Shadowless, but still moving at the head of the litter, Glen McPherson’s good leg swung forward the last few inches. His foot touched the dirt of the eastern edge of the woodland trail that gently snaked its way through Green Canyon. “At last!” He puffed, actually grinning for what felt like the first time in years. As Glen paused and glanced furtively up and down the trail, however, his smile quickly melted and his shiny brow creased. He gritted his teeth and surged forward once more. “Almost there big guy!” He panted.
It required another full minute of struggling for the determined Scotsman to drag the final remnants of the travois off the rough field of boulders. Glen’s muscles buzzed and ached. His lungs burned but the harried hiker was not about to stop before Stan was directly over top of the woodland trial.
The small man paused, cranking his head around and looking at his helpless passenger. “Ok Stan.” He wheezed. “We made it. I’m going to put you down now.” Glen lowered the laden litter to the flat ground that formed the fringe of the forest. Stan let out another suppressed moan. Muted moans and groans had been his predominant chant for the past four hours.
“Glen?” The big man softly whimpered. “I need… some more… Tylenol.” Still breathing hard, Glen hobbled to the rear of the litter. He unzipped a small pouch on the upper part of his pack and fished out the bottle of precious pain medication. It was nearly empty. Glen pulled out the water pouch and shambled to Stan’s side. The big man’s face was flushed. Glen placed three extra-strength Tylenol against Stan’s parched lips. Stan opened his mouth slightly so the pills could drop inside. A single gulp of water carried the white tablets into the big man’s system. Now all that remained was for the medicine to take effect. Potent painkillers they were not, but at least the Tylenol would dull the razor sharp edge of Stan’s pain.
Glen eyed the hydration pouch. It held only a half a cup of water. He looked into the big man’s eyes. “Are you thirsty?” Stan shook his head before speaking.
“You drink it.” He rasped. Obediently, Glen tipped the bottom of the clear plastic pouch skyward and the remaining water disappeared down his dry throat.
As Glen returned the Tylenol bottle and empty water pouch to his pack, he spoke. “We need some food from your backpack.” He said pointing northward to indicate the place where Stan’s pack hung in a tree. The big man’s eyes followed Glen’s outstretched finger. The pack hung motionless in the large Larch tree perhaps one hundred feet away. “Besides needing a good meal,” Glen said dropping his arm, “We have to make it to Maple Creek for more water.” He trailed off, thinking out his survival plan. “With that bear in the area, I really don’t want to split up again.” Glen paused again before continuing, still working at catching his breath. “I hope I’ll be ok going to get the food by myself.” He trailed off, still thinking out loud. “I’m definitely not interested in dragging you north to the pack and then south again to where we are now!” Stan’s chest heaved in short pulses as he continued to catch his own breath. The big man just listened while his friend spoke. Glen continued. “I think we can make it to the stream before dark. We have flashlights and it wouldn’t be the first time I put this tent up in the dark.” He indicated the orange rip-stop nylon under Stan. “I guess I’ll need the poles and pegs I put in your pack.” Glen’s thoughts were still swirling, his mind attempting to make sure he covered any contingency. Several seconds of quiet solitude passed before Stan offered his extremely concise opinion.
“Ok.” He whispered and with that, the big man resumed his meagre attempts to mentally manage his pain.
Glen nodded and pulled himself up on his crutch. “I’ll be back as soon as I can.”