The blood was dripping through his hair. A gentle stream of red running down his wrapped arm. It slowly crept down his back. He knew his scalp was tore open, but he also knew it best to feel around it with his dirty fingers. Just keep dragging yourself forward, is what he kept telling himself as he moved inch by inch, and step by step down the steep trail.
The day had started out gloriously. An early morning hike, up to see a crash site for a B-17. It had gone down in the late 1950’s. The hike was about an hour and a half up to this burial ground for two pilots. The air was a crisp 50 degrees as he ascended up towards the top of the mountain. The birds chirping all around, celebrating the risen sun. The smell of pine and aspen trees filling his nostrils as he started to breath in and out more regularly. A small warm sweat spot appeared on his back. Feeling so alive he wiped small beads of sweat from his eyes. The trees moved to the right as he saw a small chipmunk’s tail scurrying away. Those sure are cute little buggers.
At the half-way point there was a small sign letting him know he was now on national forest land. Along with it was a warning that this was mountain lion country. He had hiked a lot, so he understood the dangers that came with each time he stepped onto the trail. He knew he was prepared. His trusty backpack had everything in it he would need in case of an emergency. Thankfully, the need had never arisen to find out.
The rocky trail wound its way upward. The sounds of a fast-moving stream were on his left. Far enough so he couldn’t see it, but loud enough to drowned out everything but the loudest birds. The trail leveled out and he found himself walking alongside a fast-moving brook. He stopped to refresh his head with in the shockingly cold mountain water.
He followed wooden arrows on the ground put there to assist him towards his destination. There must be a lot of people who were never able to find this site as it opportunity to take the wrong way. Looking ahead he saw and old axel through the woods. He must have arrived.
The B-17 had crashed into a field of rocks. It looked like the crash site was over about a 100-yard area that has made a resting place within this family of large boulders. Before entering the crash site, he took a few minutes. He honored the two men who gave their lives on the side of this mountain. Offering a blessing for their families. Asking permission to walk amongst their spirits that now inhabited this mighty rock pile with scattered large plane parts. His spirit could feel the holy nature of this ground.
He slowly ascended through the wreckage. Amazement flooded his body as he saw huge chunks of the plane still memorializing the place. Goosebumps broke out all over his arms as he saw someone had placed an American flag. On one of the engines that was still intact after the horrific crash. How could all these parts still be here? Right where they landed 50 years later? This old American steel stood as a testament to generations past. The large gray fuselage caught his eye. It was awe-inspiring to see such a huge chunk of this old plane still left together.
After about an hour, he decided it was time to descend back to his campsite below. As he was preparing to leave, he quickly looked up towards the rock above him. His spidey-sense started to flash red. He sometimes got the feeling of being watched and this was one of those moments. It only took a second, but that was a long second as he saw something light brown flying through the air towards him. It hit him like an NFL linebacker. Slamming him backwards into rock and a large downed pine. A mountain lion. He quickly wondered if this would be his bloody burial ground before passing out.
The impact had knocked the young lion down below him. Its loud growl woke him up. With his head banging and broken ribs all he was able to do was raise his arm as it went for his throat. Violently it shook his arm. Quickly ripping his flesh and covering his tatted sleeve with blood. Knowing his only chance to survive was to get to his knife in his pocket, put there for this very reason. With his Gerber knife in hand, he swung it as hard as he could. Catching its ear and glancing of its thick skull.
This action enraged the large cat and it swung its large paw violently against his head. Five large claws dug into his head. He could feel the fresh ripping from his skull and he knew these next 30 seconds would define whether he lived or died.
It felt like time stood still. The lion seemed to think he was already a goner as it took a few seconds to reposition itself. It was now or never. He mustered every ounce of energy he had, and with a loud guttural roar, his arm ripped up through the air. He knew the only thing that would save him would be catching it off-guard in the eye.
He heard his knife land a strike It buried to the hilt. In the violent action he didn’t know what he had hit. He knew he hit something as the lion fell to the side. Shock slammed into his body and he passed out. He had nothing else left to give.
His eyes opened a short time later. He could feel the blood starting dry on his cheek. He looked over and much to his amazement the cat was gone. Only a pool of blood that slowly trailed away was left. His hand scrambled around desperately looking for the knife. Aware that it might come back he wanted its cold hilt in his hand. He was unable to find it.
He forced his breathing to slow down. Realizing he needed to figure out how badly he was wounded and figure out a way to get down this mountain. The position of the sun told him it was only about 11 am, so he had plenty of time before dark.
He started with his legs and worked his way up. They were bruised and bleeding from the rocks, but nothing seemed to be broken from the fall. His left arm was still bleeding profusely and he knew he needed to get it wrapped up to stop the stream of blood. He touched his chest and noticed his shirt was almost tore off and the ribs on his left side felt like they had been broken. He knew his head was the biggest problem. He didn’t have a mirror but could feel it still dripping blood. He needed to crawl back up to the plateau where his backpack was still laying there. Every inch made him cry out. He blacked out for a few seconds at a time. With every movement his body screamed out at him.
He made his way up and found the old rag he carried with him. Doing his best, he slowly ripped it in half. He used a piece of it to wrap around his forearm and wrapped the other apart around his throbbing head. What was he going to do? I can’t drag myself down this mountain inch by inch? Friends know where I’m at but they won’t come looking for a couple of days.
He instinctively knew that he needed to get moving down the trail. There was about eight hours of sunlight left before darkness hit. He painstakingly prepared himself for the descent. He put on the REI rain jacket he had received as a gift. Thankful that it would protect his open wounds as he descended down.
For the first mile he was able to walk 10-20 feet and rest for a couple of minutes. Each step brought a violent surge of pain through his broken-up insides. His head pounded within his skull. Feeling like his brain was going to explode, he had to take a break. He sat down and passed out only to jump awake after about 15 minutes. He heard something moving through the trees. Was it the high-altitude predator that had come back to finish the kill? Or maybe a bear that had followed his blood trail? His nerves were fried. His only choice was to put a rock in his pocket to protect himself if attacked and slowly keep moving.
He knew he had to be getting close to the lake where he had camped. He had somehow reached this point. He measured the sun and guessed it was about five pm. He could feel the crusted blood in both of the rags. All of his cuts and bruises were yelling violently at him. He knew that he was just about done, based on his experience from pushing his body and mind to the edge. His only hope was that someone had come up to camp near his campsite at some point in the day.
He could see the far-off shimmy of the water on the lake. He still had about 100 yards to go to get there. But he couldn’t move. He tried to yell, but his ribs were grabbing the voice right out of him. Ripping it back down this throat. He just closed his eyes. Wondering if he would wake up.
An unnatural sound brought him out of his groggy state. It was almost dark but he could see three people in the distance. His eyes closed again. The next thing he knew, he heard loud feminine voices asking him if he was okay. Wanting to know what happened. All he could whisper was, help. They slowly helped him sit-up and gave him a drink of water. Thankfully, his water supply had lasted the excruciating nightmare of a day.
Finally, after the day from hell. He knew that all was going to be ok.
6.13.19 & 6.14.19
From the Cabin