Camper Bay to Logjam Creek (8km)
We woke up happy to notice the morning absent the sound of water hitting our heads. It was not raining, we’d been able to dry some things out the night before and we even got a fire going in the morning to try and dry some more. The discussion about whether to push to the finish or go our own pace continued but now without words. We weren’t going to get the early start that might have allowed us to finish by going our own pace and, in fact, there would still shelter to break down at 8:30. This is what Josh called the work of a subtle saboteur. Regardless, we started the day with a cable car and then headed into the forest for more of the rugged, boggy terrain that we had seen the day before.
I think we were all happy to see that it was noticeably more dry and easier than yesterday. Nonetheless, the up and down over uneven roots and fallen trees made you pay attention to every step. Rob was reliant on his poles and defiant to accept any help with the tougher to negotiate spots. He had taken a few spills on Day 5 but kept pushing along. Day 6 would be more of the same for him. After a few km he, Matt and Duke were hiking at the back of the group. The rest of us stopped at a beach access trail to wait for them but were surprised at how long it was taking. It turned out that Rob had taken a fall that put him in touch with a stump and he now had a gash (about 1″ long; 2.54cm) squarely in the middle of his forehead. Matt had a ziplock full of bloody gauze and tissues to prove it. Minor crisis handled.
We skipped the beach access and pushed on. About 300 meters (or maybe 150 yards) down the path we came to the bridge over 150 yard Creek. Matt and I crossed, commenting on the missing boards and single-sided handrail, and were on the other side when we turned around to See Duke face down on the side of the ravine. Rick worked his pack off, we sat him up on the bridge and eventually we tried to see if he could put some weight on his legs. We knew that he had injured himself and thought it could have been serious (after sitting up he briefly blacked out, likely due to the pain). Standing up was not successful and we prepared to sit him down and call for help.
Our cells phones didn’t work and the VHF radio we had could only receive, not send. Mostly we could either get the weather report or listen to fisherman and leisure boaters talk about old Norwegian-made skiffs. Finally a group of Canadians passed with a cell phone that they graciously let us borrow and we reached the rescue service and made them aware of our situation and position. A helicopter would be deployed.
We set up a mini-camp to get Duke’s leg stabilized and on a thermarest and his body warm and fed. We made some hot water and waited for the rescue team to radio us. I have no recollection of time during this. Finally they called to say the helicopter was leaving and heading to beach access B (see map) about 300 meters, or 8 min of normal hiking, back on the trail. We heard the copter within 3 minutes and Matt and I rushed to meet it.
Two rescue workers exited the plane and recognized our excitement at the novelty of this unfortunate event and they put us to work. Matt carried the stretcher into the site and I helped out with rope bags. Shannon (the female rescue worker with whom Duke had spoken two days prior at a lighthouse encounter) got his leg into a vacuum jacket. James (the other rescuer) set up some ropes near the beach. Like most of the beach access points this one had the trail meeting the beach at a cliff of sorts and this one was luckily short at about 30 feet down a ladder. Since you can’t go down a ladder on a stretcher, James would anchor a rope rig around some trees and we would lower the stretcher over the side of the cliff with a couple of us on the ladder guiding the things down with a free hand.
Once we finally got Duke on the stretcher it took all four of the youngsters along with Shannon and James to navigate and maneuver the thing down to beach access B. I would say this took over an hour. Two locations were ravine crossings formed with fallen trees. We tied a rope to the front of the stretcher and a couple of us would pull Duke along the top of the log while the others would position ourselves next to the log, sometimes into the ditch, and guide him across. Once we reached the cliff there was one more small detail to work out: Duke had to stabilized so that as the stretcher became vertical and went down the cliff he would not put weight on the bad leg. Shannon tied some fancy knots and we figured we had it. To test it we tilted the stretcher up and let Duke relieve himself, his body completely strapped to the stretcher. It was like silence of the lambs, minus the muzzle. At about this time the pilot came up to say that the tide was coming in and that he was going to have to move. James pushed for a few more minutes and we successfully got Duke to the helicopter with minutes to spare.
By now Matt, Graham and I had sent Rick and Rob with Josh to start moving toward the next campsite. It was getting late and we had about 4km to go before we could stop. We decided to try for a small campsite off the trail just south of the path to the Trasher Cove Beach campsite. We knew we couldn’t make it to the Cove (1 km for the actual trail) and we didn’t want to add that 1 km onto the next day either so we were shooting for Log Jam Creek. When we caught up to the crew in front we still had over a km to go and it was nearing 8PM if I recall correctly. We also found out that more blood had been shed, as Rick ran his head into a low clearance fallen log. Scalp wounds are known to produce a deceiving amount of blood (I should know), but Dr. Rob patched it up with superglue. We finally pulled into to our site sometime after 9 and quickly set everything up, got water, made dinner and hung the food. Our three tents barely fit in the space. If someone else had already set up shop there we would have been out of luck. We were so close that there was really very little on everyone’s minds except for where Duke was and finishing the trail. We had just finished a day where four of us managed not to get hurt.