High Country Pathway 2004

Vanderbilt, MI
September 4-6, 2004
Below is our story from 2004.
I’d taken Beau for a long (5-6 day, 70 mile) bping trip on the High Country Pathway. Saturday was pretty uneventful, with a lot of horse encounters (especially where horses were not allowed on the trail), a detour around a washed out bridge down Tin Shanty Road, and a bunch of motorcycles coming near my tent as I was camped. Sunday morning (day 2) I woke up thinking “I’m not sure if I’m going to do this. I don’t think I’m going to get where I want to go. I don’t even think I’m going to make it through tomorrow.”

I got up and got going with Beau’s help (he was happy to go) and tried to take it slow– it was hot and my knee hurt BAD. I decided to go as far as I could and go from there. I thought I could make it to Clear Lake State Park about 14 miles away with no trouble. If it weren’t for the heat I probably could have.

I stopped for water before a HUGE climb (200′ in about 1/4 mile) and rested Beau as often as I could. I sat on top of the hill (The Rattlesnake) and looked out across the scenery…. I could see for miles and miles.

As I came down from The Rattlesnake I met two really nice hikers (Mark and Don) who talked a bit with me about this and that and they played with Beau. This was a little after 1 (all on IN time…) when I got going again.

Around 2:30 I took a break in the shadiest spot I could find, rested Beau, wrote in my journal a bit, then studied my map. I’d get water in a mile at most and, with 4 hours of daylight, get to the Park and maybe even further. I watered him again, packed up, and set off.

About a mile down the trail I saw something I wanted to take a picture of.

Little back story: I’ve hiked a LOT of miles down a LOT of trails with Beau and, other than when required by regulations, I’ve never leashed him. He’d never gone after anything, never strayed, nothing. He’s very good at following any kind of path, and has even figured out how painted blazes work–I’ve seen him following blazed trees. He’s always chuff-chuff-chuffing a step behind me, no matter what. I clipped his leash from his collar to the back of his pack so, when I really needed it, it would be there.

“Okay, buddy. I want to get a picture of this. Stay a minute.” I set my pack down, took the picture, and when I turned back, no Beau. No Beau.

Oh God.

I could see his tracks in the sandy soil until they just disappeared. I called him and looked as best I could for an hour, maybe more. I sat down on the side of the trail and started crying. I knew I’d never see him again. I stopped and asked Grandpa (my Mom’s dad, who passed away in early 2001), “You know where he is, you can see him. I can’t find him. I need you to send him home.” I sat there another minute with my head in my hands and then in the distance:

“Beau?”

I thought I was hallucinating from dehydration, but there it was again.

“Did you lose a dog?”

I hollered back: “YES! I lost my big dumb guy.!”

“We’ve got him–stay on the trail.”

I grabbed my pack and started running as fast as I could down the trail, thinking they simply had Beau by the leash. No alarm bells were going off–hiking ‘alone’ I heed Mother Nature’s warnings.

I had several ID tags on Beau’s collar: a tag for his microchip, my cellphone number (no good since it was turned off and locked in my truck at the trail head since north of the 45th parallel I couldn’t get reception) and “LaGrange, IN or Ypsilanti, MI,” (since I spend a lot of time in Ypsi) and a third tag stating “Beau is with Amanda/High Country Pathway/September 4-8, 2004.”

The man said, “My name is Al, I’m a professor at Eastern.” [Eastern is in Ypsi, where my middle brother, his wife, and I all went to school–he recognized the area code for my cell phone, and the city listed]

I said, “well, if you ever called the Help Desk, you probably talked to me.”

“No, I work in Computer Technologies in Sill Hall. I don’t call in too much.”

“Oh yeah!– you probably know my brother,” and I said his name. (one of my brother’s degrees is in Computer Science).

He stopped and looked shocked, “yeah. I had him in class.”

He told me what happened.

“I was driving along and I saw this dog sitting on the side of the road. He didn’t look lost, he just was waiting for someone. So I stopped, because he didn’t look like a stray. This was Somebody’s Dog. I saw the packs and knew he must have been out with someone on the trail and something happened.

“I pulled up next to him, and he put his paws on the door of my truck. I said ‘hi, pooch, do you need a ride?’ And let me tell you, I wasn’t sure he wasn’t a mean dog with those eyes. But he jumped in my truck, licked my hand and, I know this sounds crazy because he didn’t really talk, but I’m sure he said, ‘I need your Help.'”

He was completely amazed that Beau could jump into the open window of his truck… something I’m trying very hard to break Beau of. Also, Beau doesn’t like strangers very much–especially doesn’t make friends with them… so I was surprised that he would do any of this. I was still mostly shocked that Beau would spook. He’s never done that before. The best we could come up with was a Bear or Elk was nearby–two animals that Beau’s never seen before, and would be new enough to be interesting.

