I’d always wondered what would happen should one of us got hurt. It was a good conundrum to chew on as we walked, one of those things you can talk about as the hours stretch on and you are passing over potentially dangerous ground with fissures and mossy wet rocks. What if? What would we do? Would we have phone reception? Would we be able to get the injured person out?
Well, as readers will already know from Marian’s post yesterday, this past week we had a chance to find out. Once we got home we each wrote up the story. This post gives the experience of the one who was not injured…
Crossing the stile into the farmer’s field where the accident happened, our attention was drawn to the warning sign that was posted there: “there may be a bull in the field – you may wish to use the alternate route using the roads”. It was not a question – of course we chose the actual trail. Ninnies we are not.
And thus it was the bull that was on our minds as we headed out across the open field, a stretch of rocky pasture covered with dolomite outcroppings, ancient apple trees, and long dried grasses. Because we’d been hiking for hours already through dark damp forest and uneven ground, the sunshine and the dry rocks felt like a break. We were even treated to our first sightings of Colpoy’s Bay, a promising sign that we were getting close to the Peninsula Section. As for the bull, we did see hoof prints and fresh poop, and figured we’d best not catch him by surprise. With that in mind we decided to make noise and started to sing, nice and loudly, “It’s a long way to Tobermory…”
It was in the middle of the song that I suddenly heard Marian scream. I turned to find her on the ground, clutching her leg, rocking back and forth as the spasms of pain wracked through her.
I could see she was hurting, and hurting badly. We waited until the initial intensity of the pain subsided, and then waited some more, to give it more time. We had passed a road access point about 15 minutes back, and there was another one ahead, though it wasn’t clear how close, or what kind of terrain lay between us and the next road. Could we make it there? Marian said she wanted to give it a try. She stood on her good leg, tested the injured one.
“I think I can put weight on it,” she said. “That’s a good sign, isn’t it?”
“I think so,” I said, though really I had no clue.
I gave her my walking stick and let her lean on my arm with her other hand. She took a few steps but with every one she was hurting more. We went 10 more paces, but she was in agony. I realized I needed to know how far ahead the next road was, to see what we were dealing with. I told her to stay put while I scouted. I hurried forward, scanning for the bull, seeing even fresher manure and hoof prints. The trail kept going, 10 minutes, 15 minutes even at my now very fast pace. There was no way Marian would make it. We needed help, more help even than our B&B host, who was going to pick us up at the end of the day, could provide. I tried several times to call Marian on her cell phone and finally she picked up.
“We need to call EMS.”
“We have to. You’re never going to make it to the road. It’s too far.”
I arranged with her that I would make the call and was about to hang up when I heard her say, “Oh no – I hear something… “
With visions of a disabled Marian communing with a very large and menacing black bull, I made the call to 911 and then hurried along the trail back to where Marian was. When I spotted her, one leg raised and resting on a fallen log, she looked alone and defenceless in the empty field under the big blue sky.
“I took my boot off. Look,” she said when I reached her.
There was an enormous swelling on the outside of her right ankle. But, there was no bull, and she still had water and snacks, so I figured for the moment she should be fine. I dropped my knapsack beside her and told her I needed to go back to the previous road to wait for the ambulance. I had no idea if I needed to be fast or if I had lots of time (how long does it take for EMS out here?), so I played it safe and hurried. I tried to remember where we had spotted poison ivy, and hoped I could find the trail and its markers again, not easy in an open field criss-crossed by many cow-paths. On the way I passed the broken walking stick that marked the accident scene. I saw again the beautiful views of Colpoy’s Bay, and it made me realize how everything had changed from when we had stopped there earlier to take photographs. At the time we were feeling excited and eager, proud of the day’s progress and looking forward to covering a record distance before quitting. And now? Now any chance of more hiking this week was over.
I found the stile with ease and climbed over to Kemble Rock Road, seeing it too with new eyes. It was nothing but a dead-end dirt lane, really. I hoped EMS would find us.
I paced the road, looking both ways for signs of EMS, when I heard voices. Up the hill came two elderly women with walking sticks. We greeted each other. They were doing a loop around the concessions. They were the first hikers I had seen all day. They commiserated with our troubles and we shared stories, and once they were assured we had water and food and working phones, they carried on with some parting advice to tell me the ambulance would be arriving from the south.
“The other side has been blocked off for some years already.”
“I think that’s the direction I gave them,” I said, wondering… I waited some more and finally in the distance I could hear the sound of vehicles, and then one by one they appeared, pickup trucks with green and red flashing lights mounted on their dashboards – first one, then a second, and a third, and a fourth. From having been alone and isolated, I suddenly found myself in a road filled with trucks and flashing lights.
They parked their trucks down the hill and jumped from their cabs, pulling on their heavy yellow coats and their yellow firefighter’s pants with the red suspenders and donning their firefighter’s hats, all the while talking busily into their walkie talkies.
“Where is she?” they asked.
“Out in the field, somewhere between 500 meters and a kilometer in.”
For what seemed like the longest while they just seemed to be milling around on the road, assessing the situation amongst themselves and talking into their radios with their colleagues about how they were going to have to find a way to get the ATV in. Finally one of them looked at me and asked if anyone had gone in yet to see where she was.
“Is she alone?”
“Well, then, some of us better go in to see her.”
And so it was that I found myself leading a posse of firefighters back through the field, across the rocks, through the long grasses, stooping under the gnarled apple trees, until finally, at the back of the field, we came upon Marian who was still looking small and vulnerable and still sitting with her foot raised, but now looking tremendously relieved.
What a difference it made to have the firefighters on scene. Now we knew we were in good hands and that we would make it out safely. More than that, though, they brought with them a wonderful cheerfulness. They were all volunteers, one having cut short his fishing, another dropping his after-work beer half-drunk and his cigar half-smoked, yet another leaving his workplace, all to come and rescue us. Yet none of them complained and they were all more than happy to come help us out. It still took a while for the ATV to arrive, but now the time flew by, both of us laughing and enjoying the company of this crew.
We finally saw the ATV with the ambulance personnel arrive in the distance, bumping over the ground, making its way toward us. They stabilized her foot with a pillow and ice, and lifted her onto the stretcher and onto the ATV. She looked like a queen with her entourage, as the ATV departed. The rest of us started the walk back across the field to the road and the waiting ambulance.
It was an adventure we had hoped never to have, and it has set back our plans for finishing by a good 6 months or possibly more. At the same time, I should remember that when we set out we gave ourselves 5 years to complete this. Maybe we were more prophetic than we’d realized? magdalena