Note: The short story below came to me via email from Dave, along with a warning that it was 39 pages (double spaced) if I would not mind reading it. Dave Klauser is a friend of the blog, and if he wishes he can tell you more about himself in the comments. The thing that grabbed me immediately about this story was that I was familiar with the landscape, as was Dave. The trail head, Lady of the Lake, was the very first hike I did with my brothers in the Absaroka Beartooth Wilderness, maybe 1960 or earlier. I was very young, maybe ten years or less. Dave has the trails, the lakes and peaks correct, and writes as a skilled outdoorsman. As the story unfolded I realized I was in a cliffhanger. It’s a page turner.
This is a completely new twist for the blog. I am happy to run this piece for Dave. I hope the story grips you as much as it did me. I hope if anyone reading this who might have any dusty manuscripts sitting around, that you send them along. Just for fun, as this blog is and always will be non-monetized. If there is a running blog theme here, it is that Mark gets repetitive and needs assistance, and others to provide it.
Enjoy Dave’s writing. He is very good.,
By DS Klausler
As I listened intently, I determined that I had not heard such a sound–ever. Ah yes… growling. Not human; guttural. Now loud; yes: feeding. No… an attack. Wait, now human… screaming–male. Gurgling.
Whatever; I suited up. Wailing; human. Thrashing and growling; must be a bear. Yes. Crying. Moaning. Silence.
I had neither packed a gun nor pepper spray. Just five inches of mixed alloy high chrome AUS 8 steel on my straight blade and two 7075 aluminum sticks (currently collapsed). Should be no problem against a four-hundred-pound feeding Ursus americanus.
I did not know that they had set camp so close to my small presence–they were very quiet, earlier this night. I had been exhausted, the stream was gurgling, my fire was crackling, the vodka was in effect as were the OTC meds. Maybe they weren’t so close, the animal had been very loud. I can see my breath in the small tent. Mid-weight fleece bottom and heavy-weight top go on, shell upper as well. Thick go over my already on thin socks; boots finally. Lined leather gloves after I unzip and get out. I reach back in to get my headlamp, then zip up. I don’t know why I feel this way–no hurry. Maybe because the event sounds finished.
Crystal clear sky; uncountable brilliant stars and no moon. No visible remains of the smallish fire. Light on, knife in right, stick in left hand; I head over somewhat paralleling the stream.
Gurgling; animal. Grunting too. I pause. Silence. I wait. Silence. A minute goes by then I continue. I pause. Silence. Walking on the fisherman trail is quiet. Maybe thirty cautious meters. I pause again; nothing. I smell something; animal… not quite. Something shiny reflects my light–a pot. I enter what looks like their cooking area and pause. Huffing. I can’t see anything other than forest and rock. I let the stick go to the wrist strap, pick up the pot with my now free hand and head to the noise. I see the tent; the end nearest has been shredded. I start banging the pommel on the pot and yelling “YO BEAR!” Nothing.
Reflectors… sleeve piping on twisted arms. A jacket on a body on the ground; female length moppy disheveled hair. The black of glistening blood covers the side of the face. Immobile and back to the ground. Closer, I check; -she- is breathing, shallow and rapid, with eyes closed. A lot of blood; jacket torn diagonally across her chest; bare legs look okay; socks on feet. I set the knife down, remove the right glove and lightly touch her face; it’s still warm. Glove back on; knife back in hand. I grab what looks like the end of a sleeping bag from the wide-open tent, pull it free and cover her up. I place some wad of clothing under her head. Silence. Something is still here.
I move to where I feel I should go–weird. Shit; bushes…tall dense willows. Banging the pot again; yelling. Nothing. Something moves at my face height. Without thought, I dip and slash up and across with the backhand knife grip as the bear is upright swinging at me. I make solid contact, but my arm is reversed on impact, and I am forced downward and back. A brief sharp growl. Its fur is shiny in the scattered bright light. I continue the forced motion spinning low and around… backing up. I had subconsciously dropped the pot and repositioned the stick to a handhold. Crouched wrestler style – scanning is practically impossible. Nothing. Yelling. Nothing. I once again switch my stick to wrist strap, grab the pot and start banging. Brush moving; sticks breaking; a big animal moving–away.
I back-track. I had missed the body as the brief assault commenced. Wow. Abdomen wide open; looks like intestines everywhere. Face destroyed; jaw way out of place laterally with teeth visible; skull looks misshapen. Cut and scratched arms. Shiny manicured nails. Blood-soaked t-shirt, and underwear, that’s it for clothing. Leg in tatters from groin down to one knee with femur visible; other leg completely shredded from knee down, and I can’t see the foot. If this guy is alive, I’ll be amazed. I check the heap; no breath; no pulse. Then I remember to remove my glove and check again… nothing–gone. I stand and listen; silence. I pause and listen some more; silence; forest silence; wilderness silence; apex predator in the area silence.
I leave him for the time being and head back to his female partner as early lightness breaks. She’s still out, but now breathing evenly. Guess I should have taken that CPR training. Oh well, I could have run through the basics in a pinch. I move aside the sleeping bag. I drop my knife and stick. I notice the [bear] blood on the knife. Gloves off. She’s warm. Pulse seems a bit rapid… but consistent. My bright light in her face shows me that her pupils are fixed and dilated within what looks like green irises. I check again. Hmmm, brain issues? Moving on. I was wrong, it’s not a colored t-shirt underneath that I had thought; it’s a white t-shirt soaked with blood. Who the fuck wears a white t-shirt backpacking? The fleece pullover has been cut cleanly and pulled open, displaying the cut t-shirt and a breast with multiple deep slices. Claws? I carefully lift the shirt up from her waist and over the wounds. They appear to be through the skin into the fatty tissue in places, but no muscle is visible. Quite the geometry; some kind of Kandinsky shit going on: the circle of the dark pink areola with circumpunct pink nipple untouched by three red cuts running parallel to one leg of the equilateral triangle of her bikini white. Yes, I’m pretty sure that the small orange BBs riding the deepest line are indeed fatty tissue. The lines are no longer bleeding. Those seem manageable.
No other visible wounds–shoulders down to her crotch. Her panties (white; The Fuck?) are wet, probably from fear expelled urine. Up top, I now see one gash at her hairline and clotted blood in her hair. Feeling around; there are a few other scratches roughly parallel to the one at her hairline–perhaps also from claws. Not too bad, just a mess. Swelling, and it looks like bruising has begun on the side of her face. Neck is good. One of her arms looks funky; yes, badly broken mid fore-arm–defensive damage? I leave that for now, pull down her ruined shirt, close the fleece and place the sleeping bag covering waist upwards. Damn! One of her lower legs has been badly ripped open, from knee down almost to ankle, but all the parts seem to be there, even though muscle and bone are visible. I got to get my act together here; she’s alive. Wait; no one will believe this tale. I hustle back to my camp and retrieve my phone–for pictures.
Okay, check for first aid, check for food… check for anything useful. Move over near the tent. Pictures. Both have Salomon trail shoes where the vestibule once was; I know this because his are fucking white with I’m-a-dorque multi-colored huge brand lettering and piping and hers are bright lilac with the prominent and familiar “S”. Whoa, the tent was once a fantastic Hilleberg Tarra (it looks like a tunnel with pointed ends–when whole); bitch goes for over a grand–4-season too. Whoever bought and brought this baby had serious plans… or disposable money. Way overkill here. Inward. Pictures. I recognize the bright red logo for Marmot’s WarmCube–[Winter] Expedition bags (another thousand each). Too much gun for this time of year and location. Looks like her side has the air mattress and his has a standard cheapo Z-Rest. He would have had a sore back from higher elevation rock with that thing. A roller coaster of gear… top-of-the-line on some and bargain bin junk on others. Clothes scattered. Backpacks in far vestibule. Far end empty; probably because Smokey dragged all their crap down–with them. Matching wallets still in the corners, how cute.
