Tuesday, August 21, 2007

An Everglades follow up from Mike (and my Mt.Equinox Nightmare)

Hi Pete,
I want to thank you for all you did for me - you were in frequent communication with my wife and you alerted the proper authorities in Collier County. And after I was rescued and I drove out to the park office, there you were waiting for me. You're a great friend, thank you again.
I'd also like to thank the police and rescue teams. They were professional and kind and searched in a safe, scientific manner.

Some low points:
  • Not being able to find the trail on Sat. morning, walking in a large circle, feeling dehydration set in, feeling panic set in, and collapsing in weakness.
  • Hearing the rescue helicopter at 3 am but not being able to get to the pond in total darkness before it left.
  • Seeing the helicopter again at 8 am but not being able to successfully signal it.
  • Being continually hounded by mosquitoes.

Some high points:

  • Finding the gator hole with water later on Sat. morning. This was the only water I came across, including on the rescue walk out. The gator hole was an oasis in the abnormally dry strand. It was occupied by numerous alligators, turtles, frogs, insects and birds. It provided me a home for over 24 hr. It saved my life. Without it I would have had no water, no open view to the sky, and I would not have been seen by the helicopter crew.Having such well-behaved alligators! The big one to my left and all the others kept their places around the pond and I kept mine.
  • Being rescued!

I also want to apologize to all of my family and friends for the worry I caused them. This incident occurred because of what I did early Saturday morning - I left the old tram road and bushwhacked without having the proper equipment with me.

In November of 2005, as per my obligations to the Equinox Preservation Trust in Manchester Vermont, I set out with EPT President Rich Heilemann to hike the "Blue Trail" on Mount Equinox and clear the blowdowns. The trail is one of the steepest ascents in the state, rising from 1000 feet in the valley to the peak at 3800+ feet.

It's enough to climb the thing, but we were carrying a chainsaw, fuel, chaps, wedges, oil and saws to remove trees that had come down long before in one of the mountain's typical wind storms. It has snowed an unusual amount that November, so we had the added difficulty of tromping through snow.

Earlier that year I had been bitten by a deer tick and subsequently come down with Lyme Disease which I struggled with through the summer. By fall I had a few lasting effects; headaches, joint pain and breathing issues which linger to this day. But half way up that mountain that day, the pain became so great that the thought of lifting the chainsaw was nearly unbearable. Each step burned through my muscles and my joints strained like tree limbs in an ice storm. My head pounded and could barely breathe at times. I should have turned around. I felt there was shame in doing so and I continued, Rich carrying the chainsaw as I dragged myself upward. As we neared the 3000' level, Mike appeared. No doubt in search of ferns beneath the snow and for the life of me I can't remember if he was going up or coming down. He asked if he could help, selflessly setting aside his plans for the day and assisted for well over 90 minutes as we removed a 60 foot Spruce that had come down straight down the trail.

Walking down was no easier, but Rich and Mike traded off carrying my equipment as I slowly plodded down the steep and slushy trail.

It was one of the most physically challenging things that I have done and I've always been appreciative of Mike and Rich for their help that day. Wheather they knew how badly off I was or not, they probably kept me from a visit to the hospital or worse.

Just felt like telling you all that. For what it's worth.

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