the temple in my friend's car, and since we're both extremely foresighted, we didn't bring the snow chains. Sometimes I think we subconsciously want to make our lives difficult.

In all fairness to my subconscious, I really didn't know we were going to an ice-packed mountain. And my friend didn't think to bring chains because she lived in the Colestin Valley for a month last winter and never needed them.

We crossed the border and got off Interstate 5 at Hilt Road, heading immediately back into Oregon on Colestin Road. The road was snowy, but passable.

The sun was out, it was New Year's Day and we had nothing to worry about. We were going to a Buddhist temple to turn prayer wheels — surely the universe would bless us today, of all days.

And, then, as we headed deeper into the lonely mountains, the car almost slipped off the edge of the road into an icy death-trap.

Isn't that always the way?

Underneath the few inches of snow on the road was a thick layer of ice. The car's tires were spinning and sliding dangerously close to the edge of a cliff. Let me tell you, even though we weren't at the temple turning the prayer wheels, we were praying.

We saw no other cars or people during this ordeal, and we had no cell phone reception.

After what seemed like hours, but was probably minutes, we were able to stop the car. Somehow, we turned it around, slid down a huge ice hill and made it up another huge ice hill to the road.

Life is full of mysteries and contradictions. Just when you think everything is going to work out, it doesn't. But the beauty is that sometimes, when it seems sure that you're going to die in a crash at the top of a remote mountain, you somehow make it to safety.

Even though we didn't make it to the Buddhist temple to turn prayer wheels for the New Year, we did get a heck of a chance to be grateful for 2011. We don't know how we've made it this far, but we're so thankful we have.

Although we know things don't always go the way we expect, we're going to try to make the most of this year.

And, next time, even if I don't know where I'm going, I'm bringing chains. I learned that much.

Yes, even though I almost died, I learned something and now I have more to carry with me through my life.

I hope that's always the way.

Contact reporter Hannah Guzik at 541-708-1158 or For past columns see

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