Have you ever see a falling rock sign along the road and wondered if you might get hit? I have not. I assumed falling rocks “fall” into the category of lightning strikes and did not put them on the top of my worry list. After last weekend, I might pay closer attention to those signs.
Falling Rock, Lots of Blood
Friday, I joined my husband, son, and friend Lucas for a backpacking trip in the Seven Devils. We were about four miles in when Lucas got hit by a very SHARP falling rock. It sliced a gash in his leg and blood poured out. The cut was so deep, it took over 30 minutes to stop the bleeding. We were relieved to have control over the bleeding, but worried about how to get a now one-legged strong, tight end off the mountain before dark. The trail was 4 miles of steep switchbacks and rocky- rugged trail. No 4-wheeler or horse was coming in to help us.
When in trouble, Call Your Dad
I called my dad. When I am in trouble, I always call my dad. He is a pilot and outdoorsman. He can read maps and terrain better than anyone I know and I was hoping he could guide me to an easier exit. Unfortunately, he relayed that the best way out was retracing our steps over the rugged terrain.
Next I called dispatch to see if we could get a stretcher. The connection was bad and they were not sure what they could send.
Finally, I called Lucas’s Mom. I asked her to send strong men to help us get Lucas off the mountain.
Knowing help was hours away, we started walking. Well more like hopping, lugging, and leaning. After 6 hours of Lucas hopping on one leg supported by my husband and son we had made it one mile. It was a long, hot, exhausting mile.
Local Hero Saves the Day with a Home-made Unicycle Contraption
As we came around a corner, we saw a beautiful sight. Jeff, the Riggins Fire Chief, was walking down the trail and with his was a funny looking contraption, a set of monkey bars sitting on top of a unicycle. Apparently Jeff had welded it himself using his kids old bike tire and playground equipment. We were a bit skeptical at first, but Jeff and his cart quickly became our hero in the mountains. We were able to get Lucas on the cart and move at a much faster pace. We covered the next two miles in half the time the first mile had taken. Boy were we happy to have Jeff show up!
Reinforcements Ensure our 10 hour Rescue Ends Before Dark
As we looked ahead to the setting sun and the last mile of switchbacks we saw another welcome site. Lucas’s mom had come through. She sent her son and husband to help us push the cart up the last hill. Now with six able bodies, we were able to cover the last mile in just under an hour to get Lucas to the hospital for 24 stitches and some pain medication. He is recovering well and hopes to go back and finish the trip another weekend!
Jeff is a hometown hero. He dropped what he was doing to help people he did not know. He had knowledge and tools and was willing to do the hard work to help some tired hikers. Jeff was our hero on the mountain. Thank you Jeff!
Real Life Lessons Learned in the Wilderness about the Wilderness
While I was on the trail I learned a few things about the federally owned wilderness area in Idaho, I thought I’d share a few little known facts:
· 9% of Idaho is designated federal wilderness land. That is three times the amount of any of the average of the lower 48 states. 9% is a lot of Idaho not controlled by Idaho.
· Wilderness land is not accessible to most folks. No motorized or mechanized (that includes a wheel on a rescue cart) are allowed into this beautiful open space.
· The land can’t be used to support the local tax base in any way—this increases the tax burden on small towns as they work to support their schools and communities without the land in their backyard.
· I heard, but cannot verify, if you take a photo on federally owned wilderness land, you actually have to get a permit from the federal government to use it.