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Thread: Denali Highway, Helicopters and Satellite Messengers

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    Member rocket man's Avatar
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    Default Denali Highway, Helicopters and Satellite Messengers

    Since draws are out and everyone is beginning their fall plans for hunting, I figured this is a good time to share this story and the importance of satellite communication now that it’s affordably available to most. And with that being said it’s now story time.

    It was a Friday and it happened to be the 13th of all days. I had the day off and it was December so I decided the night prior that it was time to go look for a moose on the Denali highway. Starting in Anchorage I made my way up to Cantwell and started in. It was like 4:00AM and I needed to sleep so I pulled off right at the beginning of the highway and slept a couple hours. Once I woke around 7:00AM I started driving and glassing. Found a couple grouse by the Susitna and took two from the group. As I made my way over I saw a cow by Seattle creek and almost hit a caribou going through the cut between Moore’s camp and the Maclaren. But other than those encounters there wasn’t much. As I sat glassing the Maclaren summit for bears, I thought to myself, “I think I’ll go check out Swede Lake trail for moose and see what is going on over there.” So I went over. I found several moose kills and one was even in the trail. I figured that was a good sign so I pressed on in the trusty old 1989 Toyota Pickup. As I went I got more excited because I saw how dry it was I knew I may be able to get pretty far back. I finally arrived at the Gulkana! Very excited I took a bathroom break and some pictures while taking a break. After about 15 minutes or so I finally decided to cross. After crossing I went through a small mud hole and saw a long steep hill coming up. So I down shifted and started charging. What I found next was quite troubling.

    Coming up the hill I noticed that there was a wheeler on it’s side. So like any decent human being I stopped and pulled of the Trail. As I was walking up to the wheeler I yelled up the hill asking the obligatory, “is everyone ok?” However the response that I received was one that everyone hopes they never hear. “No we’ve got a guy hurt pretty bad up here”. Fearing the worst, I pressed up the hill to how bad it really was. It turns out that he had rolled the machine with a full double axle trailer down the hill because his breaks were fading and the machine started going too fast. He was unable to bail in time. At this point we assessed the damage. After running through basic first aid checks, we decided that he had not had a concussion, and that he was in a lot of pain. We also determined that he could still move legs, toes, etc. So he wasn’t in terrible shape. We talked about moving him to my truck and taking him out that way or getting him on a machine with someone and riding out. So Blake (the injured man) leaned forward from where he was laying and cried out in agony. After that we decided that there was no way he would be coming out on wheels. Blake and his two friends CJ and Dale all had Cell phones. But that is the only form of communication they had with them. I had my SPOT gen 3 with me and it had a fresh set of batteries. So we all talked about it and decided that I was going to do what I thought I would never do... Hit the S.O.S button. So I hit the button and it began the transmission. This was around 1:00PM

    Fast forward to about 4:00pm and a C-130 starts circling us. About 30 minutes later a Blackhawk come buzzing over us about 200 feet off the ground. They got into a decent spot and dropped 2 Air-force PJ’s off. They came up the hill and started assessing the situation. We got Blake onto basically a back stint board. Then onto the airlift gurney. I can only imagine how painful that really was now knowing what his injuries were. After they got him and the first PJ in the Helicopter, they circled back around for the Second PJ and then Hightailed it out of there. We got the rest of the things we could out of there and put them in the truck to bring everything out. After I was out I called family and friends to let them know what was going on. I ended up sleeping a few hours and returning to Anchorage making my first stop over to Providence where they had taken Blake. He ended up having more rib fractures than the doctors were willing to count, a cracked sternum, crushed L1 vertebrae, broken collar bone, broken nose, punctured lung, and a bunch of scratches and bruises.

    Since then Blake has had a surgery to fuse 6 vertebrae as a result of the accident. He is doing much better than he was when I found him.

    That being said I would like to urge everyone that doesn’t have a form of satellite communication to please, please get something. Spot, satellite phone, Garmin in reach, anything. Blake was lucky that the stars aligned and someone happened to be there with someone that could get help. But that scenario could have gone very differently. I urge you all to please make sure you have a form of communication to the outside world. The last thing I want to hear about is that someone was “found” and they were room temperature or that someone’s friend went to get help but help took too long. Stay safe out there guys and I hope this was a decent story for you all.





    0D358035-8FD7-4A62-B4A1-282379DDE4E0.jpg81EB3A43-E7F2-49DF-A5AB-2608159CFFAA.jpg

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    Great story, great advice.

    That sure doesn't look like the Denali in December, though.

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    Member ptarmigan's Avatar
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    I was driving from the Maclaren, headed home that day. A few miles before I got to Tangle Lake I saw the C-130 circling South of us in the distance, with a Pavehawk coming in, and wondered what was going on. I never heard anything about it so I hoped it was nothing. Now I know the story I guess.

