Campbell River dental hygienist Dori Davis had hiked the Ripple Rock trail before, but not for a few years.
On Monday, she and a friend, along with their two dogs, headed out on the popular route in the light morning drizzle about 7 a.m. They reached the end of the trail, enjoyed the vistas, and began to head back around 8:30.
The trail was a bit wet from the rain, and Davis slipped on a “larger, smooth rock.” She knew she was injured, but didn’t think it was that bad, and she tried to continue up the trail but was unable to put any weight on her right leg. After a rest, she tried again.
But it was broken.
Davis had cell service, thankfully, and called her husband, who called BC Ambulance.
BC Ambulance, however, only goes as far as trail heads, so Campbell River Search and Rescue (SAR) was called.
SAR sprung to action, extracting Davis from the bluffs overlooking Seymour Narrows with the help of a helicopter.
“Her ankle was twisted to the point where she couldn’t put any weight on it whatsoever,” said Daryl Beck, search manager for the extraction.
They weren’t sure the helicopter extraction would work. There isn’t a lot of open area in which to land a chopper up there.
“We had a secondary option on standby, which was a marine extraction should we be unable to get to them with the chopper,” Beck said.
The marine extraction option would have involved transporting the injured woman down to the water by stretcher and then by boat back to civilization, but the team “managed to find a spot on the bluffs to put the helicopter down.”
Beck said from the time they got the call until the woman was placed in the ambulance back at the Campbell River spit, where they met the helicopter, was “within two hours,” and called the operation a “very smooth extraction.”
While two hours might seem like an eternity for someone on the side of a trail with an injury, Beck said it’s important they plan properly to avoid complications while on scene that could cause an extraction to take even longer.
“We have to look at what resources we need to do it right, what kind of manpower is available, what our options are, and then we have to make sure we’re deploying the proper volunteers with the proper skill sets in their proper roles before we can even head out. The last thing we want to do is put anyone else in danger when we’re out there.”
The woman’s hiking companion, along with her husband – who had since gone out to the scene – were able to hike out of the area on their own, but were cold and tired from the ordeal.
“This was just supposed to be a day trip, but you should always be prepared should anything go wrong,” Beck said, including bringing extra food and water, light blankets and jackets as well as having a fully charged cellphone.
“It seems far more common these days for people to actually have cell service where they are going should they need help,” Beck said. “I was able to speak with the woman from my home while she was on the trail before I even headed into the hall,” which helped him coordinate the team’s efforts much more quickly.
“I feel very lucky for how very well I was taken care of today,” Davis said after the ordeal. “From the moment I fell and we realized I couldn’t walk, to being fortunate enough to have cell service and then the standard of care I received with first communication from the SARs then the pick up and delivery to the ambulance. They seemed to truly care that I was comfortable.
“A sincere thanks to all of the amazing people who helped me today.”
She recommends that everyone heading out into nature, even for a short hike, be prepared for all eventualities.
“Our saving grace was that we had jackets due to the rain to keep me warm – thank goodness it stopped raining – and I brought a day pack with me which included an external battery charger for my cell phone which both of us needed to use to keep the cell phones going. I’ll be adding tensor bandages to my pack once I can walk again,” she said.
Don’t expect Davis to be off the trails for long. As soon as her leg is mended, she’ll be heading back out.
“I still think morning hikes are the best way to start the day,” she said.