Lost in The Devil’s Washbowl

Yesterday evening I thought for sure I was going to die.

I drove a class five road through The Devil’s Washbowl in Northfield, VT. Class five roads are defined as “unimproved roads passable with only 4-wheel-drive vehicles” by the Transportation Dictionary. Maybe it’s considered a class four road by town standards, or by Google maps, which is what took me through there.

Let’s be clear. I have a Honda Civic Hybrid which will bottom out on a frost heave on a good day. And I’m in no way afraid of a class five road – when I’m in an appropriate vehicle – but this particular pass goes over a mountain with a terrifying urban legend clutching to its dark underside:

The Pigman of the Devil’s Washbowl.

Now I’m not going to go into the legend, only that Northfield is still fairly rural in spots, even by Vermont standards, and this little wive’s tale has been around for close to 60 years (evidently originating in 1951). If you want to read about the urban legend head over to this link.

Anyway, I’m on this class five road, in a vehicle epically unsuited to the task. There are sheer drop-offs on one side, which I come very close to as I avoid washed out sections of the road. There are huge downed trees which cross the road periodically, and as I drive further on the road (knowing it comes out somewhere on a class four road further down, and having absolutely no option of turning around anyway) I begin to panic. Each time I have to get out of my car to move a tree, I psych myself out more. I keep thinking, Pigman has put this here to stall and attack unprepared victims – like you, you stupid shithead! I’m normally a fairly logical person, but as the trees got heavier and the road got worse, and the downed trees became more frequent, my thought process became less about driving safely and more about the urban legend.

I was also terrified I would end up over the cliff, stuck in a washed out section of the road, or popping a tire – all in addition to being illogically terrified that somewhere in the woods, Pigman was lurking, waiting to attack me and drag me off and eat me.

Regardless, I made it to the other side – all thoughts of checking out the land (my original goal) lost in the panic attack I had suffered. And when I made it to the other side? I drove almost 70 miles an hour down that class four road, like a “bat out of hell” as my mother would say, singing my praises and hallelujahs to the warm sun that beat down on my car as I emerged from the shadowy underside of that mountain.

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