ATV misadventure—Part 2

In this installment of Doug Dillon’s ATV misadventure story, he is reunited with his ATV and spends a night in the pouring rain

by Doug Dillon |

Two ATVers riding on a Forest Service Road.

Although Doug Dillon was rescued, his experience could've been a lot worse. That's why it is important to always be prepared and never ride alone. — photo courtesy Doug Dillon

… continued from ATV Misadventure—Part 1

It was my 911 call going through! My cell had found a signal. Hope! I had the cell on speaker mode, and I heard the voice starting to say her standard greeting: “911 emergency, do you need police, fire or ambulance?”

I think I let her get halfway through “emergency” before I started yelling to her my name and status!

“Hello, hello. My name is Doug, and I am lost and hurt somewhere off the Mount Thurston Trail at Chipmunk Creek in Chilliwack. It was very hard to get a signal so please don’t hang up and help me as fast as you can before I lose the signal.” 

“OK Doug,” she replied. “I got you, don’t worry. I’ll stay here with you and we will come find you.”

A pure rush of relief washed over me. Now I will be OK. The rest of the call must have been pretty routine for the 911 operator, but to me, it was a conversation that was a pure godsend! Someone now knows that I am lost, my quad is damaged and I am hurt. The rest would work itself out somehow. 

We spoke for a little while about how I got myself in this predicament and exchanged pleasantries. I just wanted to keep her on the line as long as possible. But a lack of signal strength made sure that wasn’t going to happen. We were disconnected!

I swore a streak that would have made a sailor blush (as if anyone was going to hear me up here)! I once again felt a little tinge of panic. Did I give her enough info? Was it enough for her to relay to Search and Rescue? Will she relay the information correctly? I had no choice but to wait.

Waiting to be rescued

So I sat there on the edge of the cliff with one of the best views in front of me that you could imagine. Despite my predicament, I couldn’t help but marvel at the beautiful view and I forced myself not to take it for granted.

So I just sat there, waiting, and waiting, and waiting. What exactly I was waiting for I wasn’t sure. Someone yelling my name? An RCMP officer on a quad? A helicopter? Some beer-swilling good ole boys who just happened to be passing by (without the banjos)? I wasn’t sure how I was going to be rescued. One thing was for sure, I thought for certain that I was in the best, most open and most visible spot on the mountain I could be. But just in case, I tied a white plastic bag to a small tree to act like a flag and then I used duct tape to tie my medical kit just above it. It was bright yellow and very reflective. I wasn’t taking any chances.

More time passed. I was getting a little impatient so I called 911 again, thinking maybe I can catch another signal. Nothing! But the little beeps started up again and once again kept me company for a while.

After about 30 minutes or so, fate smiled upon me again. Another signal. So again, I spoke to the 911 operator and told her more details about where I thought I was. I didn’t want to let her go but she told me to hang up and save my battery so they can use my cellphone to try and locate me. I didn’t know they could do that—cool! 

So I reluctantly agreed and hung up. It was like saying good-bye to an old friend after a brief visit. I felt sad and lonely again. But that was OK. Things were looking up—until I noticed the sun had just dipped behind the mountain peaks. Dark clouds were moving in. It was getting late. And I was running out of time.

Try, and try again

Now what do I do? There was no way anyone will find me in the dark, and I had no way to make a fire. All the wood was wet from the rain earlier that morning. Maybe they have that night vision stuff and will see me from a chopper. Nah—too much TV. If they even look for me at night they will be on the main trails. I had to find my way back to the trail or it was going to be a long hard night. So I gathered my things, took down my little homemade flag and headed towards the direction I thought I had come from.

It wasn’t too long before I found what I was looking for—the trail. Success! No matter what happened now, I know I was going to get myself out of this. I think maybe that knock to the head was worse than I thought. I usually have a great sense of direction but for some reason this time I had none. Until now. Whoo-hoo!

Walking back up the trail to reach the point of entry from the main FSR was not an option. My knee just couldn’t do it. So down I limped, headed slowly back to my quad. 

A group of ATVers lined up.

