Three examples of ways to give to your fellow human. Fortunately for Stephanie and I, we have been taught yet again from the book of lessons in life. We just returned from an incredibly beautiful weekend in Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park. While our adventure differed from that of the thousands of people who also made the worthy journey to this special spot here in Maine, surely a few of the thousands of people took something back with them to further enhance their lives.
Our first encounter, all of them coming to us on the very last day, was high up on the precipice hiking trail. The term "hiking" is all relative. This trail climbs steeply up the eastern flanks of Champlain Mountain. Nesting Peregrine Falcons keep the trail closed for most of the year, and my recollection was that it had been closed entirely over the last few years, but now after the chicks fledge, hikers are allowed to return for the climbing fun. We had initially considered the Ladder trail on Mount Door, but after riding through the park loop road with our bikes on Saturday and seeing that it was open, the deal was sealed in my mind.
Shortly after starting the route, you come to the "Eliminator" where the first set of Iron Rungs that climb a 8 foot high ledge send people back to admire the view from below. Steph cruised it and I knew then we would not be eliminated. Admittedly, she is afraid of heights, for which the guide book suggests this trail is probably not a good hiking option. Like a lot of other steep climbs throughout the mountains, the guidebook can be a bit misleading or overrating of the difficulty, and for good reason.
The climb steepens and soon we are climbing up vertical rock, on Iron Rungs in the form of a ladder, even climbing a metal ladder attached to the rock by rungs, on what would be moderately difficult rock climbing if there were no fixed rungs. At one point, on the vertical ladder, I had gone up for a picture and come back down to allow Steph to go ahead of me where she felt more comfortable. I thought when I was up there that this would be a big test for her, but she flew right up. I got back on the ladder following her up and got just a bit "wigged out", but quickly turned that around and climbed through. We topped out on a sloping ledge where the route went right on very secure rungs. Steph saw some folks and asked if they were coming down, "No, but you can come on up" the gentleman replied. Steph climbed through and I poked my head up over the sloping ledge and saw the guys wife nearly laying down, sweating profusely. The look of FEAR was in her eyes, I know this because I had only seconds ago felt this, and I've seen it before in my climbing friends eyes over the years. I said to her right away "Are you alright" She didn't look good to me and was sitting on this precarious ledge looking like she could have slid right off. She shook off my questions of wellness and suggested she was just "getting her nerve". Quickly, with a bit of coaching from her husband and myself, she moved through to much safer ground. A fall here could have been tragic. She said it would be better for us to go first and then follow so she could watch our route and steps. After we passed there were still some really steep sections and she was on my heels nearly the rest of the way, I would climb on a series of rungs and as my foot left one, her hand would grab it, climbing up quickly below me. We topped out and they both said how helpful it was climbing near us and thanks for getting her off that ledge. We were in the right place at the right time for these nice folks from Chicago.
After "risking life and limb" on the Precipice, riding our bikes around the Park and up Cadillac Mountain a couple of times the day before, we were ready to sit in our beach chairs at that special spot we had seen on our bike ride. Rest and relaxation! Basking in the sun overlooking the big blue sea, we snacked on cheese and crackers, blueberries and chocolate, just perfect!
At one point we heard someone scream followed by a thud. Without a fraction of a seconds thought, both Steph and I rushed to the man's side. Noticing he was wincing in pain, I went right to his head, holding it in traction, both Steph and I were telling him to lay still, and not move. We did a quick check on all his extremities, asked him who he was and where he was a few times. His wife was right there and was just assuring him that calling for medics was a good idea. We all agreed, so Steph called 911. I won't go into detail about this guy, but it seems as if he had a lot of medical issues, and after traveling from Ohio, he was just trying to enjoy the rocky coastline and slipped and fell. I think enjoying the rocky coastline was a great "adventure" for him, it's a shame this fall interrupted his day. He lost his balance and landed on his head, neck, and left hip. He was able to move his legs and arms, had no numbness or confusion. He seemed pretty stable, but the neck, head and spine is just not to be fooled with. Both Steph and I remained pretty calm and within minutes we had Park Rangers on scene assessing his condition and the situation. Minutes after they arrived, more assistance from Bar Harbor Paramedics, under cover National Park Police, National Park Life Guards and the National Park Search and Rescue were all there. Nine guys in total. I was relieved of holding his head and we both watched in amazement of the professionalism of these crews. They put a neck brace on him, back boarded him, and put him in a litter for carry up off the rocks. We helped with the carry and several step downs and hand to hand passes. One guy called the moves while we followed and shuffled him up and over on counts of one, two, three. They put him in the Ambulance, rushing him to Mount Desert Island Hospital. His wife was very thankful of our assistance and we gave her our contact information so she could let us know how he was. We both felt emotionally drained after that and just wanted to be home. I felt a bit sick to my stomach with nerves. So, we bid Acadia farewell, driving away while discussing what had happened. Steph received an email from his wife Gina last night, and as it turns out, he is sore, with a few bruises and scrapes, but no broken bones or long lasting effects. Great News!
On our way home, Stephanie had the brilliant idea of giving our National Park Pass away to folks who looked like they were headed to Acadia. We stopped for gas in Ellsworth and Steph spotted a couple from Massachusetts. Sure enough they were headed there the very next day. So they had a park pass good until August 13th. They were thrilled and very thankful from "One Sox Fan to the next!" the woman said, as she admired my Red Sox hat. Proving once again, that being good to other people is a great reward and adds time to the life bank as much as all the adventuring I have ever done.