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.