Saturday, May 20, 2023

One Way to Get a Helicopter Ride

Last week my husband and I joined 2 leaders and 7 other hikers on a four day hike of the Grand Canyon. We were prepared, we'd hiked a bunch to get ready, tested all our gear and made adjustments, we consulted frequently with our Appalachian Trail-hiking son, the weather was glorious, and we were excited! We spent most of the day like class nerds, right behind the group leader, asking lots about the trail ahead.

And then it all went wrong. I went from hiking on the trail to face down, like I had been picked up and thrown down by some unseen force. I had an alarming cut on my forehead and my wrist was in bad shape - my watchband was quickly becoming a tourniquet. How could this happen? I was doing everything right - I fell forward on the established trail. I knew right away that our dream hike was now over and kept repeating "I'm so sorry" to my husband. 

And then everything went right. The hiker from Alaska who was especially feeling the Arizona heat found a flat spot in the shade for me and kept handing me water to drink. The quiet Californian who earlier had said he was retired "from public health" was actually a doctor and dug stuff out of his pack and the various first aid kits to patch me up. The hike leaders and my husband pooled resources to get word to the National Park Service to get me out. My gear got divvied up amongst the other hikers and amazingly, everyone was completely calm. A plan came together to continue to the camping area where we'd be met by a helicopter. 

The helicopter crew was completely badass, and made room for Greg and our gear, solving so many problems for us. The closest ER was in Flagstaff, a 90 minute ambulance ride (another first). It turns out, when you arrive by ambulance, you get a lot of immediate attention, and I was treated well.

It's very rare to see your loved ones respond to a crisis, when you are the actual crisis, and I am incredibly thankful for Greg, Emma and Mike. Funny (now) side story - when we hit the SOS button on our GPS tracker, they called the house to confirm it was an actual emergency and Mike answered. He got minimal info other than an accident had happened. He kept his cool, provided what he could to help, then called Emma to confer. We had spent a lot of time talking through what to do if something happened to our 14 year old pup Layla, not realizing this plan worked for other crises. We made contact once back at the South Rim and had cell service.

By the way, taking our GPS was last minute decision - a "we have it, why not use it" kinda deal (we knew the trek leaders had a satellite phone) but it ended up being the most direct way to get help. We're never leaving it behind now.

We will return to the Grand Canyon, for sure, this can't be the end of our story. 

But not this specific trail, I'm good :-)

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