In her 55 years living on The Rock, Darlene Rounsaville has traveled Anton Larsen Bay Road thousands of times.
All her outings on the gravel road past Bear Valley Golf Course had been ordinary. Nothing to write about. That changed on July 31. Now she has a whopper of a story to tell.
It all started when she decided to do the Discover Kodiak’s Adjust Your Altitude seven summit challenge.
Rounsaville, 61 in a week, is a runner but is not a mountain hiker. Nonetheless, she took off on the morning of July 31 to cross the third peak — Sharatin Mountain — off her list. A 3.4-mile, 3,000-foot elevation gain trek that treats on goers with waterfalls and tremendous vistas.
Rounsaville never made it to the top of Sharatin, let alone the trailhead just past Red Cloud River Bridge.
She experienced truck problems after passing Pyramid Mountain. She put her right foot on the brake pedal. One problem. The 2008 silver Dodge Ram — her husband’s truck — didn’t slow down. It kept barreling ahead. Ten miles per hour. Fifteen miles per hour.
“The pedal went all the way to the floor,” said Rounsaville Wednesday evening.
She kept pumping the brakes. Still nothing. She reached for the emergency brake, but being in an unfamiliar vehicle couldn’t locate the handle. Finally, she decided to grab the gear shifter and put the truck in park.
“I thought I would just get a big jolt and stop. It did nothing. In fact, it felt like it surged.”
Out of options, Rounsaville, knowing a downhill was approaching, unbuckled, opened the door and abandoned the out-of-control truck.
She landed on her feet and tried to run to catch her balance before her body crumpled to the ground. The truck came to rest 15 feet away in bushes.
Fortunately, Rounsaville emerged with only a scrape on her left knee.
“The blessing is, I did have my hiking boots on, which are up above my ankles. I think that was a real stabilizer there,” Rounsaville said.
The longtime elementary school physical education teacher pulled herself to her feet and walked to the truck to turn the engine off.
In an area without cell service, she hiked back the road she just traveled. She didn’t get far before her hiking partner, Kathryn Symmes, rolled up in her vehicle.
Rounsaville told Symmes what had happened. The two contemplated continuing with their plans but decided to forego the hike. Symmes drove Rounsaville back home. Later that day, with the help of a tow-truck, Rounsaville and her husband, Steve, retrieved the truck,
“On the driver’s side, the front brake was just hanging off,” Rounsaville said. “It has been a great truck. We get it serviced. It is just something that happens.”
So far this summer, Rounsaville has conquered Monashka and Heitman mountains. She is not sure when she will try Sharatin again. She does have a story to tell now, which she has a handful of times already.
“I laugh about it now, but my heart beats when we drive out there,” she said.