Thursday, August 13, 2015

This Week: Steamboat Springs, CO

Dine without the Dash, Part II

As we continued a few more people came walking up the trail. A family, mom, dad and two boys, passed me. The boys were jumping on rocks and squealing like boys do. Old Man asked the parents how much farther to the bottom and the dad’s eyes opened wide.
“Uh, you’re a long way from the bottom. You OK?
“Oh yeah, we’re fine, but I brought the wrong shoes for this trail.” They looked at his feet and saw shoes just like theirs.
“Well, you know, it’s actually easier to walk up if you’d like to follow us,” Dad began, but was immediately interrupted.
“Oh, no. Not going back up. We’re going down.” I winced every time he said “we.” The mom then looked over at me. I smiled weakly.
“OK then. Have a nice day,” she said and the four of them took off. After only a few minutes of walking Old Man asked me how much farther we had gotten. Because of my smartphone, I knew exactly where we were at.
“One mile. We’ve only gone one mile,” I said matter-of-factly.
“How long is the trail again?” he asked.
“Four miles.”
“Shit,” was the response. “This isn’t what I thought it would be,” he finally admitted. Like the two guys and the family that just passed us, I too began pleading with him to go back up.
“We’re much closer to the gondola and then we could ride it down.”
He remained firm, but then said, “My legs can barely handle going down. There’s no way they can go back up.” I too began explaining that going up was actually easier on the muscles, knees and back, but he stopped me with a wave of his hand. I turned around and began going down again. I made it a point to get a bit farther ahead than I was before because I was now doing a Google search for Steamboat Mountain Rescue’s phone number. 
Just then I heard another rustle in the leaves behind me. I turned around in time to see him fall backward into a bush. I ran over to him and offered my hand as I asked if he was OK.
“Yeah, I’m fine.” He took my hand and pulled himself up.
“Do you think you could turn around?” he asked shooing me away with other hand. “I have to pee.”
“Uh, OK.” I walked down the trail a bit to give him some privacy. I thought I heard a zipper and asked if everything was OK.
“How embarrassing.”
“You gotta do watcha gotta do,” I said. We began walking again, this time in silence because I had run out of things to say. As if reading my mind, the Old Man said,
“So, if I can’t make it down, what happens?”
“I can call mountain rescue to come get you.”
“They can come up here?”
“Well, yeah, they’d have to.”
“But how do they get up here?”
“They hike.”
“They do? But that’ll take forever.”
“Well, they’re a lot faster than we are. They train for this sort of thing.”
“How do they get me down?”
“Well, on one hike I once saw rescuers carry a guy who twisted his ankle down on a stretcher.”
“I don’t wanna be carried out on a stretcher.”
“I’ve got a phone, if you want me to call.”
“No, no,” he said emphatically. “Let’s just keep going. We’ve got to be coming up on the end soon.” I took another glance at Google Maps.
“We’re not even half way,” I said. He waved me on.
We walked on in silence and once again I got a bit ahead of him, Eventually, I could see an open space through the trees. I quickly walked to the clearing where a large maintenance building and one of the gondola towers stood. I then ran back to a huffing and puffing Old Man.
“There’s a clearing up ahead,” I shouted. Old Man looked up at me, raised his arm and said “Really?” But then fell over backward again into some tall grass.
“Oh my God!” I exclaimed as I came running over. “I didn’t mean to make you fall. I am so sorry. Grab my hand.”
“I’m fine. Just lost my balance.” When he stood up, fresh blood was now running down his leg. I handed him a Kleenex I had in my pocket. The wound wasn’t deep, just a raspberry, but it covered a large area of his calf and was bleeding profusely. To add insult to injury, the fluffy white cloud above us began spitting rain drops.
“Do you think you can call that rescue thing for me,” he asked.
“Yes! But let’s get you over to the building so you can rest.” As we moved toward the building a young woman came out of the opposing set of trees walking toward us.
“Are you from here?” I asked.
“Yeah, do you need help?”
“Do you have the mountain rescue number? I can’t find it.”
“Yeah, I have it in my phone. You never know when you’ll need it.” She dialed the number and spoke to a dispatcher and then put us on speaker so I could answer her questions.
“Elderly man…can’t finish hike…has cuts and bruises…at maintenance building.”
“We’ll be right there,” the dispatcher said. We then found a metal folding chair next to the building and brought it to the Old Man so he could rest.
“If you guys are good, I’d like to continue on,” the woman said. “Want to get to the top before the weather turns.”
“Of course! Go on ahead. Thank you,” I said.
As she left, the clouds were still spitting, but it was a friendly rain. As we waited, a man walked up the trail with two teenage boys. They walked around the base of the gondola tower and then walked over to the building and stood under the eave to avoid rain drops. They appeared to be lost, but I had other things to worry about.
