Boundary Waters, Trip Reports, BWCA, Stories

One Best Friend
by bassnut

Trip Type: Paddling Canoe
Entry Date: 05/11/2012
Entry & Exit Point: Missing Link Lake (EP 51)
Number of Days: 6
Group Size: 2
Trip Introduction:
Sometimes you just think you a trip will Sometimes you know are capable of...what your canoe partner is capable of. Maybe you just don't know limits 'til you are forced, by circumstances beyond your control, to find them. This is the story of May 15, 16th, at Tuscarora Lake.
 A lot of you would cringe at the thought of driving 1000 miles to go to the BWCA, but most of us would still do it. For Kel and me, it is an opportunity to little girls, for 17hrs. Any and all subjects are covered, from reloading .44's, to the cost of diesel to...well, you get the picture. And this year was no different.   Our favorite spring Laker lake is, well, close to Tuscarora, but a looming medical issue for me had caused us to change our plans and only go as far as Tuscarora. No matter, we were going in the morning of the 11th, no beepers, no worries, just the BWCA and the promise of good weather.   We awoke early on that Thursday, decided to go to the lobby of the hotel to get a coffee. The lobby was closed, oh well, we would just hit the Holiday station. However, neither one of us picked up a room key, so there we were, standing outside of the Aspen, truck keys in hand, not room keys. The glass is always half full, so we just went to the S.O.B. for breakfast...problems just roll off our backs. And that is just what happened, breakfast at S.O.B., got back to the room and the guy that works the desk was right there, brush teeth, empty room, and head out. No problem.  Our choices of campsites on Tuscarora were many, but we decided on one in the S.E. corner. Prevailing winds from the west would be bringing baitfish and preyfish our way, and it would not be one of those "too" protected sites that really get warm. Soon after setting up camp, a small line of storms roared through, wetting down camp, but not our fishing spirit, and we whined all evening about not being able to fish!!  I was up and at 'em first on Saturday, a gloriously blues skied day. When the coffee was heating, I hopped down near the water and began casting. Within the first 5 casts, I had hooked, but not landed a Trout and a Pike. Coffee and a hook sharpener came next. After waking Kel,quaffing a cup of Joe, we headed out into the lake. Within a couple of hours, we stringered one Laker of about 3lbs., caught several more, and headed back to camp for the best meal ever: Grilled Laker and Wild Rice.   And the following days were like the first: Lakers for breakfast, the world's stupedest jokes(where does he hear those?), a little afternoon nap, evening fishing, and dinner of some freeze-dried "stuff"...some a hit, some a miss. "This isn't too bad...but, you know, if you were at a restaurant, it would be on the wall!"   When Tueday rolled around, our spirits were predictably high. The glass was always have full. In the morning, we had Laker on the coals, and were planning on Spaghetti for dinner. The weather man said it would be kinda chilly by the next morning, and with the passage of a front, we believed him. We fished 'til the sun was nearly down, and rolled back to camp just in time to see a beautiful sunset. Near dark I started the water for the pasta, soon the Tomato sauce followed. We divided the pasta, divided the sauce, saluted the day, and began eating.  I jumped up with the sauce pot, to get some water in it so that it would not dry and make a mess. Upon reaching water level, I scooped up about a half a pot of water and turned to walk up the very steep slope.  The next is a compilation of my memory and Kel's.  And what a slope, with no worries we had been hopping up and down this rock face all trip. I got mabe 2/3 of the way, maybe the pot of water got me off-balance, and I slipped. My left foot stopped in a seam, and I fell backwards, landing on my side. Kel jumped up and ask if I was alright. I said yes, seems like just a sprain. So I moved my foot back into place(seemed like the thing to do), I screamed, passed out, and had my first episode of syncope.   Kel was on me in a second, and saw that I had poor pulses and sonorous respirations. I had fallen nearly back into the water. I came awake, and screamed again in pain. I looked at my foot and it was pointing a "funny" direction. He immediately assessed the situation. I would need airlifted out, I would need to get/stay warm. The airlift would have to wait 'til tommorrow, but sleeping bags were 40ft. away. He grabbed me under the shoulders and pulled me up the slope, but made it only halfway, before we both slipped and fell back. I rolled past him, yelling in pain, and I had a second syncopal episode. I was inches from the water when he grabbed me, and held my head out of the water until I started breathing again. After a few moments, I was able to help get me away from the water's edge.   The next attempt at pulling me up the slope was successful, and we both fell in a heap, back from edge, but still 20ft. from the tent and bags. After regaining his strength, he pulled me into the tent, and covered me with both bags, as I had already began to shiver. I remember he said he would be back in a moment, and he did, with tree branches and T-shirts. He said he was going to splint it, and that it would hurt, a lot. I remember saing, "Well, how much worse could it get? Go ahead!" When he moved my foot, I screamed so loud and long that I was out of breath. And with that, he began assessing me again. Pedal pulses good, pulse good, color pale, but acceptable. The only thing we had for pain was Advil, he gave me 4 and said to take 4 every 4hrs.  At 0445, he left for the truck. He left me some water, a pee bottle, and Advil, and he said he will be back. When it became light, I counted the minutes until time for more Advil. At around 1030, a U.S. Forest Service plane landed with 3 EMTs. What a site!! Reality was that we still had to get me onto the plane...not easy. From there, they took me to Gunflint lake to meet an ambulance, and they took me to Grand Marais and a hospital. It was there, around noon, I received my first real pain medicine. On x-ray, it was a spiral fracture of both Tibia and Fibula, and spiral of the left upper Fibula.  Kel travelled from Tuscarora to Round lake in a tandem canoe and a pack, arriving at Tuscarora Outfitters around 1000. The people there were kind, professional, and empathetic, and contacted authorities to facilitate getting out as quickly as possible.  I will return to the BWCA. I have not (not yet anyway) had any epiphany about life. but I do believe my friend, a Paramedic of 30yrs., saved my life. Maybe think about a basic live support class before going "out", 'cause maybe does occur.