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    Member Ben XCR's Avatar
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    Great advice and good story from a situation that could realistically happen to any of us. It's the 21st century and with the amount of cash we spend on gear otherwise a communication device that works anywhere is a pittance monetarily and a must for safety gear.

    Sent from my SM-N960U using Tapatalk
    The more you talk, the more I wish I was deaf.

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    Member 4merguide's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ben XCR View Post
    Great advice and good story from a situation that could realistically happen to any of us. It's the 21st century and with the amount of cash we spend on gear otherwise a communication device that works anywhere is a pittance monetarily and a must for safety gear.
    Yep, but to tell you the truth, I just can't decide on which to get???!!!
    Sheep hunting...... the pain goes away, but the stupidity remains...!!!

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    Member Ben XCR's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by 4merguide View Post
    Yep, but to tell you the truth, I just can't decide on which to get???!!!
    I've got the in reach mini and its great. Tiny, easy to use to communicate with the wife, plans are reasonable and can start stop them whenever.

    Sent from my SM-N960U using Tapatalk
    The more you talk, the more I wish I was deaf.

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    Member rocket man's Avatar
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    Sorry for the typo guys it was September 13th 2019.

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    Good thing you were there and could summon help. Life threatening (and very painful) injuries. I have cell service at my cabin but not at some spots on our property where I frequent. Getting SPOT makes sense. Than you for sharing your story. I bet you have buddies for life now!

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    Member TR's Avatar
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    Excellent advice. Like Ben said, could happen to any of us. Even in the relative safety of being on the road system where there was available ground transport.

    Grateful to our military. Finest in the world. I have know qualms about supporting them with my tax dollars. I don't imagine Russian hunters have this luxury
    -Tim

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    Member sisusuomi's Avatar
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    I carry my personal ARC Epirb when hunting. Originally bought it for using on our salt water boat but it works either way. Very small carry in a nice hard case in my wheeler bag. Everyone in the hunting party knows it is with us in case I’m incapable of turning it on. Our other partner was given a fancy Spot for Christmas so when he’s with we have double coverage.


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

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    If your cell does not work, and it’s a emergency call, make a 911 call, it turns on ALL the cell towers in the area.

    If I remember correctly the spot satellites are just above the southern horizon. If your down in a hole with lots of trees you made have to find a high spot in the open.

    Or you could do tell someone what your doing and a ETA. YOU TRUST!!!

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    Quote Originally Posted by 4merguide View Post
    Yep, but to tell you the truth, I just can't decide on which to get???!!!
    I've been very happy with my InReach mini. Tiny and lightweight. Superior Iridium satellite network.
    You can turn the service plan on and off depending on your needs. I leave it on a low usage plan all year and never hesitate to bring the unit with me. Took it ice fishing last weekend.