Let’s see… Joey, really — not Joseph, is from Pigeon Forge, TN; 27yo. Ah, Mr. Smokies now here in the real mountains. Huh? Smokies are loaded with Black Bear… and here he is chewed to shit; had he learned nothing? Helen (I check twice) is from Nashville, TN; 38yo; flatlander. No ring on her; not definitive, but that age gap leans towards NOT married. A single Jackson for him, but five Benjamins, three Jacksons and a single Washington for her. She’s the money? I leave his [dead] wallet and take hers after taking pictures of both their IDs. Ooo, we’ve got a problem here: under the clothes we have baby wipes (stinky as all hell), Pretty much useless Skin So Soft insect “repellent” (tasty), Christ on a bike FOUR Snicker’s bars (Breezly Bruin in Tuktoyaktuk can smell those from there), and finally, an unopened bottle of Gentleman Jack (first gold star for these yahoos). I snag the wipes, the Snickers and the Jack, and push them out. I move in further to get to the backpacks. Matching mid-size baby blue Arc’teryx packs (unmistakable logo). How cute. Pictures. Good packs though (for climbing). This guy has issues; at least they’re not pink. iPhone in each top pocket; both locked (mine currently has no service) … I grab those. Fueled jet lighter. Ooo, emergency transponders. I had just investigated these items when a buddy of mine recently sent a text link to his presence way out in the desert on satellite locator app Zoleo. Here are not just one, but two ARC ResQLinks [in their chartreuse pouches], that’s another thou$and. Strange that they would consider being separated (as a loving couple, or whatever). Straight forward to activate BOTH–done. Big and heavy rope (maybe 10mm x 50m), some carabiners; no harnesses. Not much else… l dump the packs out. Rain gear–buried (idiots). A sleeve of huge cigars (his pack). Holy shit! A jar of Skippy–in her pack– IN THE TENT! These people are insane. I grab the alleged “peanut butter” for now. I don’t see any first-aid, maps, drugs, a GPS unit, or BOOTS! I grab the rope, both ARCs (mindful of the antennae), her rain gear (shell), and push them out with the rest of the stuff. I back out and pull the pile with me, grabbing her trail shoes too. Hah! Their obviously new boots are outside. That’s brilliant! Oops, I forgot that she’s practically naked. I go back in and grab some clothes for her. Digging… spandex tights (electric pink), panties (fucking WHITE), sports bra (blinding yellow), fleece upper (bright red hoodie) and thick socks (geometric teal, turquoise and blue). I pull her shoes out there adding to the pile. Pictures.
Check her again; she’s good–and warm. What the fuck am I going to do with his body? I was already taking forever to get this shit done, I couldn’t afford to search out and bury him with big rocks. If that bear was actually feeding (unlikely), it would be back to finish him off or drag him off. If not it, then Wile E. Coyote or any of a dozen other opportunistic omnivores common to the area. No good. I drop my upper shell at her side, moving my gloves, knife and stick on top. I rake up my fleece sleeves to the elbow. I take his beautiful sleeping bag over to the death site, open the nice center-zip completely placing it next to him. Pictures. I pick him up by the armpits and carefully pivot him over (not to get blood and guts all over MY clothes–the smell; I don’t give a shit about the mess). With that stank on me Yogi would track me down faster than a picanic basket, Boo Boo. Ugh, poke in the guts. Ah, both his feet are there… barely. I lift what remains of his legs and stuff them in as well. Pictures. I zip him in. Wipe my hands on the damp willow leaves–there’s no getting around the smell of the blood and guts soaked into the terra firma. I heft him up by a full grip with each hand at the sack shoulder points and drag the blob while back-pedaling. As the mass slides down deeper in the bag, I re-grip–it is heavy, and I am working. I get it back to the tent area. I’m just trying to prevent smell emitting and weather getting at the body before help arrives–hours minimum; half a day wouldn’t surprise me. I pull the body-bag into the tent. I push all the crap out. Pictures. Zip all windows and doors; fold in the torn area. Pictures. I quickly break down the once beautiful and masterfully engineered shelter, setting the poles aside. I un-stake it to pull out the groundcover. I roll him around like a sausage in pan and tuck the tent in everywhere. Finally, I roll the ground cover over that big cylinder. I move all the crap on top and around the big brown log – so whomever arrives can see it. I put his brightly colored [live] ARC on top. Pictures.
I spot their food bag in a nearby tree (it’s bright red and regular nylon). I could bite through that flimsy junk. The very light sack is at my shoulder height–about five feet off the ground–unbelievable. This is an easy grab even for humble old Balto. I cut that down, bring it back and check the supplies–all freeze-dried except for some elaborate coffee making kit and supplies. Nope, that’s not all… under that crap is a package of red Twizzlers and one shitty Kind bar. I add in the Skippy and Skin So Soft. Pictures. I walk over and hurl it to the other side of the creek — distancing those smells away from his rudimentarily sealed body. Back to her to dress the wounds, which would be easier with her unconscious. I use a baby wipe on my hands while thinking.
Without first-aid, I’ll need cloth wraps or similar because when solo I only carry a few band-aids. Wrong, I have my ever-present roll of fixes-anything nylon reinforced tape. I head back to my camp. On the way I see their cook area in the light. A sippy-straw baby-size squeezy thing (junk), and a couple one-liter bottles–super bright light green; check. Don’t know where the stove is; I think their pot is back in the dead zone. Nope, the bear zone. An axe, a mid-size Estwing. I know the model by color and shape–I have the same unit in my trunk. About five pounds if I remember correctly. [Some dude my brother and I ran into deep in The Bob a while back had one; I asked him if he was crazy hauling all that weight. “Like you get used to it, Man.” Okay Shaggy. I’m not big on sunscreen, just my nose, but to qualify this guy’s genius, he had naked shoulders with blisters on his already ruptured sun-burned and blistered “skin”. White, bright pink, dark red and dark brown. A mess. Peeling? No, sloughing.] I made a mental note of the axe too. I retrieve my tape and realize that I have to at least close up shop here. She’ll be dead by then.
I quickly strip and change into my shorts; a bit chilly since I ditched my jacket. I dump everything out of the main section of my backpack. I stuff in my fleece and rain gear bottoms. What the fuck, I grab my seldom-used gaiters as well. The hood already holds my GPS unit, multi-tool and lighter. I grab my nearly full [night] water bottle. I zip the interior, exit the tent and then zip it completely (after grabbing my second hiking stick). I also pick up the water filter and my second one-liter water bottle near the fire/cook area. Shit, I stop and mix up my green drink and pound it down before I might forget in the melee of exiting with an injured human being. I then move my stove, fuel, cup and utensils into my tent vestibule (unzip–rezip). I retrieve my Kevlar-mix Ursack (bear bag) containing my food and toiletries. I dig out the heavy energy bars (four), the ibuprofen container and my shit kit. Oh what the fuck… I move off to take a shit. I add all that small stuff to my pack hood. I close up the atomic food sack and knot it to a nearby tree. Almost forget the booze; I open the sack again and retrieve the small mystery-plastic Platypus bag containing vodka. Secure it all once again. I easily shoulder the light pack and head back to Helen.
As I pass their cook area, I grab a full Nalgene liter and the hobby axe. Check her again–same. She seems stable, and nothing is gushing–good. Obviously I can’t carry her seven miles, so I’m going to construct a travois. I drop my pack at her body. I use the axe to take down two small Engelman spruce that are about two inches diameter at base. At least he kept it sharp. Five minutes to strip the small supple limbs leaving what would be the bottom two feet intact–like dark green paint brushes. I lay them on the ground parallel to each other and to Helen’s prone body and move back to the former tent to retrieve their hiking sticks from the stack of gear. I also grab the Z-Rest and her mattress. Back at the job site, I place three of the sticks, alternating handle side, at shoulder, mid-back and hip. As I mentioned, my knife is extremely sharp, so it was no problem cutting the climbing rope into manageable lengths to tie off the sticks to the ladder-like rails. At about eighteen inches from the thick end of the ladder, I secured one end of the rope on one rail then looped it over to the other rail… back and forth a half-dozen times, inside half-hitch at each pass, to form a headrest–much like a woven canoe seat. I left adequate space for my ass where I would eventually hook the rig onto my hip belt. This was the plan anyway. I used a similar weave down lower to support her legs at the calf. I used the last stick to approximate a foot stay to keep her from sliding down what would be a thirty to forty degree carry angle. I placed the polyethylene closed-cell foam pad down flat on the assembly, then her (now half-inflated) air mattress. I cut two ten-foot lengths off the remaining rope to use as load holders intended to go under each armpit and looped over the headrest weave–again: so she wouldn’t slide down and off the rig. Back to the gear mess to retrieve their [matching gold!] mesh belts. I eye-balled an attachment scheme using their belts connected at the hip-tensioners of my thickly padded backpack belt. They would easily snag under load to the roughly cut spruce limb nubs. I would likely need to unload her occasionally and didn’t want to knot up a bunch of rope. OK… that’ll have to do. Now, the wounds. Pictures.
