Lisa's Great Fall and Sprawl Adventure

( Wednesday June 11, 2008)


Hi everybody,

I decided to send one big email because I had a great adventure of a backpack trip and wanted to share it all at once. My friends June (special ed. teacher), Linda (teacher), Karen (nurse) and Kenny (June's 12 yr old son) and I decided to take a hike down the Lost Coast Trail in Humbolt county.  Curtis, June's husband was our shuttle driver once we got to the end of the trail.  He had a camp trailer he brought to camp in.  We got up at 3a.m. and hit the road by about 4:15 a.m. to head up to the trail head.  We started our hike at about 1:15.

 It was quite a technical trail with some loose sand, some soft sand, rocks, big and small, little creek crossings, some hillside skinny trails with rolling hills and some cliffs too.  But mainly lots and lots of wind at our backs & side.  We were glad we were going south!!  Not into the wind!  With the backpacks on we had to be paying attention at all times.  After about 4 hours of hiking we were starting to get tired.  The gusty winds were really scary on the hillside trail with the cliff and crashing waves directly below.   Just past a big section of hopping rocks and crossing a creek I was choosing my steps VERY carefully as I knew one wobbly rock could be devastating to the ankles! 

Just after that we climbed a bit to a grassy, weedy rolling hillside that wound around above the edge of the crashing coastline straight below.  The wind was whipping our backpacks pretty good so we knew we better brace ourselves with each step.  We went thru a nice little wind-break of a cove and over a little creek.  Then back out to the rolling hills and little cliff trails, but just a steep slope rather than cliff.  Just then June caught a gust of wind and down she went!  We all just had a jaw-drop shock because we couldn't help her at all!  But luckily her quick instinct caused her to sprawl which stopped her from rolling down the hill to complete disaster.  As she lay there on the edge of the possibility to continue her roll I quickly grabbed her walking pole and told her to grab on.  That made it possible to pull her up to safety with just a few scrapes and stickers.  We continued on with the new safety tip of "forget stop-drop-and is now "fall and sprawl!"

It was about 5:00 and just a couple turns later when we came around a picturesque rolling hillside with the beautiful waves beyond and the sight of a trail of us hikers winding along the path so I stopped to snap a picture with my cell phone.  It was a little too far away so I tried to scamper down the trail to get a little closer shot of my friends when suddenly my tired ankles came to teeter on a steep side slope of the trail and my ankle gave out and rolled out to the side with a disturbing 'CRACK' sound.  talk about PAIN!!!  I shouted out to the gang and they came running.  We got it elevated and found some gauze in the first aid kit that we used as an ace bandage and wrapped it up.  It was definitely great to have the expertise of nurse Karen there with her calm spirit and professional knowledge!  Linda found some ibuprofen which was SUCH a major relief!  Linda and June made the brutal hike straight up the mountain and called 911 on the cell phone.  They were connected to the wrong county at first so it took half an hour on the phone and many repeated explanations to finally get the people to understand our exact location.  The phone finally died so we just had to sit and wait and hope for the best.  Karen and Kenny kept me company and we shot weeds at each other while we waited.  Within a couple hours or so a strong young rescuer, Jeff, from Petrolia arrived with a walkie-talkie and a team of 3 others with quads within radio range.  The quads could only get to about 3/4 mile up the coast from us.  Soon another rescuer (Carson) arrived on foot.  They assessed the situation and called for a helicopter.  Jeff was excited about that as his girlfriend would be coming in the chopper.  Unfortunately, that chopper was on a fire call, so they had to send the coast guard helicopter.  We saw it go by us and had to wait another 45 minutes or so before it worked it's way up the coastline back to us.  Meanwhile, we made our way down the trail to the old cabin nearby that had a wide level spot near it. 

The strong rescuers lifted me over a bobbed wire fence to the wide area they scoped out for the rescue.)  The helicopter hovered above as a basket was lowered down and my handsome strong rescuers carried me over and placed me in the basket to be lifted to safety.  We waved our good-byes. From there they joined my fellow hikers on an adventure of their own... riding on quads in the dark back to base camp where Curtis was waiting.  They arrived back at camp at around midnight. The whole town awaiting their arrival for the action of the day in Petrolia, California.  Fire trucks, rescue personnel and townspeople alike.  

Meanwhile, up in the helicopter I sat in the basket wondering where in the world we would end up.  When we originally called for a helicopter we had decided my ankle probably wasn't broken since I could wiggle my toes.  The little local helicopter could have dropped me off at our campground where Curtis was.  But the coast guard chopper couldn't do that, and the weather had taken a turn for the worse with higher winds.  So they discussed where to take me on their little helmet mikes, but I couldn't hear a thing with the loud chopper.  All I knew is we kept flying and flying and flying.  I started really stressing because somebody would eventually have to find me to take me home!  One of the good-looking helicopter rescuers took my picture with the other rescuer.  Don't they make any ugly emergency rescuers???  I sure haven't found one yet!  There were 4 rescuers in the helicopter.  We finally landed in McKinleyville to a waiting ambulance. The ambulance guy, Tommy and driver Seneca looked over my ankle and said x-rays were a must.  So then I loaded into the ambulance and off to Mad River Community Hospital we went for x-rays.  At the time, I didn't really know where I was.  I borrowed the hospital phone since my cell had been dead since the 911 call.  I left a sad message on Curtis' phone that I would be staying the night and would call with a specific location in the morning.  I gave the phone back. Then a nice older gentleman in the hospital with his wife, who had been in a car accident earlier, and was getting checked out, offered me his cell phone and a ride to the near-by motel when we all checked out.  Man, was I grateful for that!  After determining there was no break in my ankle I made the trip to the motel with the nice couple. He helped me into the lobby with my backpack. The next morning (well, a bit after noon) my loyal faithful gang arrived to pick me up. We started our "plan B" vacation trip home with a stop at the redwoods and the cheese factory along the way.  Originally, when asking the helicopter crew how long it would take my friends to find me, I thought it would take them 3 or 4 hours up.  But it was only about an hour and 45 minutes.  (Only?!)  They were such great sports with no complaints.  True friends.  Their trip was an adventure in itself. Between all of us, we each had our mishaps on this trip. Except Kenny, who was the all-around hero always ready to help with my pack. 

Karen twisted her ankle during the night trip back, Linda got sick in the car on the trip home (no mess, 'tho, thank goodness), my ankle ordeal, and June's face plant.  Yikes! Linda is sending me video of the rescue so if you have a computer that can handle it let me know.  It's a pretty big file, being 2 minutes long.  It's dark, but you can still see the basket being lifted into the helicopter with it's bright lights. (Unfortunately the video was accidentally erased.) Here's a news article about the Coast Guard rescue.

I'm truly thankful for all who got me home safely