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    I seem to always end hunting solo and have contemplated getting one but it always seems to be on my To Do list. Last Saturday I was on the second leg of a Spring Javelina hunt in the Arizona Desert where I have hunted every spring for the last six years.
    I know the area well now and camp on the edge of a Wilderness area usually hiking in 1-2 miles. I like this area because it is designated Wilderness and the old jeep trail that goes in about 2 miles was gated and locked off by BLM with the usual signage. Two weeks ago I saw two as I has hiking in and were about half a mile away but nowhere to be found 30 minutes later when I go over to the area. Lots of washes and hills for them to drop off into. In 3 days they were the only ones I came across so I went back last Friday setting up camp about 5PM I settled in and cooked some Carnitas and Black-Eyed Peas and packed loaded my pack for the morning before getting into the tent.
    I was up at 6AM and hiking out by 6:30 with a SRH in a chest holster and my bino's mounted to a tripod slung over my shoulder. I hiked the dirt road known as 17 Mile for two hundred yards and went thru the gate into the Wilderness area like I have done a dozen times before. I went up and over a few rises and was in about 400 or so yards when I stepped on some loose rocks, rolled my ankle and went down hard. I felt some pressure on my right ankle like it was asleep and a bit numb and my leg was bent at the knee. I straightened it and looked ant my foot which was now facing sideways. "Don't even say I just broke my ankle" I said out loud! My first thought was I was screwed because I knew nobody would be back here and no matter what I was going to have to get myself at least to a high point where I could use my cell phone but there was noway I was going to be able to do anything until I fixed my foot. It felt like my leg was broken too and was cold with a sharp pain as though the bone was sticking through the skin.
    I reached over and grabbed my ankle with both hands squeezing it and tried to move it. There wasn't a lot of pain to my surprise so I ever so gently began bending it back into place with the hope I could at least walk on it somewhat. After a few minutes I rolled up on one side and pulled my phone out of my pocket and turned it on. 1 1/2 bars! It was now 7am so I texted my son, a notorious late sleeper and waited. Nothing back after a few minutes so I phoned him and ended up leaving him a voicemail. I waited a few more minutes and called my ex-wife and told here where I was and what happened. She said she would go wake our son and then call me.
    Since I already had my tripod out and extended I opened it up and pulled myself on it and stood there for a minute counting my blessings. Then I slowly started heading back toward the road knowing I would have to do that anyway. I used the tripod as a staff and after about 30 minutes and a few ankle twists I was able to go about 200 feet. I found a large flat rock to sit on and knew that this was the only place between here and the road where I would be able to sit and get back up to a standing position so I sat down to rest. After about 20 minutes I got a text that they were now on the road and nearing Wickenburg which ment they were about half way.
    I was now in full sun and the temp had gone from freezing to about 45dgF so I took off the fram pack and the foam pad and put the pad on the rock to sit on and took out a bottle of water and waited for them. An hour or so later they text me again but were now headed up a wrong road so I had them turnaround and explained to them where to turn to get to me. About 45 minutes later My son texted me they were at my camp and the was headed my way with some crutches be borrowed. Another 40 minutes later I see him coming down the trail. I packed my binos, tripod and pistol up and put them into the pack which he took. I have never used crutches before but managed to use them and started out. About an hour and a half later and a couple of ankle twists I was at the decent to the gate about 30 yards away. My son went ahead to move his truck closer and I slowly hobbled to the gate but not before one of the crutches slipped on the loose pebbles and I took a spill sliding down the center of the road that was washed out from years of rain.
    We got back to camp and she had managed to figure out how to take down my Kodiak 10x14 tent and after another 20 minutes the two of them had it packed up and we headed out with her driving my F250 which took 30 minuted to go the almost three miles to pavement. It was 4:30 before I made it to the emergency room and they took some x-rays. While we waited to hear back on them I couldn't help stare at my swolen foot hoping it was just a really bad sprain. The nurse came back with and started an IV and said she was going to give me some morphine but I told her no as I wasn't in a lot of pain so she gave me some saline and something for swelling. After 90 minutes the doc came by and said I had a fracture and two breaks and needed surgery. Not what I wanted to hear. He gave me the name of a podiatrist to make an appointment with on Monday and called in some prescriptions to the local pharmacy the next day. My niece flew down the net day from Denver and drove me to the doctor on Monday They saw me right away and took some xrays. The doctor showed them to m. I was going to need a plate and screws in two different places and set up surgery for Thursday at 7AM. My Niece stayed until Tuesday afternoon and her mom came in on Wednesday. I was in good hands since they are both nurses. The surgery was a breeze and was about two hours. I made it home and dozed off and on the rest of the day before hitting the hay after dinner. There has been some swelling each day but this morning when I woke there wasn't the usual swelling. My other sister also a nurse flew in yesterday and this morning we drove our sister to the airport to head back to Denver.
    At 67 I think It might be time for a SPOT and maybe a few less solo hunts.

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    Member 4merguide's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by PRDATR View Post
    At 67 I think It might be time for a SPOT and maybe a few less solo hunts.
    Wow....crazy!!! Just a little slip and there ya go! Sure glad you had 1.5 bars on your cell!!! Hope you heal up well!
    Sheep hunting...... the pain goes away, but the stupidity remains...!!!

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    Great thread!!

    FWIW it never hurts to excersize and get in shape prior to any hunt

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    Forum Admin Brian M's Avatar
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    Excellent discussion - thanks for sharing!

    For those looking to get a device, the satellite network for the inReach is more reliable than the SPOT in some parts of Alaska. I started with a SPOT, but switched over to the inReach. I’ve never had it fail to send a message.

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    Thanks for the stories. I need to get a SPOT or something too.

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    Premium Member denalihunter's Avatar
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    Great discussion. I had heard a rumor that they are putting up 3000 low orbit satellites for cellular data and voice. The first system is supposed to be operational by the end of this year. There is more than one company launching satellites now. This will provide cellular coverage to every square inch of the planet. Here's a link I found to one. Sounds like an Amazon project. https://www.theverge.com/2019/4/4/18...pacex-starlink

    Claude
    Experience Real Alaska! www.alpinecreeklodge.com

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    Having hunted the Denali for several decades and seeing several accidents in that area, we got a sat phone about 20 years ago. It has come in handy several different times. We do not go anyplace with out it, even our drives through Canada.
    OP, good to hear that all ended well, even if it was painful. The sad part is that there is a trail around the steep part of that trail.

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