I check her eyes and breathing again… no change–stable (it seemed to me). She was still out, so I decide to tackle the very bad arm first. I gather the supplies: tape, tent poles, wipes and toilet paper and set them near the operating table. Dig out my remaining vodka from my pack as well. Her clothes! I had read how very bad through-the-skin breaks are (infection) and likewise the [field] remedy. Pictures. I first use a wipe again on my hands, then pour a liberal amount of vodka in and around the bones protruding. I sit on the ground parallel but opposite to her direction and wedge my foot in her armpit. Grabbing her wrist firmly with both hands, I pull gently then quite forcefully until I think that I feel the arm elongating.
Yeeouch! What is ripping my arm apart? Ow… everything hurts.
Where am I? Why can’t I see; why can’t I move anything?
A quick glance shows that the bone still sticks out a bit. I didn’t think that there could be too much harm in pulling too far, so I bear down and stretch the mess more, and this time I know it had moved significantly. I ease off gently, and carefully set the limb down. I reposition for a closer look and then the dressing. Not bad. Pictures. I use a wipe to remove all the dried blood and mess. I pour on some more vodka. It appears clean. I fold up a wad of toilet paper then tape it on with multiple strips (not only is the tape tough, but it is super-sticky as well). As per memory, I position two of the tent poles from forearm beyond the wrist at each side. I cut off the lower part of her shirt and used that for padding at the contact points. A third pole on the top of her forearm preventing wrist flexion and hopefully not completely cutting off blood flow. I tape all that crap on–not too tightly. Okay. Pictures. I move on to her head. Pictures.
Using another wipe, I carefully clean out the lacerations and some of the dried gunk from her face and hair. The cut at the hairline begins to bleed as I pull her hair clear. I press in some toilet paper and prep a make-shift bandage. Yeah, tape. I remove the swab and the gouge didn’t look that bad. Pictures. The vodka is almost gone as I rinse out all the scalp cuts. None in the hair bleed. I quickly place a narrower toilet paper pad on the mildly reddening hairline and tape it on lengthwise twice and cross-wise once. Done. Pictures. Down to deeper damage.
The shirt is already raw cut, so I just start from there and cut straight up to and through the neckline. I cut from that raw centerline out the two sleeves as well. I clean the damaged and messy area with a wipe. Pictures. I have no idea about the fatty tissue, so I just tuck that stuff back in the slice. It was deep.
Hey! Who is touching my boobs! What? Ugh… I can’t talk.
SHIT! Someone drugged me. My head is killing me.
Joey? Yes, that’s right, I was with Joey.
The other cuts weren’t so bad. I use up the vodka drowning these long cuts. I place some thin toilet paper pads on all, as they start to turn red. I take the time to cut up a bunch of six-inch long tape strips and stick them temporarily on the clean metal tent poles attached to her arm. Removing the patch on the deep wound, I quickly pinch together the opening and tape it perpendicular at three points. Maybe closed it a bit. I pad that one with toilet paper length wise, along with less on the other two and tape that whole mess down every which way. Pictures. Now the tricky shit. I grab the non-clasp sports bra and get it carefully over her head and stretch it over her shoulders all the way down near her waist so I could get her repaired arm back up through the shoulder strap. [Flawless light-colored short fingernails on no-callus hands.] Other arm, no problem. Carefully, very carefully up over her breasts and the taped-on bandages… I tuck in a bit more T.P. across the whole wound contact area. That baby was snug; shit is not moving. As long as I was up top, I grab the hoodie fleece and start that at her hands. It was loose initially and fortunately has zipper lower arms She’s got all runner gear. I manage to inch that thing over the splint assembly and the other arm. Again: very carefully up and over her head and down her back as I prop her up towards me briefly. I leave the hood up; nothing pumping blood at scalp wound inspection. I am all hot from nerves, adrenaline and activity so I can’t get an accurate read on the temperature, but I think I could see her breath. I grab her shell, cut the sleeve from cuff to above the elbow (no zippers), get her dormant arm through, then the other, tipping her to me again and finally manage to get the jacket around her body. I leave it mostly unzipped so I could inspect for soak-through of blood at her chest. Next!
The leg looks really bad, but first, I smell the urine and have to clean that up. Again, I choose to cut rather than pull over the wound. The knife easily slices through the delicate panties at each hip. I get my arm around her to lift and pull the still damp item out. I reach over to grab the remains of the t-shirt to place under her naked ass. Well then, now exposed is a perfectly manicured dark brown isosceles triangle of very short hair set inside the just slightly larger white bikini triangle. Other than my own children, this is the first time I am wiping another human for waste product.
Great! That bastard drugged me and now he’s in my crotch.
He’s going to screw, no, rape me!
I swab her legs down to the knee as well. Only a few wipes left. I move the sleeping bag temporarily onto her mid-section for warmth. Man-o-man, I know that the arm is worse, but this just looks nasty. The wound is definitely exposing a long section of the tibia and the tibialis anterior (my familiar buddies from lengthy spinal and dysfunctional nerve rehab). The muscle has been torn, not cut cleanly; it looks like the bone has been scored as well. This could be trouble for her to get back to her runner-form. All out of vodka, so I crack open the Jack. I never tasted the allegedly silky-smooth long-stewed bourbon, so I take a sip. No reading at all, just down the hatch. I have no clue as to why this gaping gash through all kinds of tissue is not bleeding, or weeping, or oozing… or anything. I certainly don’t want to start it up. I start cleaning around the area with one of the few remaining wipes then get in closer while dribbling in the liquor. I am thinking that this must be better than plain water–maybe not. I use more toilet paper; half their mega-roll is now gone. I risk it and pour the booze into the gash. Nothing happens.
ARG! My leg must be in the fire… I’ve never been burned like this before.
I decide that it’s probably best to leave this mess alone. Pictures. I fold up and place a bunch of T.P. pads all along the foot-long length. I tape them down perpendicularly, but not wrapped fully around as I do not want a different muscle flex to pressure it and start the area bleeding. It doesn’t seem like enough.
Is he going to kill me?
I should have listened to that internal voice and said no. No? No to what?
YES! “No” to this hiking trip.
He’s killing me, chopping me up and burning me. HELP!
I grab her clean panties; although white, they do appear to be some runner variety of atomic fabric. I dust off her feet and carefully work them up over the injured leg. I lift her at the hips, remove the t-shirt ground cover and hike the snug underwear all the way up. Leg still looks okay, and she’s still out. I grab the runner tights, unzip the lower leg and manage to pull them up similarly. Thick socks go on as well. I loosen her trail shoelaces all the way and slip them on. I snug-up just the upper eyes and tie them just to keep them on her feet.
Sure… “It’ll be fun,” he said, “an adventure… a challenge.” What about the bears and wolves; isn’t Montana loaded with them? “Nah, there are fewer black bears per square mile there than in the Smokies. How many did we see on our hike through the park? ZERO.” It’s so far away, and such a long hike. “We’ll stay at a nice hotel on the way. You’re in great shape!”
That’s about it. I move the sleeping bag for full-body pictures. Her face is now bruising up. Review. Food; water (plus filter); my clothes, knife… booze; their toilet paper and my shit-kit. TAPE! I fully unzip her bag and lay it next to her. I take what seems like an hour to get her in the bag–zipped to waist. I cut the bag so I can slide the support ropes through. I tip her sideways and slide the travois mostly underneath. I first lift her by the armpits, then carefully by her heels to load her fully up and adjust downward to get the arches of her feet onto the bottom rung. I use the pre-cut rope to link her upper body via armpits to headrest and side rails. Pictures. I lift the whole rig. Not bad. I lean her down onto a very large table-like boulder perfectly suited to expose the loading ends. Thank the backpacking gods. I test out the width by backing in. It’ll work. I wedge in her water bottle. I put on my gaiters snuggly, strip the heavy-grade sheep skin fleece upper, and put on the shell upper. Stow the warm shit as I’ll be working quickly. Gloves ready. Sticks ready. Phone to upper pocket; wallet as well. Water bottles on each side. I hook her ARC onto my upper mesh on the back of my pack. I mount up my pack. I ready the belts. I back in once again and secure each rail to my hip straps as tight as I can pull. I test liftoff somewhat sideways. This fucker better hold. Check the time. Put on gloves, grab both sticks and head out. Just fifty yards and I’m dragging her while shuffling quickly through the shallow braided area of Sky Top creek.