Doug Dillon is a member of the Right Nuts ATV Club, based in Chilliwack, B.C. — photo courtesy Doug Dillon

Walking at a snail's pace, I was thinking what to do when I get there. I thought about how I could use the winch to get the quad back on four wheels and I had a plan. But, at the same time, I had to think about what to do if I failed. So I thought, "I’ll torch the bloody quad!” But I would wait till about 4 or 5 a.m. so that it would be seen in the dark and last long enough to give people time to see it. If that failed, I’d simply keep limping down the trail until I found someone, or vice versa. 

I love Bombardier

It wasn’t too long before I rounded the bend and saw my quad just up ahead, lying upside down. Poor girl. Once I reached her, I took a very short rest, then started to unravel the winch’s cable. It was only a 50-footer so I prayed it would be enough. I wrapped it around two trees that were uphill and hooked the end to the quad’s hitch. I figured it may just get the back end up enough on the path that maybe I could try to flip it over myself.

It was working! In fact, it was working better than I had hoped. The winch was pulling it up and forwards. The only downside was that it was bending my rear handle grips back so they would be toast. But at least they were saving my rear cargo box. Heck, I can always replace the handle. Slowly and carefully, the Warn 2500 did its job and before I knew it, she was back up on four wheels.

There was even a little bit of daylight left. Things were looking up! I retracted the cable, assessed the damage and wondered if I should try starting it. I turned the key, pressed the start button and "vroom!" It’s official—I love Bombardier.

It ran and it ran well! It ran, and it was going to get me out of this mess. Or so I was hoping. I was wondering how much oil I had lost while it was upside down. I wondered if I was going to fry the engine. But hey, after all, I had been willing to torch it—so what’s a blown engine, anyway? I jumped on and started down the trail.

Could it get any worse?

It was still pretty narrow and very dangerous. But this time I was going to do it right. Every time I came to a spot that was too narrow, I got off and hooked the winch to an uphill tree. I used the winch as an anchor to keep the quad from taking another tumble down the hill. I had to do this three or four times before two things happened: one, it was now very dark, and two, I had reached an impasse. Oh, and did I mention it started to rain?

Actually pour is more like it. Man, did it ever come down, and it was about 8 C. It was going to be a very long, very cold, very wet night.

The rain came down hard and fierce. The wind started to pick up and the trees were rocking back and forth, seeming to test their limits of flexibility. I glanced up and wondered where the best place to sleep would be. Under a tree that might snap or on my quad in total exposure to the monsoon rains. I decided on the ground, right between my quad and a large tree. I figured that way if a tree came down it would either hit my quad or lean against the old pine before it would crush me like a bug. But before I nestled, all snuggled with the pine cones and needles, I needed to get a few extra layers on.

I had an extra sweatshirt and mud suit in my trunk as well as another rain jacket. As fast as I could, I whipped off my current riding gear and put on the extra inner layer. As fast as I was able to change, it was no match for the rain. I still managed to get pretty wet. I put on the mud suit and laid down for the night. I used my extra raincoat to cover my face and to keep my head dry. It may sound terrible, but in actuality it was pretty nice. I mean after all, I was pretty comfy. The rain was not penetrating my gear and I absolutely love the sound of rain on a rooftop. Only in this case, my rooftop was my raincoat.

I closed my eyes and tried to sleep. It was more like napping. I wasn’t able to get into a deep sleep, for obvious reasons. But a rest was good and I had every intention of waking up the next morning and walking the hell out of there.

Signs of life elsewhere

A few hours passed, tossing and turning, while I unsuccessfully tried to get more comfortable. I was doing OK until the little stream started running underneath me. Keeping the rain off me was not too hard but keeping the rain from underneath me was another story! I got up and hopped on the quad.

Let me tell you, trying to sleep on a quad is a perfect exercise in futility. Even on my two-seater Outlander Max it was not possible. So I sacrificed some comfort in order to get a little less soaked.

Another hour or so passed. 

I think it was about midnight now and I was getting very cold. I fired up the quad and let it run. The heat from the engine was doing a good job of keeping me warm, and the headlights were a nice touch. It added a little ambience to the night. Actually, it was a pretty good idea if someone was out there looking for me. Which, at this point, I thought was not happening. I plugged in my portable air compressor and turned on the bright light and rested it on the trunk. I now had a pretty bright area around me. I was just trying to do everything right.  I settled in again for another little while—then I started to smell smoke.

To be continued . . . 


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