anyone know how to get to the hard drive?
Arguably, "figured it out myself" is not a very helpful answer to a situation like this, as people looking for answers reach a dead end.
Anyways, if your disk happens to be ExFAT, and you remember improperly removing the disk the last time you used it, chances are,
fsck is holding it hostage (metaphorically, of course).
fsck is trying to repair the disk, but it will stall forever, so you want to launch Disk Utility, and the Terminal. Try to mount the disk, and switch to Terminal and write
sudo pkill -f fsck. The disk will mount in read-only mode, and from there, you can repair it with First Aid in Disk Utility. This won't work for non-ExFat drives, as macOS manages them differently.
This happened for me on a Big Sur MacOS, clicking the 'First Aid' option in Disk Utility kept giving me this same error. What ended up working for me was restarting my laptop, then continuously trying 'First Aid' until one time it suddenly didn't give me the error, and after waiting about 20minutes the drive mounted properly. I don't think I did anything differently other than trying over and over again.
This still isn't working for me. I don't understand what this "and the Terminal" means. When I try to mount my drive, the error that is the title of the forum comes up and it appears I am at a dead end. I tried to repair the drive, and it seemed to do something (with a bunch of green check marks) saying it was fixed, but it still won't open or be recognized by my finder or desktop. If anyone is able to walk me through this, I would be very appreciative.