Thursday, September 9, 2021
10:00am; 50 miles bike (mountain) in 3:17; Not bad.
Friday, September 10, 2021
3:15am; 5k run in 21:10; Not bad.
12:00pm; Depart home for Montana as planned.
11:50pm; 2-hour nap in Rest Area.
Saturday, September 11, 2021
10:30am; Arrive Soda Butte campground in Gallatin National Forest.
Set [car] camp then lunch (generous salami sandwich; blue kombucha). Drive nearby to verify trailhead (check). [It wasn’t long ago that my brother and I were on this very road pre-dawn and were stopped completely by a huge bull bison straddling the centerline. He stared us down as we cautiously moved by — he did NOT move.] Gather mid-grade wood then fire it up with slices from the 2x12s in the loose back-end gear. Dinner (steak and green beans). Prepare light-duty wood for morning. Cold Bud at warm fire. Bed (restless).
Sunday, September 12, 2021
4:00am; Pack interior tent stuff. 36 degrees and no wind. Small fire. Breakfast (green drink and three hard-boiled eggs; scalding tea). Suit up; canvas trail shorts, atomic t-shirt, heavy-grade sheep skin fleece upper, mid-grade fleece lowers over my shorts, double socks and boots. Prepare the red and yellow Ultima electrolyte mix in each of my two one-liter hard polyester Nalgene bottles. Pack up everything. Douse fire from pot. Check list. Drive to and park at Lady of the Lake trailhead. Back way in against a side and end of brush and trees. Cover interior crap with dark green emergency wooly blanket. Pictures with phone, then stowed in upper shell pocket.
5:45am; final prep of backpack. Pre-trip weigh-in had my pack at a fairly light fifty-two pounds. Lower fleece off and packed, upper shell on, one stick packed, one in hand; gloves. Check list. Oops; I opened back up and grabbed my pre-packaged [trail] lunch from inside the cooler and tied on the flimsy plastic bag. Mount up.
6:00am; at about 8,700’ elevation; I hiked out.
I had not started at this trailhead before, but just a half-mile ahead I would join the route that I had just been on in 2019 with my brother, and in 2007 with two other hiking buddies. Those two previous approaches had been via a deeply rutted and horrible 4WD mud road, with a shaky and exposed end area that looked like an old junkyard. I read somewhere that it was once a stamping mill. I chose the trailhead parking lot this time to hopefully hide the vehicle better, and to maybe join other vehicles of [more] value that the owners had not wanted to damage climbing up that off-road proving ground. Trailhead vandalism and theft are more common than you would think–and the town was less than thirty minutes away. Some locals believe that it is us out-of-staters that are littering and grinding in the AWD ruts everywhere. Actually, from Forest Service info, the perpetrators are far more common to be the very people complaining (and their my backyard progeny). Additionally, my experience shows that the horse-packing outfitters dump the most garbage, and their pack-train of huge heavy animals do way more damage than any human could to a trail.
Up, up, up. Down, down, down. Up. Mixed tree detritus and loose small rocks over harder packed earth and rock. I entered the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness. Before 7:00am I skipped across the minimal discharge and reached the western grassy shore of shallow Lady of the Lake. No bugs. Brief break; drink. Onward. I rock-hopped across a September low-water inlet creek just a mile further. In one more mile, about three and a half total, I arrived at the confluence of Star and Zimmer creeks which are the headwaters of the Broadwater River, which joins the Clark’s Fork of the Yellowstone then the Yellowstone proper, the Missouri, the Mississippi and on to the Gulf of Mexico.
This one required a change of footwear. I sat on a nearby log and switched over to my worn-out super-light running shoes; I stowed the insoles in my pack side-pocket. Socks went in my boots and were then laced around my neck–dangling in front. I loosen all straps, grab my stick and step in to the chilly water. No matter the hiking season, these two creeks have glacial melt in them and are resultantly cold. Before I had cautiously forded just fifteen feet of white water, my feet were turning numb. I sat in the nearby disused campsite, and transitioned footwear–dried my feet with the outside uppers of the thick socks. I rung out then secured the wet shoes on my rear bungee-mesh of my pack–dripping to the ground. Upper shell off and loosely stowed between backpack hood and main unit; phone moved to backpack hood. Drank deep. At about 9:00am instead of moving north around to the Aero Lake(s) approach done in 2019 (following Zimmer), I moved onto unmaintained trails northeast. The route was somewhat familiar due to the visit over a dozen years back. I cannot remember my own children’s names at times, but I could retrace any of the hundreds of roads, routes and trails that I have taken–without a map. I passed through the rats nest of go-nowhere fisherman, lost-hiker and game trails just above where Sky Top creek drops down to join those other two as the Broadwater. In about a mile I arrived at the point where my buddies and I had forded Sky Top towards Cliff Lake, in the rain. Had another drink. I moved on; now following the autumn low-water Sky Top at its high-water mark or nearly so–a decent trail.
After about another two and a half miles along Sky Top, I followed Steve Eckhert’s advice (online posting of suggested route) and bore due north along the western shore of Lone Elk Lake. This is the furthest spot that my buddies and I had stopped–to fish, and then to eat lunch. Very near is where all three of us splattered the rocks while purging some spoiled dried apricots. I continued on around the lake and headed northeast. Steve had warned about a deep fording of Sky Top between Rough and Lone Elk lakes, so I searched carefully for a few minutes before eventually choosing a spot. Still had to transition footwear though. After loosely following the southeast area of Lone Elk, I decided to have an early lunch, so I headed east and up into a stand of small conifers. At over a hundred feet above the water, I could see the planned route Steve had described so well. I was now about eight miles from the trailhead and five hours of hiking. My lunch spot was at about 10,300’ altitude. I untied my lunch bag, grabbed the red electrolyte filled Nalgene and sat on a nice rock overlooking the vista of what was to come in the Sky Top chain of high lakes. A fine roast beef sandwich, and a large red apple went down the hatch in about ten minutes. I finished off the liter of red and packed up.
Once again, I followed Steve’s advice (map confirmed) and set a nearly due north route along Sky Top creek and chain of lakes. I forded upper Sky Top easily by rock hopping on the flat boulders just below the last pair of smallish ponds. After two and a half miles of easy hiking since lunch, I found the grassy area that Steve had mentioned… I may have gone a bit further, up to about 10,800’. About ten and a half miles total. I could definitely feel the additional altitude. It was quite breezy. I took some time to locate a decent flat spot in the grass, unloaded and set up the old MSR carbon whatever tent. I dug out the thermometer and later read fifty-eight. I inflate the mattress and roll out my bag.
2:00pm; A beef stick snack with a solid drink off the yellow. I gather all my food and stinky stuff and pack it into the indestructible Ursack. I move the bag over to a section well away from the tent and among rocks. I extend the Kevlar cords, select and set a large hundred pounder onto them. This weight wouldn’t stop a Grizz, but maybe most else. Hopefully, it won’t be tested. I grab the yellow drink liter and mosey over to check out the ascent route. I get close enough to validate both the approach and largest of the landmarks that Steve has mentioned; I check this against the color printed sheets from my pocket. I wasn’t going to drain myself, so I head back to the tent.
I head to the water and fill my handled and lidded pot. Back at the tent, I connect up the white gas cylinder to the multi-fuel stove, set it on a pretty level flat stone and fire it up, then set the pot on top with the heavy foil windscreen surrounding it. I hoof it over to retrieve my meal from the sack: beef stroganoff and a light energy bar. I finish off the yellow liter. The pot remains more than half-full; I leave the unscented rig set up. I dig out the filter and head back to the water to pump for rinsing then filling both liter bottles. One stays at the stove (upside-down to prevent the cap from freezing closed) and one into the tent. I move all my clothes into the tent and the backpack into the vestibule. I snap a few pictures then head into the tent at barely dusk, and eventual intermittent sleep. I get out for my usual midnight pee; it’s quite cold–I could see my breath in clouds. The stars are brilliant, filling the entire sky. I’m shivering as I get back in the bag.
