Mt Charleston Wild Burro Road Hazards After Dark!

Mt Charleston Wild Burro Road Hazards After Dark!

A few years ago, I went to Mt Charleston to photograph a summer season super moon event at night. This mountain rises high above the big city smog level and the stars do shine bright in the high elevation. This is an ideal location for photographing a super moon event, but there are risks involved with driving on this mountain. Mt Charleston is the home of many wild horses, wild horses and there are large Mule Deer on this mountain too. These big animals can be dangerous road hazards at night, especially when doing the steep downhill run!

The roads on Mt Charleston have very steep grades and even when engine break idling in fourth gear, it is easy to hit downhill speeds of over 80 miles per hour.  For the most part, there are no guard rails on these steep winding mountain roads and there are few curbside reflectors.  There are no road shoulders in some stretches too and the edge of the road is like looking down from a tall cliff.  At night on the Mt Charleston roads, there are only steep grades, pitch black darkness and sheer drop offs that end a thousand feet down below. Needless to say, it is best to drive cautiously when coming down this mountain at night! 

Driving downhill on Mt Charleston is actually a fun thing to do in a muscle car that is built for one purpose, which is performance.  I was driving a Dodge Hemi Challenger during my night time steep downhill run at Mt Charleston, so at least the car had great stoppies, but even after downshifting it was difficult to keep the car under 45 mph without heating up the brakes.

As I approached the deep ravine section of the road in pitch black darkness, all of a sudden with no warning, a wild burro decided leisurely mosey across the road right in the path of my car! I am good in freaked out conditions and I was able to slow down quick, but maneuvering the car safely past the donkey was a bit trickier to do, because there was only about one foot of dirt shoulder on this section of road and it was a long way down to the bottom of the canyon over the edge.

While gearing down and hitting the brakes to make the possible impact bearable, I tried to skirt through the narrow gap between the burro and the edge of the canyon rim. The passenger side tires were doing a balancing act on the edge of the cliff when the wild burro was close enough to look larger than life and I just held my breath as the driver side mirror lightly grazed the wild burro’s big butt as I passed by!

The memory of that burro butt flashing by the driver side window likely could have been the very last memory I ever had, but I was lucky to get through without a scratch. I was still holding my breath as the adrenaline rush subsided after I stopped the car, when i looked over at the burro to see if it was okay. The wild burro was standing on the other side of the road comically raising its head up and down just as if it was laughing about freaking me out! I just had to laugh a little bit too while using the phone camera to capture the moment. Being one of two jackasses laughing it up on the side of the mountain was too much to bear, so I headed on home from there!   

I was just lucky that I was capable of keeping a cool head during the wild burro road hazard incident, because going into a state of panic would have led to a disastrous result.  Even with all the down shifting and braking in the world, it can be difficult to slow a car down when doing the downhill trip on Mt Charleston. Being aware of the large animal road hazards on this dangerous road is a good thing for visitors to know, especially when driving at night!


Author: wildwestdestinations

I worked as a chef in remote resorts and National Parks, which provided the time to explore western travel destinations. I have a BA Degree in Culinary Management with high honors and currently I am working on a Masters Degree in Adult Education. My food and travel blog writing began as a means to generate income during college and now photo journalism has become my lifestyle.

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