How We Met Mika
Most days call for a break. We fight across a river and slip and slide across snow. When we reach a stretch of dry grass with some nice shade, we take advantage. This day was no different than any other. We broke to eat and grab some Z's. As we lay in the grass enjoying the rest, all three of us had a similar reaction to a sound that caught our attention. "That sounded like a call for help!" Our heads turning in all directions, all three of us caught the sight at the same time. There was a girl helplessly caught in the rapids of a raging river.
Quickly Tim was up first as Dave and I followed. It was literally happening so quickly it was a blur. All three of us were yelling to get her attention while figuring out what we should do. She was able to grab onto a rock for only a few seconds, but while she did so, Tim noticed a large fallen tree that was across from where she hung on. He yelled to her and pointed it out. Although it was on the opposite side of the where she was, with whatever energy she had, she was able to push herself into the direction of the tree and grab hold.
Her backpack, which she unhooked because the weight kept pulling her under, quickly floated further down river. David and I did what we could from the opposite bank to get her to breath, relax and gather some energy to pull herself up on the log and pull herself to the bank. She had very little left, but with what she did have she was able to get herself up on the tree and pull herself to shore.
To Dave's and to my amazement, when she pulled herself out, all that she had on was a tee shirt and sneakers. The power of the current was so strong it pulled the rest of her clothes off. We could see the bruising and gashes on her body. The strength behind the raging water was crashing her off bolder to bolder like a ping pong ball.
Tim ran down river to see if he could locate the backpack. Dave followed and from one side of the river I yelled words of encouragement reminding her she was safe and alive, while tears flowed down her cheeks. All the while luck was on her side. Her backpack was hung up in some fallen timber, and soon after we located another hiker up trail resting as well. He was able to find his way to our wounded hiker and he used what was a good amount of first aid to patch up her wounds.
Dave went across river in what was the only somewhat safe place for him to help as well. Tim and I couldn't make it because it was too risky. We gave Dave what clothes we could to get her warm and covered up. After pulling out her backpack from the river, we needed to unpack everything to dry out. When all was said and done, she had lost what clothes that came off in the river, her cellphone, her tent poles and a hiker pole. Everything else was safe; most importantly she was alive.
Dave camped with her that night, and Tim and I met them the next morning a mile up river where it was safer for us to cross. She was in good enough shape to actually hike with us for two days over a couple of difficult passes and, as usual, through long snow fields. Talking to her, I found that I was hiking with a pretty amazing, badass, strong, silly, brave and (as I yelled at her for attempting to cross a river solo) foolish young lady.
It turned out we helped rescue one of the actually better hikers on trail. When we rested the next day, she showed us that she had 72 Snicker bars in her bear canister and offered us each 5 bars for our help. What a win!!! We actually joked that if we knew of the large number of Snickers, we probably would have made an effort to save the pack first.
After two days of hiking together, she took a side trail with another hiker we met on Mather's pass to get into the town of Bishop. She needed to rest and replace what she had lost floating down that river....
This hiker's name is Mika. Mika is 18 years old and from Canada. She decided to solo hike the PCT after working hard to finish school early. After three days off in Bishop, Mika returned to trail, and I'm willing to bet she's not far behind us.
There's a lot of good to learn from this experience and some that could have been very bad. I'm sure she learned a lot from it and approached the hike differently after that. For me, the experience left an image that stays with me every time I've taken a chance. With everything needed to accomplish a quest like this, sometimes luck plays a part. Sometimes the right time, right place, does as well.
Left to right: Tim, Mika ,Me, and Dave
Hike it safe... hike the good hike.....