Monday, September 13, 2021
5:00am; 28°; I had actually slept the final period. Dress with practically everything; loose boots. Move the pot, pump the fuel cannister, prime and blaze up the stove to boil water. Back to the anchored sack for foodstuffs (it had not been disturbed). Breakfast of green drink, heavy energy bar and hot sweet tea. Crap well away in some gravely rocks. Prepare gear: one heavy energy bar and lighter into shell pockets, multi-tool and one liter of water onto belt. Wearing shorts, ever-stinky micro-fiber t-shirt, shell lowers, sock system, fleece and shell upper. Gloves and both sticks. Phone for pictures.
5:30am; It’s cold. Head out to summit Granite Peak. I had read Steve’s description so many times that I didn’t refer to the dox until I was practically on the slope. When I was upon the saddle just before the ascent, I broke out the papers for the first time on the day. The route looked steeper the closer I got. He had named these mileposts aptly, and I found what he had noted. Some sparse cairns were present, and it looked to me too that a light trail was here and there. I really took my time as the route was specific for the no-ropes ascent. He had mentioned a polished slab way up there. I slipped on the slab, continued sliding steeply downward and transitioned to high toe it quickly, almost on all fours, only to reach a rather loose section of talus and rock, and that stuff moved under my feet. Huffing, I traversed quickly onto some firmer rock. I sat and tried to settle down. I reviewed the notes once again. I looked around. I reviewed the notes once again. I looked again. I sat. After seemingly forever, I slowly read the last section of notes again and headed up (they hadn’t changed). His description was accurate once again. I really slowed but acquired the summit ridge. Maybe thirty yards and I was at the summit pile. I had to search for the benchmark.
9:30am; Summit. “Hey Steve! I appreciate the assistance!” I rested and took in the expansive view. Could easily see some peaks in neighboring Wyoming–just 15 or so miles away as the crow flies. Not all that different from many of the Rocky Mountain summits. I could see a large portion of the Sky Top chain. I was still a bit shaken. I drank some water and sat some more. I snapped a few pictures.
9:45am; Descend. Even though I was prepared with one stick and one hand, I slipped even worse while heading properly backwards. I actually performed a self-arrest with the sharp carbide tip of my stick screeching loudly into the polished granite slab. Fortunately, my loose stick somehow snagged a small crack and immediately wedged against my firmly locked and loaded arm to stop the fall and save unknown body harm from the depths below. I am completely rattled. Long pause stuck there. Suddenly: Oh well. Alone. Let’s go… and I do. I remember nothing more from the rock ramp and the descent off the summit mound and onto the saddle. I return to the tent (not really a camp) like a zombie. Nah, I finally think: this shit is not for me (any more anyway). I was not too bad; I was certainly glad that I was down. I really don’t care about death, but being severely broken and crawling out over ten miles, maybe being crippled, maybe being brain-damaged — that’s not really attractive to me. I attack an excellent early lunch of the famous Mountain House Beef Stew (still salty as Hell). I drink heavy then pump water. This time I mix in the electrolyte lemon. I feel a lot better. I pack up and head out by 1:00pm. I rested frequently and drank a lot. I choked down a light energy bar at some point. The light ones (by both weight and density) are actually Clif brand and are a firm processed concoction including some [soy] protein, nuts and a mystery goo (syrup?) binding agent (cool mint flavor this time). Those are not much more than filler. The previously mentioned heavy are ProBar. These higher quality food items are considered meals (at 350 or more calories) of nuts, fruits, seeds and actual honey as the glue. Useful fuel.
4:30pm; Very tired. I stop at a beautiful spot and rock-hop across Sky Top creek into nice trees. Actually, it appeared to be a previously used camp site. I don’t know what I made… maybe three or four miles. Tent set first of course; fire; and then a cocktail. I get nearly immediate effect from the booze–I feel even better (about the climb, not about being tired). I retrieve a pot of water from the creek and set it to boil–on the fire this time. Dinner is sweet, freeze-dried chicken teriyaki–excellent. I chew up the last meat stick too. I pop some ibuprofen and stoke the fire. I pour another drink into my cup and for the millionth time, I pump water–rinsing to go to plain water in my liters. I gather some miscellaneous wood for the morning fire and stow the lightest under the tent vestibule. I sit on a log near the nice fire as the alcohol and meds do their job. I re-load then tie the Ursack off to a tree this time–plenty of distance away from camp. I realized how completely spent I was, and certain that the mental component was significant. The no-ropes thing came forward in my mind. Steve was an experienced mountain climber and had an ice axe with crampons on; I had a hiking stick and boots with a sole that had little grip on a smooth hard surface–angled at more than forty-five degrees. Although slips are not uncommon, mine just happened to occur in the most dangerous part of the ascent. Accept the future likelihood and move on or don’t do that stuff anymore. It then occurred to me that that particular summit was the only one like that; all the more difficult ascents, Gannett Peak, Mt. Rainier, Mt. Hood and Denali require climbing gear. What’s more, more than half the successful summits of Granite come from the north–roped up. I hit the tent just before dark.
I really didn’t get wet at all. As I reach the other side of Sky Top, I twist to check her out; still there, still on the rig. I could see their food bag. I divert ten yards or so, pick it up and quickly tie it off to a branch at the extent of my reach. Maybe it would be here for the recovery crew; more likely though even the squirrels would get to it. Pictures.
OK, get going. The trail is wide enough that the paint-brush ends of the travois stay mostly grounded. It feels heavy at first; thankfully the trail is fairly level and gradually losing altitude. I get into a trance for an hour or so. I don’t think that it matters about the clock… I was moving as fast as I thought prudent in order to make it all the way out intact. I awoke to a light rain. It continues for five minutes before I locate a suitable rock to offload my carriage. After a heavy drink, I hear noise from her–slight moaning. I move closer to her face to listen and inspect. A few mumbles. “Helen, you’re okay; can you hear me? Just nod or move anything if you can.” Nothing. I check her eyes–without a light… but the day is now light enough that I see pupil action. Better. I open the sleeping bag and her jacket. No blood is visible, same for the arm. I leave the leg alone. I zip her up and pull down the hood to protect against the now steady rain. I quickly pee, then grab a heavy energy bar out of my pack and stuff it into my pocket.
I’m already tired by the time that I pass the Cliff Lake cut off. The rain lets up a bit, but I park under a tree any way. I use the steep wall inclined towards Aero Lake to dismount and prop her up. I take off my glove, unzip and reach up under her clothes; very warm, but not hot; hmmm. Pictures.
Hey! I can see! My head is killing me. I’m boiling in here.
I’m not dead! I’m in the forest… STILL.
Who is this guy sticking his hand up my shirt? That’s not Joey.
I leave the bag unzipped and loosely fold over the jacket; hood stays on. While sitting next to her, I choke down the chewy nut filled heavy energy bar in about two minutes–you can’t get them down any faster–they’re dense. I finish off one liter and crack the second; hers is of course, still full.
Three and a half miles to go. I have to kneel down in front of the rig as I back in to mount up this time. I wind through the dense trees of the somewhat soft needle and duff path down and up for what seems like TOO LONG and finally arrive at Zimmer and Star. I won’t drag her through–it’s too deep and her leg would get wet. I offload once again–this time onto a large old camp log. I reconnoiter for a couple of minutes. Towards Zimmer I would have to cross both creeks separately, the other direction only the joined waterway, but with more volume, velocity and depth. Sweet. I select what looks like a level bottom section with less boulders and drop my pack and sticks. I go back and heft the rig with my hands and drag her over to the ford spot. It’s actually noticeably easier without my pack and sticks–but that’s probably just because of a change in posture. I sit to remove the gaiters. I dig out my shell lowers–Mountain Hardwear’s best–and pull them on over my boots.
