Days 2 & 3
April 24 and 25, 2017
Esplanade Above Scotty's Hollow
Click on photos to see larger image.
Today's route stats:Distance: 0.3 miles Elevation Gain: 50 feet Elevation Loss: 50 feet
My back was still bothering me when I awoke. Ben and I decided to hang around camp for the day, hoping my back would improve.
The water we collected yesterday was awful. Ben had just enough good water for us to have breakfast. Then he headed off to look for a better water source. He soon found a small, dripping spring that was very close by (in fact, higher up in the same drainage with the small pothole). We collected a couple quarts by collecting drips in our water bottles. But this took a very long time. We ended up using Ben's Tyvek groundsheet to spread across the drips and funnel the water into our bottles. This was still slow, but faster than before. We managed to collect another gallon or so. And this water tasted pretty good.
It started getting cloudy and windy so we decided to move camp to some nice overhangs we had found. They were only a few hundred yards away. I managed to haul my pack over there without too much trouble, but when I got there my back pain had significantly increased. But after laying around for a while, the pain nearly disappeared again.
That afternoon we talked again about our options. Trying to hike out was one option. But I didn't think I could make it all the way, at least not in one day. In fact, I really doubted that I could make it back to the start of the climb up to Kanab Point, even without a pack. And there was no water available until my car on Kanab Point. So we decided to stay put for another night and see how I felt in the morning. It was reassuring to have Ben along (he is a doctor), but there wasn't much he could do.
I had this same (or very similar) ailment last July. It was just as debilitating then, although I could think of nothing I had done that could have caused it. The pain came from both my back and gut, and it would switch side occasionally. I went to the doctor and was given blood tests, a CT scan, and an ultrasound. I had already had a colonoscopy a few months earlier. None of these test showed anything wrong. The doctor thought that it might be coming from a nerve from my thoracic spine. Years ago I suffered a couple of compression fractures in that area, so perhaps it had something to do with that. I thought about getting an MRI, but never discussed this with my doctor (at least not that I remember). In another week or so, the pain slowly went away and I forgot all about getting an MRI.
The next morning, feeling no better, I decided to push the button on my Spot (personal locator beacon) and prepare for a rescue. Donna bought the Spot for me because she was worried about me doing solo hikes. I had never used it before, and I never thought I would. We hiked up to the area above our overhang camp and found a large flat area suitable for a helicopter to land. Then I pushed the SOS button on my Spot. It was windy and gusting, so we were a bit concerned about how safe it would be for the helicopter to land. We got out Ben's white Tyvek to hold up, like a wind sock. After about 90 minutes, we heard the sound of a helicopter. It seemed like magic. Even though, as an engineer, I've been around technology all my life, it still struck me as amazing that this technology exists. The helicopter circled around us, then landed into the wind.
In NPS helicopter, decked out like an ambulance, were the pilot, EMT, and rescue specialist. After checking me out, they said that they would take me to the clinic on the south rim. Ben had already decided that he would stay and hike out to my car the next day. But the rescuers didn't want to leave Ben alone. But Ben insisted that he was going to hike back to the car. We then suggested that maybe they could drop Ben at our car on Kanab Point. They discussed this for a while among themselves, and finally agreed to drop off Ben. This would eliminate the extreme hassle of getting my car back.
We were given jump suits, gloves, and helmets to wear before being strapped into seats in the helicopter. We were also given instructions on what to do in case of a hard landing. The pilot, who was only 25 years old but had been flying helicopters since he was 16, seemed very competent. In fact, all of them seemed very professional. We reached Kanab Point, which had large flat areas suitable to land, in about 5 minutes. After dropping off Ben and his pack, we took off again and flew directly to the south rim.
I was examined at the clinic, which took about an hour. I figured it would take Ben about 6-1/2 hours to pick up my bike, drive the two hours or so of dirt roads, then the 200 miles or so the to south rim. While at the clinic, Ranger Della showed up to see me. She "knew" me from all the permits I had gotten over the years, and we had a lot of common friends and hiking acquaintances. She was very nice. She gave me her phone number and said to call her when I was finished at the clinic and she would give me a ride to Maswik Lodge and cafeteria where I could hang while waiting for Ben. Since I had no money (my wallet was in my car), she offered to loan me enough money to get lunch. Her compassion was heartwarming.
Ben arrived around 3:30 PM. Our original plan called for me to drive him to St. George, where he would pick up the shuttle to Las Vegas and then fly back to New Hampshire. He decided to fly out of Phoenix instead. So we drove the two hours or so to Flagstaff. I dropped Ben off at the train station where he would catch the shuttle to Phoenix. I checked into a motel. Thankfully, sitting in the car did not bother my back.
The next morning I began the 8 hour drive back to Arroyo Seco, New Mexico. My back did not bother me during the drive, although I did have some trouble staying awake. I listened to more audio books during the drive.
As I write this (May 12, 2017), I have already seen my doctor and had an MRI. The report showed a couple of badly degenerative disks. I'll probably need to see a neurologist (or neurosurgeon). Hopefully it can be treated with cortisone injections.