“So you think it’ll be long?” Old Man asked.
“Not too long.”
“So how far did we get?”
“This is only halfway.” I watched as some of the joy left his face.
“All that work and we’re only half way?” He shook his head. “This trail was not what I thought it would be.”
After about 10 minutes a large dirty white Suburban lumbered up the gravel maintenance road from behind the tower. Out of it stepped a tall slender blonde woman. Not only was she pretty, but I could see sculpted biceps in her arms; she was probably a climber.
“You the people that need help?”
“Yup,” I said. “This guy here took a few spills on the trail. I think they look worse than they really are, but they sure did bleed.” She bent down to examine his leg.
“I’ve got some bandages if you want to cover those up. Maybe some ointment so they don’t get infected.”
“Actually my leg is OK, but my arm is starting to hurt.” He held out his arm displaying a gigantic purple stain of a bruise.
“Ouch,” she said. “Doesn’t look like anything is broken. I’ll get some bandages.”
“No,” Old Man said. “I just want outta here.”
“Can you stand up?” she asked. I held one arm and she held the other as he wobbly stood up and then took some wobbly steps to the Suburban. To get inside, I held his arm steady and the woman had him put one leg on the rim while she pushed his back as he got into the vehicle. As I rounded the vehicle to get inside and the woman opened up her door, the man and two boys I’d forgotten about walked over.
“Are you heading back to the Square?” the man asked.
“Why yes. You guys OK?”
“Well, we’re from New York and my son seems to be having trouble with the altitude. Can you take him down?”
“Sure! No problem,” she said. The younger of the two boys got in the back seat with the Old Man. The boy’s dad and brother then continued up the trail.
“So do you know each other,” she asked me as we drove down the maintenance road.
“Oh, we just met up at the chalet,” I was quick to say. “We did the Wine Festival nature hike this morning. After lunch a few of us decided to hike down the mountain.”
“There were more of you?”
“Yeah, but the other people took off and didn’t wait for us.”
“Oh, that’s too bad.” The boy then said he had a headache.
“When did you get here?” the woman asked him.
“You just need a day to acclimate. Take it easy tonight and maybe a couple of aspirin when you get back. You’ll be fine tomorrow. Oh, and don’t forget to drink lots of water. Easy to get dehydrated up here and that causes headaches. How about you? You doing OK?” she asked Old Man.
“Much better now.”
“So what resorts are you staying at,” she asked.
“I’m at the Grand Hyatt,” said Old Man.
“I’m at the Ptarmigan” said the boy.
“OK, I can drop you off at your hotels. How ‘bout you?” she said to me.
“I’m staying in town. I just need to be dropped off at the shuttle stop.”
“That’s right next to the Grand. Easy enough,” she said.
As we continued down, the road snaked around the edges of the ski area and soon condos and homes came into view.
“I don’t think I’ll be able to make the wine walk tonight,” the Old Man said disappointingly. The maintenance road then turned into a paved road and Gondola Square came into view. The Rescue Woman dropped off the boy first. He said a mopey thank you and walked away. Then Rescue Woman turned the big Suburban around and drove to the other side where the parking garage, Hyatt and bus stop all were. As we pulled in the bus area, a small dark blue pickup sat nearby.
“I think that’s my son,” said Old Man. I took a closer look and saw there were wine boxes stacked three high in the truck’s bed and also to the roof inside on the passenger seat. A tall handsome man in khaki shorts and dark polo shirt got out. Rescue woman got out and opened the backseat door and Old Man swung his legs around. The Young Guy came over to help.
“What the hell did you think you were doing?” was the greeting Young Guy gave the Old Man. Rescue Woman pointed out some of his injuries and the Young Guy softened his tone.
“Jees, dad, you could have had a heart attack up there. You’ve had enough adventure for today. I’ll take you to your room and we’ll get you cleaned up.”
“How did you know I was here?” Old Man asked.
“I have a radio,” he pointed to his back pocket where a black radio antenna stuck out. “I heard the call when it came in. Somehow, I just knew it was you.” Old Man asked his son if he could have a ride across the street to the Hyatt.
“Dad, my truck is full. You won’t fit.”
“I can take him,” said Rescue Woman. She helped him swing his legs back in the vehicle and Young Guy shut the door. He then looked at me.
“Were you with my dad the whole time?” He asked. I nodded. “Sorry about that.”
“Oh that’s OK, We made it.” I said.

“Thank you,” said Young Guy and he got back in his truck. I walked over to the shuttle stop bench and then, as if this afternoon hadn’t been long enough, I sat on a bench for another 20 minutes before the shuttle arrived, just enough time for the small cloud above to drop all the rain it contained on me.