Saturday, June 17, 2006
Break a leg! (cont.)
So there we were, all outfitted. We piled into the gummint pickup truck and headed out of Small Mountain Town at 7 a.m., on through the Rez, on past the Vermillion Cliffs, through Jacobs Lake, into Kanab, and down from there. The drive to Kanab is 210 miles, and takes about 4.5 hours. The drive from Kanab to Whitmore Canyon is (more or less) 90 miles, and takes about 5 hours. The first half of that drive, to the Mt. Trumbull schoolhouse, takes one hour; it's a nice, wide, flat dirt road. When I first came out West when OmegaGranny and Gramps moved out this way, such dirt roads were scary and I took them very cautiously. Now, like anyone who lives in the area and is used to them, they seem like veritable highways to me. From the Mt. Trumbull schoolhouse to the Whitmore Canyon overlook...well, the further you go, the worst the road is. It's quite do-able up to the Bar 10 Ranch--after all, ranchers need good roads, and the Bar 10 is where river rafting trips begin and end. Bar 10 has a landing strip, so the majority of the folks who put in and take out there don't go overland; they simply fly to Las Vegas, a half-hour trip. The road from the Bar 10 Ranch to the overlook...ack. The road is just plain wretched. Your kidneys suffer horribly. That drive is an adventure all on its own. But then you get to the end of the road, at the point where Whitmore Canyon joins the Grand Canyon. You are about 700 feet above the river. There is No. One. There. The silence is so deep that it's noisy; your ears ring constantly because, being a child of civilization, your mind and ears are constantly expecting input. The only audio input you get there, though, is the wind. The slight sound of the river from 700 feet below you. Hawks calling overhead. It is, in the most basic sense of the word, "awesome". We put up the tent, we cooked and ate dinner, and snuggled up in the sleeping bag, with plans to get an early start. We were planning to go down, come back up at lunchtime, and go back down again. In June, at 700 feet above the river in the Grand Canyon, it gets hot. Early. As soon as the sun comes up and hits the tent, you start baking. We were up and making breakfast at 6:30. OmegaDad loaded up his field gear and his forms (oh, yes, forms). I took some of the stuff, we filled our water bottles, got our hats, and headed over to the trail down. Seven hundred feet down is no big deal; we were looking forward to the water at the bottom. The first half of the trail was switchbacks and we took it carefully and cautiously. Then we came to a plateau-y area where there were no switchbacks, about halfway down. Walking along, chatting, talking, looking around... There was a pebble in the trail. I tripped. My ankle twisted. I heard two very distinct snaps. I screamed. I knew I had broken something. Hard to explain why--it didn't hurt (yet). But those snaps. Um. Mr. OmegaMom came running. "Are you okay? What's wrong? Did you sprain your ankle? Can you put your weight on it?" I leaned on the leg in question, and it immediately buckled underneath me. I screamed again. Well, shit. Let's see: middle of June. Hot summer day. Water bottles for the morning. Halfway down a 700-foot trail, with switchbacks up above us. Switchbacks beneath us down to the river. One 37-year-old woman with Something broken. This was a Bad Scene. And all very ironic--Remember, the whole idea had been that I was there in case something happened to him! We conferred and confabulated. The sun arced higher. It was getting hotter. Mr. OmegaMom manuevered me into the shade of a large boulder and loaded me down with oranges. Then he made a very large SOS sign out of yellow gummint forms held down by rocks. Then we heard the helicopters. Ahah! River trip exchange! Mr. OmegaMom danced and waved and hollered. A helicopter swooped overhead in a circle. Relief! No. The helicopter flew down to the river. I was in tears. We waited. We could hear the river rafters calls echoing softly around us. Another helicopter circled around. Mr. OmegaMom danced and waved and hollered. The helicopter flew off to the Bar 10. It got hotter. I ate oranges, sweated, and dealt with the shock wearing off. Then, finally, another copter came along; this one had the friendly green and white stripes of the National Park Service. It circled. It got lower. Mr. OmegaMom ran over towards where it looked like it was going to land. I--stupid thing--got up and started hobbling (yes, the leg could be used, with the help of a SharpShooter). The copter landed, rangers piled out and headed toward me and I was immediately admonished to not be stupid and try to walk. Ahh, sweet relief! They bundled the leg up into a splint, they saddle-carried me to the copter, they settled me in, they conferred with Mr. OmegaMom. He couldn't come--there was this truckload of gummint equipment at the top of the trail that needed to get back to the office. They told him his SOS was the most creative use of gummint forms they had ever seen. I had my camera, and shock was still with me (that's why the previous entry's photo has me smiling and looking pretty relaxed and cool). Then we lifted off.
We flew down the canyon.
We turned south and headed over the Hualapai Indian Reservation.
Damn, that was an awesome flight! We landed in Grand Canyon Village a half hour later. The shock was all worn off by then, and by the time we got to the medical center, I was crying for painkillers.