The Story I Wish Was Made Up

My husband was hunting elk in the mountains. We had been having communication problems, due both to spotty cell signal and his being intent on his hunt. That morning we talked to him and told him he didn’t have to come down for Thanksgiving dinner. That we would let him hunt and do something when he got back. He let me know that his battery was very low and he would be turning it off until he could get it charged up when he returned to camp.

There were several feet of snow and it was freezing cold. His horse, Vegas, tripped when trying to step over a log and they both fell and were injured. He was pretty banged up and had dislocated his shoulder. The horse had hit her head and was favoring her hind right leg a lot. He determined that with her injuries there was no way they could make it back up in the direction of his camp. So they would head downward and hopefully make it to the main forestry road before the hunting season ended and all the hunters left the forest.

He relocated his shoulder. But it still only had limited function. He had minimal gear. What little water he had froze before he could drink it. He had a small bag of jerky, but it too was frozen so solidly that he couldn’t soften it enough to eat it.

That was Thursday.


For 4 days and 3 nights he made his way. Leading his horse because she could not yet carry his weight without risk of injuring her further. The temperatures were in the negative numbers. -16? -20? The wind was howling like crazy. Turning the -16 temperatures into -30 or 40.

During the day they kept moving. He chewed on pine needles when he could find them. He squeezed snow in his hand to melt the water out to drink. Eating snow is a fast way to lower your body temperature.

At night he would find some sheltering trees for the horse and use the snow built up around the bottom of the trees to shelter himself.

He is, you might say, particularly qualified to survive an ordeal like this. Much of his career in the Marine Corps was spent as a winter survival instructor at the Mountain Warfare Training Center in the Sierra Nevada mountains.

Curled in a fetal ball to try to conserve heat, he would make up rhythms and rhymes to keep himself focused on continually moving his body parts to keep blood flowing to them.

wiggle your nose

wiggle your toes

wiggle your fingers

wiggle your toes

On the third day he felt  that Vegas could safely carry him. He climbed on and they continued their descent. He rode her for as long as he could because he knew that he needed to cover ground if he was going to get to that road before it was too late. This was probably the most uncomfortable ride of his life. He takes medications daily for pain and nerve issues. These are one more thing he was without for the length of this ordeal.

Eventually they reached a small creek and Vegas decided she had had enough and would not cross it.

So he tied her loosely to a small tree so she could get free if she needed to in case of an attack and continued on without her.

Late Sunday afternoon two hunters were driving down a forest service road when they spotted a flash of red near the side of the road. They stopped to see what it was. It was Alan.

He had made it.

They had found him.

4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Molly@Postcards from a Peaceful Divorce
    Dec 19, 2010 @ 11:46:38

    I’m still amazed by this story Brook. Thank God he made it!


  2. Trackback: The Current Current « to be dancing… a novelty yarn
  3. Trackback: Hunting Season Is Upon Us « to be dancing… a novelty yarn

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