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CC's Outdoor Journal; Warrior Within; Part 2
Editor’s Note: Recently, our staff reporter, Cherri Crockett, was invited to join the Warrior Hike, Walk Off The War program, as they hiked the last of the Appalachian Trail to Baxter Peak. This is Part 2 of the story. Please join Cherri on the personal journey she experienced, as well as her role in the rescue of an injured hiker.
BAXTER STATE PARK- The mood was light as we made our way down from Baxter Peak and out across the Tableland to make our return down the Hunt Trail. I was still in disbelief that I had made it to the top, in record time, nonetheless. My mind was on cloud nine and I could not stop smiling. Nothing had prepared me for the level of excitement I was feeling.
Earlier in the day, shortly before making it to the tree line, Troy (Occupy) and Rebecca Herschler of Ohio stepped aside and allowed me to pass. We stopped for a moment while the warrior traffic jam cleared. Troy was finishing his journey of the Appalachian Trail that day and Rebecca had driven out to hike the last 10.4 miles with him and to celebrate his accomplishment. None of us knew it at the time, but we would know one another a lot better before the end of the day.
As we walked back along the Tableland a cloud cover began to envelop us as if ushering us down the mountain. In no time we were making our descent through the Gateway and down into the boulder field. We were all excited and looking forward to getting down off the mountain to celebrate with the warriors, as a heavy rain began to fall, and the rocks got slippery.
Just ahead were Troy and Rebecca, I recognized her petite stature against the giant boulders, and no sooner did I see her, she went down with a thud. No sound came from her.
As Troy, Carl and I made our way to her crumpled body, she cried out in pain that she had broken her collar bone. Troy and I helped her get to a sitting position, while Carl and Sean tried to reach the ranger station and 9-1-1 on their phones. Carl, having no luck with his connection, left Sean to finally get through to emergency and to be connected on a three way call with the ranger.
While Sean and I stayed with Rebecca and Troy, the rest of the group traveled down the mountain with instruction to make the rangers and others in our group aware of the situation.
The ranger on the phone informed us that they were sending someone right away, but in a phone call almost an hour later, they told us it would be close to four hours before anyone would reach us. At that point, Rebecca was shivering uncontrollably despite the extra clothing and being wrapped in a sleeping bag.
Rebecca had fallen at about 1 p.m. and now it was after 2. None of us wanted to be on the mountain, never mind in the middle of the steep boulder field, in the cold dark. With gentle reassurance that we would help her every step of the way, Rebecca agreed to allow Sean to make a sling out of her sweatshirt and some rope in order to immobilize her shoulder for the almost four mile descent.
Each step was taken slowly; Sean went ahead to pick the easiest route, while I held Rebecca’s hand, sometimes her feet while she gently maneuvered her way down the boulders with Troy close behind guiding her every move.
With lots of teamwork, the three of us watched as Rebecca’s inner warrior showed itself in an amazing way while she made it to the bottom of the boulder field. She managed a smile for me to take a picture from where she had just climbed down and then we continued on our way.
Sean, at times having to support her fully to get her down a high ledge, with Troy and I trading off supporting her uninjured arm for stability.
Rebecca repeatedly apologized to us all for the predicament and we assured her that we were just thankful that we were there to help. She thanked us for staying with her and for helping her and we joked that it was going to make a great story. She had a great sense of humor the whole way.
As we made it down to a pink ribbon that showed us the way around a steep section of rock face, Rebecca asked if there were any other scary sections she would have to maneuver. I decided it would be better not to tell her there was one last ledge she would have to descend, because there was no way around.
The rescue crew met us just in time near the ledge I was dreading for her. It was the last of the hard climbs about 2.5 miles up the trail, where it took Sean and the ranger to get her down off the ledge. I was so amazed by her courage that I took out my camera and recorded the action.
After assessing the situation, the rescuers wanted to place a sling on Rebecca, but she would have nothing to do with it. She was cold, she wanted to get off the mountain. We climbed down below tree line where she allowed them to dress her in a warmer jacket and gloves, but wanted desperately to keep moving down the mountain. They assured her they would keep going and Sean and I left her in their capable hands.
As we made our way down over the wet trail, the night air getting cooler and the rocks harder to discern through the fading light, my mind was with Becca. She had been so strong, so courageous in allowing two strangers to help her down from the mountain.
I began to wonder if I would have had the same courage to stand up and walk through that terrain with a broken bone and realized that the human spirit will do whatever it takes to survive in the face of adversity.
Sean and I made it to the trailhead about 7 under the cover of darkness and to open warrior arms, and my friend Barb, who had made an adventure of her own while I was off on mine. Even though our bodies were off the mountain, our minds were still with Rebecca, who had a long journey ahead of her that night.
She did make it off the mountain a little while later with the assistance of Troy and the two rescue personnel. Doctors confirmed a spiral fracture of her collar bone, which had been nicely secured by the field-expedient sling Sean created.
In all our challenges throughout life we tend to look to others for strength and find ourselves examining our faith in desperate situations while we talk to our inner warrior to step up and help us through. Whatever your belief, the creator intended for us to depend on one another.
On the mountain that day, I gathered strength from others in order to find my warrior inside to make it to the top and then to stay behind and assist Rebecca.
Each of those warriors spent the last six months of their lives learning to trust those around them and seeking an inner strength to finish what they started and find peace with what they’ve witnessed during their service to our country.
And, Rebecca dug deeper than I’ve ever witnessed before, in all her pain, she set her mind to focus on getting herself to safety. She knew she didn’t want to spend the night on that mountain and she let nothing get in her way.
If there is one thing you can take from reading my experience, please know that you don’t have to climb the highest peak or travel the longest trail to find your inner warrior. Like Rebecca, when you find yourself in what seems an impossible situation, call out to that higher power, allow others to help you and hear that warrior that resides inside you, just waiting to let out a roar.
For more photos and video shot while on Katahdin with Warrior Hike, visit the Rumford Falls Times on Facebook, as well as CC's Outdoor Journal.
To learn more about Warrior Hike, visit them online, warriorhike.com or find them on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/warriorhike.