I am pleased to announce the winners of the Wanderlust USA giveaway.
Thanks for all the great entries of giving back on our public lands.
The first winner comes from Jeremy W and his experience as a volunteer search and rescue in the Black Canyon of the Gunnison:
BLACK CANYON, OCTOBER 2019
Every time we get called out for a big one I tell myself the same thing, Don’t speed. Nothing happens fast in a rescue. About ten miles from the North Rim the roads turn to gravel.
In the mirror an old white Tacoma appears – my buddy Joe. Adrenaline has gripped him, too. I drop into 4WD and floor it around a crew cab filled with guys in blaze-orange hats, Joe following right behind. Fourteen years ago I volunteered for the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park SAR team with the idea of giving back to the climbing community. I had been climbing for twenty-one years without mishap, but there was a feeling that it would be good to stock up on some karma points.
My second season on the team we rescued two overdue climbers stranded 600 feet below the rim. Out of water and baking in the July heat, they had been drinking their own pee mixed with hot cocoa powder for the last two of their four days on the wall. Getting lowered in I shout down, “Hey boys, help is coming.” Their drawn faces tilted up, our eyes met. Later, they both told me they had expected to die up there. That moment, what was in their eyes, has stayed with me. For a long time this memory drove me to make the training’s, go out on climbing patrols, practice rope systems in my garage at night. Then, I’m not sure how many years ago, my motivation changed once again. My wife and Nick, both critical care nurses, are getting the hasty packs and a med kit together when Joe and I screech up to the ranger station. The injured climber and his partner have been rappelling for several hours now. Spotters on the South Rim report that one climber appears to have injured his leg. Naomi and Nick begin the 5th class descent down Cruise Gully. They will reach the climbers just as they touch ground. We wait by the radio for the patient assessment. There are only a couple hours of daylight left. If the patient is critical, a head injury or broken femur, we will work into the night. “823 this is Nick. Probable distall tib/fib break. Patient stable.” The team starts rigging at first light, about twenty-five of us. Seth, a father and carpenter from Gunnison, begins the 1700 foot lower to deliver the litter. I am running the main line station, feeding rope through a friction device called a scarab. We speak in whispers, ears up for a call to stop. I’m looking around at the other stations, at the people who have become such close friends over the last decade and a half. The people that I would and have trusted my life to without hesitation. The professionalism, the quiet competence makes my throat constrict with emotion. There are a handful of Parkies on the team but most of us are volunteers, leaving our jobs and families with only a few minutes notice to be here.
The bond, the camaraderie – it is a pretty heady feeling. And for years now what keeps bringing me back.
My favorite outdoor volunteer experience of the year was in a place I had never been before, on the Pacific Crest Trail in Jefferson Park Oregon. We were working on a 1 mile reroute of the PCT with 5 volunteers and 5 USFS employees for 8 days. Having Mount Jefferson looming above us and boggy fields to build a path through were major changes from my previous volunteering in Southern California.
The first day I spent ankle deep in a stream finding and placing rocks for a crossing. The next couple of days were spent removing tree stumps to clear the way for tread work later. It’s amazing what a 2-ton winch can do (especially when you add in a pulley), although it still required quite a bit of muscle to dig out and cut the roots ahead of time. Working in a National Forest meant no powered machines were allowed so trees were cut out with crosscut saws and hand tools are used for digging and moving rocks.
The most interesting part of the work was working with the mules. They packed us in on day 1 and then returned the last full day to haul rocks from a stream bed up to the trail we had worked on. It was at least ¼ mile trip each way that the mules hauled the rocks for us. Getting the rocks dug up and into the rock bags was still a chore, but there is no way we could have moved them up there without the mules. We had several holes 3-4 feet deep and 6-8 feet long dug by the time we finished. Of course, the holes had to be filled back in before we actually finished…
While hiking, my mind often wanders to how the trails we use came to be and this was the first time I had worked on a project with stock who are a critical part of that work. To top it all off, the mule handlers, who were also volunteers, brought up some cold refreshments for us! After 7 nights of work and fun, we were all ready for one or two of those.
Thanks for all the work on our public lands! Wherever you may live, there is always a way to give back and volunteer.
Stay tuned for another giveaway this week. 🙂