Broken Bones & The Delorme InReach
June 30, 2016
This is the story of Ashley’s broken foot, and an indispensable little device called a ‘Delorme InReach’ that saved our asses. It’s the orange thing strapped to my backpack in the pic below. That’s Ashley’s broken foot behind it.
Many of you already carry an InReach. It allows you to send and receive texts from anywhere in the world by satellite. It also has an ‘SOS’ button for emergencies. I always wondered what would happen if I had to hit that button. Now I know.
The weekend before last Ashley & I were riding in Eastern Oregon on some dirt tracks we’d never been on before. We were exploring. It was beautiful riding: challenging and fun. Epic weekend!
On Sunday Ashley had a crash, the kind that happens all the time, nothing catastrophic. In this case the bike landed on her foot, crushing it between a rock and the bike, and breaking some bones. It also broke her clutch lever at the pivot point, disconnecting it from the bike. She tried to ride but with a broken foot, rocky terrain, and no clutch, it just wasn’t working.
We both had Reckless 80s on our bikes. We consolidated into one set of bags, taking water, empty water bottles, water filter, tent, warm clothes, one sleeping bag, and all the remaining food. Everything else we left, including the bike. We marked a GPS waypoint for the bike and stashed our gear out of sight under a nearby rock, the one on the left in the pic below.
We rode two-up for a while. The flat/sandy parts were no problem. The elevated rocky ridges were impossible to climb/descend with a passenger, so Ashley hiked those parts while I rode with the gear. Once we crossed a ridge she would get back on the bike and we’d continue riding. In the pic below, you can kind of see that about 100 feet behind Ashley, there’s a big elevation drop she’d just finished hiking.
We covered about 6 miles in a few hours traveling this way. Ashley hiked about 1.5 miles with her broken foot, through the steepest parts. The pain was getting bad, plus it was hot out, and we didn’t have a ton of water. Ashley was exhausted, she toppled over into the bushes a few times. She wasn’t going to make it further on foot. I could see on my GPS that we had another 6 miles as the crow flies before we reached a familiar dirt road, and we weren’t sure how many more ridges we’d have to cross to reach it. Riding or hiking 6 miles out is no biggie… but with a broken foot, it’s a problem.
We decided to get some help. Either I’d ride on ahead alone, or we’d hit the SOS button on the InReach and see what happened. After some discussion, we decided the point of either option was to get in touch with Search & Rescue, and the SOS button seemed like a faster and safer way, since splitting up came with its own set of risks.
We hit the InReach SOS button at 2:38 PM. They responded immediately. We described the situation and asked if they could help. Answer: yes. Ashley’s pain was an 8 out of 10. No trees for shade, so we setup the tent rain-fly, removed Ashley’s boot, and stabilized her leg. You can see our shade encampment off in the distance below. It was hot.
In 30 minutes we got an InReach message saying Search & Rescue was on their way. At 5:51 a BLM Ranger and Sheriff arrived in lifted trucks. They had difficulty finding us due to the large amount of unmarked double-track. The BLM Ranger who arrived first, Patrick, splinted Ashley’s foot, which helped a lot with her pain. 30 minutes later Search & Rescue arrived in a UTV with an air-cushioned litter.
By 7:45 PM Ashley reached a real ambulance on a graded road on her way to the nearest hospital, about 60 miles away. An hour later she was at Lakeview ER.
The InReach worked flawlessly. All the BLM Rangers and Search & Rescue personnel were wearing them too. They said they wished more people would carry them in the backcountry, because it saves the rescue team a lot time, effort, and frustration in coordinating an evacuation.
This was my second – and hopefully my last – experience with a medevac. This time it was Ashley who was rescued, last time it was me in Honduras. This time we had an InReach, last time I was carrying a SPOT, which wasn’t much help due to the lack of two-way communication, and the lack of a reliable search & rescue infrastructure in Honduras. Having two-way communication is invaluable, both for the person writhing around in pain, and also for the first-responders who are trying to find them. For the rescued: it’s awesome to know that you’re not alone, help is on the way. For the rescuers: they know exactly what they’re dealing with, what kind of vehicle to bring, and what trauma supplies they’ll need.
I take my InReach everywhere. Glad we had it. To all my friends: I hope you’ll get one too, and take it on all your adventures. That way we can keep doing cool shit until we’re too old to walk, then sit around the fire telling stories.
Huge thanks to Patrick and the BLM Rangers, Chuck and the Search & Rescue team, Dr. Gallagher and the awesome crew at Lakeview ER, and Jason with the Lake County Sheriff’s office, who returned with me to fetch the bike, and who rode it out completely clutchless, suffering nothing more than torn pants and a bloody leg. That was an amazing feat of motorcycling (blurry cell phone pic below).
More Mosko updates coming soon. New bags and apparel! Next entry!!