I was in the Visitor Center when a radio transmission came in from the head law enforcement ranger. She needed helpers on a litter carry-out from the Fiery Furnace, where a portly 66-year-old man had injured his ankle while on the ranger tour. In the maze-like Furnace, the more helpers the merrier; it’s rough, difficult, challenging terrain that often requires lowering of a litter via ropes over edges. It’s also a labyrinth in which people get lost.
The litter isn’t more than two feet wide at the shoulders, but the patient was located in the most distant area of the route and we’d have to squeeze through several cracks in the Entrada sandstone fins in order to get to him and carry him out. Not overly difficult with a light empty litter; another story entirely with an aging uncomfortable injured man on board.
Fifteen (15) park workers took part in this rescue. It took a few hours. The patient wasn’t hurt badly but he could not walk. In thin or bouldery places we had to pass the litter forward with carriers peeling off the back and scurrying to the front to receive the next hand-off. This was not easy. Nor was it easy to carry him through places which had 5-inch widths for feet and about 18 at shoulder height.
My mind flashed back fifteen months to my very first day ever in uniform at Arches, when a man fell from Turret Arch and needed a helicopter to pick him up and take him to Colorado to repair his broken femur. Sunday’s incident was my last day at Arches 2010 — a fitting bookend to my first rescue event.
The injured man will remember this day long after his sprained ankle is healed. For us rangers it was just another day on the job. Part of the (unwritten) Ranger Code includes always being ready to help when needed, and I am glad I was able to be part of a resourceful team that solved problems handily. My uniform sure needs a washing, however, and my boots some more polish…