Funny story about the excellent service at MH. I had returned what I thought was a [failed] jacket–their best atomic material for rain. They evaluated the condition, agreed and granted a full replacement credit. I had purchased it at some ridiculously low sale price, who knows where, and these guys were solidly honoring their product. I thanked them sincerely. I used that higher credit to snag two pairs of their top-of-the-line rain shell pants–gifting one to my brother. [I had switched jacket brands to the, so far, indestructible Arc’teryx.] I may have mentioned that he and I were once very near here when rain set in. We sat under our tarp suiting up. He was fucking around forever trying to get the pants on–steam coming out of his ears. He starts yelling, yes yelling at me: “Why the fuck did you get me these pieces of shit. Goddamned sized for a fucking midget or skeleton.” [Same size as me, and mine.] I check out the situation. He’s got them on backwards and has snagged the bright orange [front] zipper on his belt-mounted multi-tool on the backside of one hip. I’m laughing at him. “Oops.” [An apology, I guess.]
What was I thinking? Drifting. I pull the legs up, loosen my boots and stretch my thick socks all the way up. I take the loose legs and tuck them down into my boots. I crank the laces up super tight (especially the upper hooks) and drop the pant legs to slightly bunch over the boot tops. I use a couple of micro-bungees (always strapped on my pack) to wrap tightly around the pant legs and boot uppers. Maybe I’ll stay dry. I don’t want to risk disturbing her body and wounds, so I lift the whole goddamned rig up flat in front of me and quickly step into the water. I don’t stop or slow–just plow through the water rushing above my knees at mid-thigh. I’m across in less than a minute; thank the trail gods for no spill and her trim runners body.
I have to set the rig on flat ground. It starts to rain. I quickly drag her to some nearby tree and close her jacket and bag. I head back, go through the water again, get my pack and sticks, come back through the water and fucking slip on a rock, but the quickly poked sticks hold me up nicely. [I have put all my weight onto these Black Diamond bitches multiple times–fantastic.] The tree branches and direction of the wind have worked to keep her unsoaked. I drink deep. She stirs, then nothing.
What the hell is going on? HEY! YO! Nothing.
I can move my arm…. AHHHHH!
I’m alive. I haven’t been burned up.
I’m out of water with three miles of work to go–including an uphill section. I break out the filter and quickly pump both full… I drink a third of one and then top it off. I stow that stuff. Under the tree, I untuck and strip off my shell pants and stow them too–even though it’s raining. I’d be sweating more than the rain if I left them on. Gaiters back on for the upcoming wet understory. Pee. Pictures.
I mount up the rig while bending way forward and down with the headrest on my lower back. Hah! Easier than kneeling. Up, down, up, down, drag through water twice more. Drink water. Finally, down to trailhead. Soaked with sweat. Set her down. Silence. Alone. Drop pack. I dig out my key from the pack hood zip-lock and my wallet. Gaiters off. Soaked gloves off. Pictures.
I empty out the back; the seats were already folded up. Cooler; yes… I grab a still-cold Bud and glug half and set it aside. I jump in and pull out away from the trees and park once again–reversed so she is directly adjacent to the passenger door. I slide the front seat all the way back and tilt it all the way down. I repack the back seat area and throw in my and sticks. I finish the Bud (empty to cooler). I open up the upper bag and carefully unstrap her shoulders, then the other points. I lift her comparatively light body still bottomed with the bag at scapula and knee-backs and gingerly manipulate her into the passenger seat, then ease her upper body down to the almost flat seat.
AHHHH! What is wrong with my leg? Hey, I’m out of the trees… I’m in a car.
This is not my car.
My head is exploding.
I unzip all that I can get to. I throw the travois and ropes into the backend of the Hondo–paint brushes up on an angle and sticking out back above the tailgate. Pictures.
I actually remember that The Man will soon be involved, and I wish to keep my phone. I quickly connect my phone to the always-ready USB memory stick and download the images. I put the locked and shut-down phone into the faraday sleeve and hide it behind the spare tire in the trunk. Close trunk, tailgate and reposition travois. I simply do not want to give up my phone to some overzealous hick bureaucrat. I’d never see it again. I’ll offer up the memory stick. I fired up the Hondo once again and headed out on the moderate gravel road towards US212—gingerly on the ruts and bumps.
I barely get rolling on the gravel when an oncoming EMS vehicle appears. I slowed; obviously they were here for Search and Rescue. I waved them to a stop alongside me. The sandy-blonde middle-aged woman at the wheel already had the window down.
“Hey. I have an injured hiker on board. Are you here because of the SOS?”
“Correct. How about you spin around and go back to the trailhead lot?”
I park with the passenger door to the open space. The EMS squad is out, preparing. I get out and open the passenger door. The Cooke City EMS Lead is on me. She’s stern, trim and make-up-free good looking. Almost gray eyes. Short and clean nails on the ends of long fingers; no polish. No wedding band but what looks like a family signet on her left little finger–gold. Strange, going to dip that heirloom in blood? Simple small gold balls as earrings. Little if any scent.
“Here she is. Breathing even and steady. Pulse a bit rapid but steady. It seems like brain trauma in addition to scalp lacerations; compound fracture of both radius and ulna of her right arm; multiple subdermal lacerations on upper chest; subdermal lacerations into the left tibialis anterior; never regained consciousness. Bear attack. I patched her up as best I could.”
I step back. Moderate temperature but they all have on their huge chartreuse trimmed coats. They ease her out and place her onto a stretcher like thing. They start their exam. They cut–where I had stretched the clothing. I notice now that her face is hugely bruised and shades of pink to deep purple. No blood from the cuts though. They are very careful with her head about the neck.
“Here’s her emergency transponder. I left her partner’s on top of his body; he’s likely dead. He was ripped up pretty good by the bear. Her wallet is in one of her pockets… phone too.”
I watch. In less than a minute she’s on a satellite phone–probably to the Search and Rescue (SAR) Coordinator. Not even two minutes later Park County SAR [sheriff logo] drives in–with a large horse trailer attached to one of their trucks. U.S. Forest Service pulls in. They start off-loading; the lead man strolls over.
“What do you have Kay? ”
“Hey Phil. Multiple injuries,” nods my way, “bear likely; possible brain trauma. Bad fracture. I just dialed up Bill and had him send the Guardian. She’ll need St. Vincent in Billings.”
Kay tilts her head again to me, “Says her partner is probably deceased and still out at the place of attack.” I notice a slight accent… Canadian maybe.
Phil looks at me and steps over. He’s maybe six feet and over two hundred; balding; trooper-style hat in hand; full uniform; semi-auto sidearm on his huge utility belt. No facial hair and recent shave. The white gold of the large Air Force Academy ornament shines on his right ring-finger. Standard plain silver wedding band on the left. I guess mid-fifties and perhaps still somewhat active… Air Guard maybe.
“I’m Phil Jackson–sergeant of the Park County Sheriff’s office,” tilting his head back and around, “that would be Kay Wette, the EMS Captain out of Cooke City. I got the call on this one, but I do usually handle the rescues. Who are you?” No accent. No negativity.
“I’m Dave; I’m a hiker from Illinois.”
“OK. You think her partner is deceased?”
“Intestines out and on the ground; skull caved in; feet nearly amputated… yes.”
“OK. You think it was a bear attack?”
“I engaged the animal; wounded it; black bear… yes.”
“OK. Hold tight.”
Phil signals over the SAR and FS leads. I listen in.
“Guardian is on the way;” presumably a medivac helicopter, “bear attack; second victim is still in the field.”
I offer up: “That’s the other SOS transponder that you are receiving; I left it on his body.”
They glance, Phil resumes.
“Let’s get the horses moving; he tilts towards me, “Dave: anything else?”
I beam in on the SAR that looks like the man. “Trail until the confluence of Star and Zimmer–maybe three and a half miles; bear east to slide along Sky Top creek. [Follow the SOS at that point.] Another three to four miles. The site is just off the creek on the east side. You may see my tent–a small red and orange MSR. [My gear is still in it.] Theirs was medium brown, but it’s now wrapped around his body. The bear was bleeding… if you intend on tracking it.” He nods.
“OK; move out.”
Phil uses his satellite phone [and likely updates the SAR Coordinator.] They go. The horses are loaded up… three riders and one extra pack-horse. One rifle and one shotgun are visible, one sidearm. It looks like two county and one ranger. Kay is somewhat bundling up Helen. They load her into a vehicle and drive out. [Presumably to a clearing for the medivac.] The horse team moves out.
