About three miles into the trip, we met a BLM Ranger named Julie in a white 4x4 work truck, who was mapping part of the area. I asked her about road conditions, and she said, "It puckers up after the next switchback about half a mile ahead." She had never been beyond the snowfield. We thanked her and drove on.

As we continued to climb higher, the vegetation increased, and we began to see more juniper and pinion pines along the edge of the road and on the rocky slopes. We also began to notice places where the cliff face was wet, either from springs or water from the melting snow on the slopes above. The road did "pucker up," and we folded in the passenger-side mirror. That gave us just enough room to get around a curve where the edge of the road had been washed away. There were times when the road was quite smooth, but then we would come to an area of large rocks and ravines where washouts slowed us down to a crawl.

A Jeep had passed us when we stopped to talk to the ranger. Now, an hour later, we saw it coming toward us on its return down the mountain. We pulled over into one of the few places wide enough for two vehicles to pass. They had been to the snowfield and had a small snowman packed onto the hood and windshield. I shouted, "How far is it to the snow?"

The Jeep's driver replied, "In about 10 minutes, you'll see it. The road gets much worse after that. You'll know when it's time to turn around." He waved goodbye and disappeared around the curve.

We got to the beginning of the snowfield and saw small patches of white on the banks along the road edge, but I wanted to go higher to see more snow and get pictures. Suddenly, the road took a downward plunge, which I mistook to be a brief drop before another increase in elevation. By the time I realized my error, we were already starting down the opposite side of the mountain.