Apparently the group of people Al was with realized this wasn’t just a dog on the trail, that he was “special” and I was probably hurt somewhere (any time people got out of his sight he started to throw a loud fit– so they knew he didn’t just leave me for no reason). The County Sheriff was out looking for me, as was part of the group on an ATV. (not on the hiking trail itself, but on many of the posted two-tracks the HCP crosses).

He took me to see his friends, only about 1/4 mile away from me, with the trail passing their house right on their road… and they fed me, treated me like family, and put me up for the night in their travel trailer (they’d fed Beau from the food in his pack, plus gave him water–he was very thirsty). I borrowed their phone to call Mom and my middle brother to let them know that I’d be a day late coming home because my knee hurt a bit and I was going to take it easy for the rest of the 40 or so miles back to my car. Beau was so proud of the great campsite and new friends he’d found us.

A few hours later I got a call from my middle brother (he used the phone number on his voice-mail to call these great people back). Mom and Dad were out sightseeing around the County on the motorcycle (they do it every weekend– Dad’s been on bikes for 40-some years). Dad missed a curve, caught some pea gravel, and did an endo, wrecking the bike. Mom was thrown, they missed a culvert and a tree (went between) by about 4’. Both had helmets on and that saved their lives. Mom’s was cracked badly, Dad’s visor was crumpled, and the side was ground away. The first responders were friends of Mom’s (her office is in the same building as the cop shop) and they got the helicopter in immediately. They said Dad didn’t have his helmet on when they found him, but the straps are intact, so we think he took it off to find Mom (My oldest brother wants to know if he was wearing his riding gloves… he can’t get his helmet off if he’s still wearing his gloves). She couldn’t see him and thought he was dead. She has a broken rib, a few scrapes, bumps, and bruises… but Dad didn’t make it out so well.

He was in ICU with a small puncture in his left lung (healed on its own, but there was a chest drain), every rib on his left side was broken and couldn’t be pinned back together. His spleen ruptured and had to be removed. He had a torn diaphragm and some bruising on his face. One hip was dislocated and his pelvis was cracked. He was sedated at for a few nights and stayed in ICU for 2-3 weeks. He had to take 2 units of blood (Mom said liters… but that doesn’t sound right). He was really puffy from all the fluids they pumped into him

We figured either he tried to stop and caught the tank, handlebars, and gauges on his way over, or he held on and the bike’s engine landed on him.

My brother said if I wanted to, I could stay and finish my hike, but I knew I’d be too tired and stressed out to enjoy it. It was midnight at that point and, if I pushed it, I could be home by 4 am… if I had my Jeep. It was still parked at the trail-head (forestry office) a 2-day’s walk away.

So Larry, the owner of the cabin (Al’s friend) said he’d drive me back to my car in the morning, then I could go home. I said, “You don’t know me, you don’t have to help me. Why are you doing all of this?” He answered, “if it was our kid out there, we’d want someone to help them, too.” Since getting there hurried, tired, and stressed wouldn’t help… I stayed the night, then got out the following morning. I made *awesome* time getting home (should have taken 6 hours and I made it in 4, even with holiday traffic and not speeding)

It’s all so strange– it was probably the exact moment Mom was calling out for Help that Beau left me. And he found help from exactly the right people.

They want me to update them on what’s going on, and when I’m ready to finish my hike I can come up and start from their place.

So many things… if I hadn’t been in the right place or at the right time… or hadn’t called… or I made it to the campground and the payphone didn’t work… or if Beau got hung up on brush… or bad people found him… or anything… I’d still be out on the trail. I wonder what the odds of the coincidence are (math nerds, feel free to work that one up for me). Although I know better, I still feel like Beau got me out of the woods.

Dad’s doing fine now, Mom’s resting, My oldest brother is on his way home until we need him (it’s waiting time), my middle brother and his wife are helping translate to normal English (they both have done or currently do work in the medical profession), and then we’re trying to figure out everything from there. I had already taken this week off for my vacation, so I’m doing what I can.

He tried to wake up when my brother, sister, and her daughter went in to visit. The drs had to give him more sedatives because he kept trying to move and talk (not good when you have a tube down your throat)….

When he first came out of the coma he saw my Mom and was relieved to see she was okay. He saw my middle brother and sister-in-law and told them they made “damn good time” coming down from Ypsi, thinking it was later Sunday night.
“Dad, it’s Tuesday.”

“SH–!”

He then noticed someone else standing next to him to the left and rolled his head to look at me. He focused his eyes. He saw me and I realized he knew I wasn’t supposed to be back until Thursday. I also know he knew I didn’t have my phone with me.
“How the hell did you get here?”
“Beau got me home. I’ll explain when you can remember.”

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