“So Dave, you just happened to be in the area?”
He seems like a decent guy, and things are pretty much settled; I give him the full story.
“Uh huh. Most wouldn’t do that. No way could we have gotten there faster than you brought her here. Non-comm ARC units that they had. We were just set about fifteen minutes before we met you here. They logged their hike with that service, but it was very general. Our tech boys couldn’t figure out why one SOS was moving and another was stationary. I think that they settled on a glitch.” [Rolling his eyes.]
“Strange Phil, all that food -in the tent- they should have known better. The guy is from black bear central there in the Smokies. The age difference too… unusual. The weird combination of new, expensive and excessive gear, and some junk… I think something is off on that pair. I got some spidey-sense feeling.”
“Hmmm.” Tilting to the horse crew. “They’ll check out the site and all the gear. Probably will track the bear, after they assess the condition of the body. What’s your plan?”
“I’m headed back in as soon as we’re done here… to get my gear. Oh; here,” as I hand him the memory stick, “many images.” He nods. “I have no need for the travois, but their hiking sticks are attached–and they’re not cheap; you may want someone to grab those for her. Also, if it were me, as gruesome as some are, I’d want the images.” Aiming with my head: “I’d like to see the medivac action.”
“You’re going to hike all the way back in? Our guys can get your stuff.”
“Nah; I want it now, and to get out of your hair. Long drive; already a day overdue at home.”
“Suit yourself; let me know if you change your mind.”
I can hear the helicopter coming nearer, as does he. With that, he nods and heads over to the other vehicles, and wraps it up for now.
I hop in and head out on the gravel and in less than a quarter-mile I see their site. I pull over, well off the gravel. I dig out my travel sweatshirt and put that on. Phil blows by me, moves in closer to the action, and gets out. It looks like he’s got a tablet in his hand. Eventually the sleek copter comes in and sets down gracefully on what looks like marshy but level greenery. Kay and another move in with the basket-like stretcher. They load her up, and back off. Phil chats with Kay while viewing something on the tablet, and then heads my way.
“There are some disturbing images you’ve provided–don’t know if they matter though, but I’ll get them to the victim. Kay says time is critical, and that your temporary patches were decent–especially the arm. Unknown about her head trauma, but she did mumble.” I nod. “Hey, thanks for the assistance, I appreciate it–she will too. Where can I reach you?”
“Hah! You have my plates; shouldn’t be a problem.”
He chuckles and offers his hand. I take it. We go our separate ways; me back to the trailhead. As I water up from my travel jugs and pack up very light, while choking down a heavy energy bar, the remaining rescue personnel are staring. They don’t say anything as I approach the trail. Kay and Phil pulling up–probably to wait on the report from the field. They’ll need the copter out there eventually. I turn and glance; they wave; I nod.
Same hike, but after hauling a hundred and thirty or so pounds earlier, it seems like I’m weightless. Same streams and creeks to cross. Less breaks. I feel good. No problem finding my tent. I smell the horses; and then hear the guys yammering. They do not hear me. I pack my stuff up first, taking maybe twenty minutes, then I mosey over to chat.
I announce my presence as to not startle them–they are startled any way. I wave casually and approach. Strange, I had just been here five hours ago or something–a different lifetime. “Hey guys.” No names given, and not necessary; they obviously recognize me from the trailhead scene. They do nod.
They got the bear; shot it. Already? “It wasn’t far away,” the dude gesticulates a pointed gun direction. “It may have been coming back at us.” Doubtful I think; four smelly horses, three adult males… and loud. They mention some kind of testing to check for brain abnormalities. I can’t believe that they are going to fly it out or cut off its head. “Nope, we’ll be sampling the carcass out here… special tools,” with an expert head tilt. I suggest that it’s doubtful that it was abnormal; “…those idiots had a ton of stinky food in the tent… and as you all know, it’s pre-Winter up here already.” “Maybe; the lab knows all.” Uh huh; I roll my eyes at them. “Hey, the body was still wrapped up, so it looks like no critters got in. He is a mess.” Do tell. “If it matters, their food bag is on the other side of the creek head high… it’s bright red.” I add my own gunshot pointer… and pull the trigger. No response. Whatever. “I’m just picking up my gear.” Again, no response. Alrighty then. I back away, spin silently, and head out of the area.
While they are still occupied with the body, I head to the death zone. Away from the obvious [human] dried pool, the [bear] blood trail is surprisingly easy to track–I must have really done some damage with the blade. I am surprised, maybe just two hundred yards. An easy shot; it’s out in an open area. Taken from where, I do not know. Perhaps the small hump I just descended. I look around. I listen. I get in close. I smell nothing. Clearly a male; I am glad it’s not a sow with what could have been orphaned cubs. It looks big to me. I whip out my multi-tool, bend down and discreetly snip a claw off–the whole toe actually. I’ll clean this up later. They won’t notice; even if they do, I did tell them that I had made contact with my knife. I’ll keep it to honor and remember the animal; stupid people lead to its demise–I’m sure of it. I head back to my pack and former camp, quietly avoiding their work area. They’re still yammering. I mount up and head out.
I hear a helicopter louder than the white-water of Sky Top that I am again hiking alongside. I only make it about four miles when I realize just how tired I am. Crazy adrenaline and ego combo lasts only so long. I decide that I’m too tired to drive after hiking out, so I drop my load at the disused but flat and somewhat clear camp under large conifers–where Star and Zimmer come together. Fourth time here inside of two days. Routine. Tent. Water. Fire. Food–I have one freeze-dried meal left (actually my emergency meal): Beef Stroganoff. Delicious.
A while later the horses quietly pass (the streams are loud), one turns its head at me but none of the three guys seem to notice me tucked back against the rocks–even with the fire. Very strange; if they’re from Cody, maybe they are all citied-up. Unknown agenda or lost sensitivity; people are weird. I crack the big Bud that I had thrown in my light pack and ease back. It kicks in quickly. In bed just after dark. Some initial sleep, then stirring with unrecallable dreams.
Monday, September 13, 2021
5:00am; small fire; breakfast of green drink, heavy energy bar and scalding sweet tea. Crap back in the trees. Pump water. Pack it all up. Not nearly a full pack; one liter of water only; no food left; no booze left. I head out. Really easy three miles. No one is at the trailhead; no junk left either. Offload then pack the Hondo and drive out. Gravel; US212; Red Lodge and onward. Used this route as a kid back in the day on a couple of family vacations. In my restless sleep, I had considered dropping in on Helen. I think that it was hero ego bullshit. Not too much out of the way, but she has more important things to handle… without my presence. I do give myself a gold star though. A long uneventful drive. Unusual is that I drive through the night–without any sleep issues. Continuous mental review of the events of the last few days.
Friday, September 17, 2021
Call on my cell; area code 307–that would be the entire state of Wyoming. I picked up.
“Hey Dave, this is Phil… Jackson… from Park County Sheriff’s office in Cody??”
“Of course I remember Phil. What’s up?”
“I have an update that I’d like to share with you.”
“About Helen I presume.”
“More, much more.”
“Wow, lay it on me.”
“First off; you know that they found the body… and the bear–SAR personnel relayed meeting you out there. The second victim was definitely killed by the bear. Those images were useful.”
“Yep, I met them… strange guys. Not surprised about the bear… I was there.”
“They do good work, but they really love their job–possibly a bit too much. After we entered the guy into our systems, I received call from a LEO in Tennessee; sorry, a Law Enforcement Official. A Knoxville detective. He was familiar with Joey–who the Hell is really named Joey?”
“Hah! Continue please.”
“It turns out that this guy had a previous wife, older, and that she had died in unusual circumstances. She had supposedly slipped and fallen off a cliff near Asheville while out hiking–with Joey. The detective saw something wrong, but the guy’s alibi was tight enough, and there was no physical evidence of foul play–nothing. Friends of hers said that she only picked up hiking since meeting him. They go on to say that they thought that he came off as shady. Financially, he was her husband, so he received a substantial amount from her previous marriage–millions, apparently. The local ADA couldn’t do anything.”
“Did I not mention that I felt something was wrong there?”
“Yes, you did Dave, crazy. This guy, Joey, celebrates, or whatever, blowing a load at the casino down in Cherokee. It’s south of the Smokies apparently. So big, that the bank flags the transaction. The detective takes note. Apparently he was tracking his financial activity. Two days later he meets Helen in the Smokies. HER friends say the same thing–and warn her. It didn’t work.”
“A predator. Did that jackass plant the food trying to get her killed up there?”
“After speaking with the SAR boys, the rangers in particular, my own extensive outdoor experience, and this guy’s hiking history, wife history and both his confirmed bear experience and knowledge via Helen–it seems at least a possibility to me. A dirtbag for sure.”
“That’s a new one for me. An idiot. An asshole. If true, his plan backfired spectacularly. It seems that he may have gotten what he deserved.”
“That might be true. In any case, it seems to me, and the detective down there, that a public threat has been removed. Keep this to yourself, but thanks. It would seem that others may have been spared. Oh yeah, I gave Helen your address. She was adamant, and I saw no harm. A very nice lady, glad she’s going to be okay.”
“You’re welcome, but I think many would have helped her out… how could you not? Thanks for the update and info. What a crazy tale.”
“Yessir, it’s up there high on my nutso list. Feel free to give me a call if you’re ever out here again. Hey, I saw you put that Bud in your pack.”
“HAH! I will do that. Bye.”
Friday, October 22, 2021
I received a handwritten note from Helen, postmarked Nashville. She’s home!
I hope that you don’t mind the intrusion, but Phil from the Sheriff’s office gave me your contact info. He said that he knew you wouldn’t mind. He’s such a nice guy. You really impressed him. He visited with me at the hospital in Billings. I really couldn’t recall much about the bear incident, but I provided all I could on my boyfriend. That would be my former boyfriend. I’m okay with that. I should never have gone with him–there anyway. Phil told me about his history. How could I be so dumb? How horrible about the other lady.
Phil warned me about the images, but I had to look. WOW! Awful. You might want to know that I have mostly recovered. I will have some scars. Although the cause of my unconsciousness, the head trauma was just a severe concussion and that’s no longer an issue. They think that I was whacked by the bear. I had bad headaches for a while. My scalp and boobs were just deep cuts. The surgeon left only very fine lines. I am so glad that they took me to a real hospital, and not some hokey clinic. I don’t remember anything about the helicopter ride… WOW! The leg took a while to heal but all the parts were still connected and intact. Just easy walking, still no running yet. My arm was very bad, and I am still in physical therapy for that. The huge cast was just removed. I should gain full recovery though. The Doc said that they didn’t need any additional bone braces or pins or screws, and that YOU had set them where they needed to be. Your assistance to them and ME is so very much appreciated, I can’t thank you enough. If you would ever like to chat, I’d like to hear your version of the story.
Sincerely, and with much gratitude.
I did contact her–and told her the tale. By then she had heard again from Phil–something about money from Joey’s estate… a civil suit. I learned that she had been married to another man before Joey. He had been killed while biking. She was devastated at the time. She was shocked by the life insurance and investments–she was sad, but rich. She met Joey while on a recovery getaway in the Smokies. Rebound love, loss, or some such. We remain in communication.
12 thoughts on “Appreciated Assistance, a short story …”
Dang, more like squeezed in a vise to the very last word! Excellent read. Thank you for sharing.
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I am a simple guy, even if everyone else sad nothing, or worse, just one plus makes my day… thank you for that.
Additionally, I made [at least] one glaring and vague statement: “… all the more difficult ascents, Gannett Peak, Mt. Rainier, Mt. Hood and Denali require climbing gear.” I should have said ” the more difficult HIGHPOINT ascents.” Those highest altitude points of each of the U.S. states. There are many, many ascents within the U.S. that require climbing gear.
That sir was epic! It took me longer to read it because I was tracing your trip on a map. Thank you for posting this.
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This reads like you were there. Gripping for sure!
Thank you for sharing.
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How you made this grim tale so amusing and enticing ~~ well, well done!
I can only smile… thank you. Sarcasm is difficult to convey without stating it as such.
I sent Mark a very vulgar, but accurate tale relating to excrement; THAT one is funny!
I re-read it… I forgot about those funny tidbits. Some of those are age-related too.
Yes, and I could age relate to it : )
Your Jay Peterman way (think Sienfeld) of describing the various clothing/gear was hilarious.
Wow, DSK, that is a gripping story…read it straight through even though I now have to run. Embarrassed to say images from the Revanant and Jeremiah Johnsonensued! Epic, sir, epic!
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Now THAT is an experience that probably makes you feel more alive than anything else. If the slope downfall into barely evaded disability wasn’t enough, life throws you into a situation where you are up against another, even bigger threat. Goodness gracious, you fought a bear! And yet again, you come out unharmed–flipping off all odds against you. Take that Grim Reaper, this guy is not yours to take. Then you go on and even manage to save the damsel in distress, casually taking a sip of Gentleman Jack while at it. DSK on his hero’s journey. Love it! Even throwing aside his ego because he understands that the journey is not about “being the hero.” A gold star indeed.
…and a bear’s claw. 😀
How else to say that you are on Nature’s trial into the next stage of evolution. Coincidences like this will naturally occur as one’s intuition is increasing. You will end up in places just in time when you are most needed. (…or being tested for character.) But once you say stuff like that, you will only be remembered as the crazy one… Man, I really miss the old AQ forum where we could discuss higher meanings of things with actual like-minded peers. Imho, there is no platform right now where you can talk as freely as you want without being judged for it. Either you have spiritual folks who are too spiritual for their own sake because in their rose-colored naivety of all love and light they fail to realize the many conspiracies among people who they still deem “respectable.” Or you have good conspiracy folks who are too skeptical for their own sake, thus missing out not only on plenty of opportunities for spiritual growth but also on plenty of new knowledge they still deem “untrue.” See my latest posts on CF for prime examples:
Animus: We are having some kind oh glitch where WordPress will not allow Dave to reply to you directly. I captured his comment in Spam and repeat it below:
Thank you Sir, but this is a story; although I have been to the area as stated, and it unfolds as my experience and imagination say that it should, or at least could – regarding animals, humans and their collective antics. I could not leave you in what seemed to be a state of belief as real (having occurred).
[To disabuse ourselves from our lifetime’s decades-long brainwashing is the challenge we face if we truly want to reach the REAL “open mind.”]
I never posted very much at CF as I never had much to say. It seems now, to me, that I became disillusioned, or discouraged by some of the antics displayed… not sure. I believe that I wanted a clear-cut answer to “rocketry in a vacuum.” THAT subject has been touched upon here at PoM. Also, if I remember correctly, someone here has had something to say about the origins of “Simon”.
As to Antiquatis Institute: I was always humbled there (as I am here). I do miss Bruce. I think that I spoke [there] very similarly to the way I do here: simple; seeking truth; hating the overlords; sometimes offering my limited physical experience having uncommonly developed physical tools (at my age any way).
Oops. 😀 I guess that makes me too gullible for my own sake. Which would mean I’m at the other end of the spectrum of skepticism, being a little bit too open-minded perhaps. A colorful bunch we are, huh. So patrix was right after all, I do have trouble differentiating between reality and fiction. The same definitely goes for my dreams. But what can I say, letting your mind run free will always come with the risk of losing yourself in an illusion (temporarily). But how else are we supposed to step into new territory of nature when we don’t venture beyond our current “normal” comfort zone of reality? New biological senses won’t evolve by staying inside the same old bubble all the time. If I have to cross a couple of illusionary matrix bubbles in order to reach the next real one, then so be it. It’s still more progress than stagnation anyway. Though I guess the mind would need some time to repair whatever damage was done in the previous three bubbles. 😀
Do you have a direct link about what you called the origins of Simon? So far, he as always given me the impression of an honest, truth-seeking guy. And I tend to judge on people’s actions, not their origins. You might have read that I already told the CF members to go easy on the shill-calling since it could leave the honest, falsely accused figures within the truth community with an unnecessary bad image among their peers. I even mentioned POM by name, c.f. both links above. I actually suggested there to try a joint community with other blogs and fora… With luck we can all behave and get along with each other and create a society of our own where we allow ourselves to stay free individuals who thankfully decline the offer of cyborg assimilation.
@Mark: Thanks for forwarding the comment. Gotta say, I’m almost getting used to technological glitches lately… Not on your end but on mine. And it’s not even limited to communication.