ATV misadventure—Part 3

Doug Dillon is found by Search and Rescue, but now he must explain the situation to his family

by Doug Dillon |

ATV parked beside Harrison lake, B.C.

Now, Doug Dillon never rides alone, even on short trips. Here he is pictured with his father Bob, at Harrison Lake, B.C. — photo courtesy Doug Dillon

… continued from ATV Misadventure—Part 2

Smoke! Why would I be smelling smoke? It definitely wasn’t engine smoke. At 42, I certainly know the difference. It was campfire smoke. There was a camp nearby. I could have sworn I heard something down below.

Turns out, it was bass from a subwoofer. The sound was being drowned out by the sound of rain beating on my coat that was covering my head. OK, so now I knew I was not too far from somebody. And come daylight, it was my hope that somebody will have a good sense of helping out your fellow man, and get me the hell out of here. 

It was hard to fight the urge to start hiking down the trail, but common sense prevailed and I stayed put. Another few hours passed as I tossed and turned sitting upon my quad. Talk about a sore neck! Back rests make the worst pillows. I think it was about 3 a.m. when I heard the most beautiful sound I think I’ve ever heard since hearing my daughters saying “Daddy” for the first time.


I have never sat up so fast in my life. I listened quietly and heard it again. Was I dreaming?  There was no way I was dreaming. It was Search and Rescue! They had found me. I was safe. I yelled back as loud as I could, “Helloooo. I’m here. Heyyyy!”

But my loud-as-I-could-make-it voice sounded more like a whisper. My throat was hoarse from yelling for help earlier that night. I frantically grabbed my plug-in light and shined it in their direction.They saw me! They were walking right towards me. When they got to within arm's reach, I heard one of them radio in, “Home base, we found him. Repeat, we found Doug, and he seems to be OK.”  I don’t think I have ever shaken a guy's hand so hard, or hugged a complete stranger so hard. The worst was over.

My rescue

The Search and Rescue guys radioed back and forth with their base (some protocol stuff) when I heard one of them say, “Please let his family know that he’s OK, and call his wife at the same time please.”

“My family?” I asked. “What are you saying?” 

It turned out that my mom, dad and brother-in-law had come up to try and find me, along with Search and Rescue! Sure, it sounds nice but I was mortified. I was embarrassed enough and now I had to face my family. Ugh! And trust me when I say my mother is the emotional type and I was sure I could look forward to lots of tears and hugs. Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad after all. Heck, I could have used a hug right about then.

One of the guys said that they were just about to call off the search for the night when one of them thought they heard the sound of an engine rumbling. He convinced the others to try one more trail before calling it a night. They had all agreed and started down the Two Talking Bears Trail towards the sound of my engine (did I mention I love Bombardier?).

Shortly afterwards, I got a quick exam by the medical guy, and he took a good look at my knee. It turned out they had brought a one-wheeled stretcher with them to carry me out if need be.

Now, I was feeling really bad for making these poor guys come look for me on such a lousy night, and to have to carry that big heavy one-wheeled thing with them. I felt terrible. To be completely honest, I would have loved a ride down on that stretcher, but I felt bad enough and I would be damned if I was going to make those poor guys work any harder than they already had.

No one was sure how far down we had to go to get to the main FSR. I told one of them that I heard the sound of a subwoofer and smelled a campfire. He radioed to one of the trucks to look for a campsite or campers. When the truck found them, he blew his siren. It sounded pretty close but not close enough. We told him to continue up the road to see if there was another campsite a little closer. The truck went up a few hundred more metres and the driver blew his siren again. It was louder this time. He radioed back that he had found another campsite.

This went on for about 15 minutes until we all agreed that he was as close as he could be to our current location. I assured the SAR guys that I could make it out on my own and that at best I would just need a shoulder to lean on if the trail got a little dicey. So we packed up my gear, locked down the quad and headed down the trail to safety. 

New lessons in pain

It took us about 30 to 45 minutes to get to the bottom. Every single step was a new lesson in pain as my knee felt as if there was a knife sticking in it. But I worked through it as best I could and leaned on the SAR guys when I needed to. There were a few parts that were pretty steep and very slippery from the rain so I sat down and dragged my butt through those sections. It was slow, but it was progress. 

As we made our way down, the truck would every so often blow the siren to ensure we were heading in the right direction. Eventually, the trail levelled out and we made it to the truck and the main FSR. One of the SAR guys was marking the trail with bright fluorescent pink tape so that I would be able to return and hopefully get my quad back. These guys had thought of everything. They were fantastic!

There was an RCMP cruiser along with the truck. I sat in the front seat while the medical guys gave me another once-over in better light. I guzzled down some water, stripped off the wet stuff and sat there, huddled in front of the truck’s heater trying to stop shivering. Everyone rounded up and we drove towards the SAR base of operations. The officer was very kind (and kind of cute) and we made small talk until we arrived at the base. And before I even got out of the car, there was Mom with tears in her eyes heading towards the cruiser.

I got out and gave her a big hug. As I mentioned, she was blubbering all over the place, muttering things like, “Don’t ever do this to me again,” and “I thought I’d lost you.” All the things a loving mom would normally say. And I loved every second of it.  Now the big question was if I would be receiving the same reaction from my wife, or should I be asking the RCMP officer to come home with me and be ready for a domestic disturbance report!

An ATVer sitting on a quad.

Doug Dillon, pictured here, has now fully recovered from his ATV incident, but he’s learned a lot from it. — photo courtesy Doug Dillon

Home, at last

The ride home was pretty quiet. I was tired and still a little woozy from the spill. I think I slept most of the drive home in relative peace, and comforted by the fact that I was with my mom and dad. It’s amazing how that can still be as comforting as your favourite blanket—even at the age of 42!

As we neared my house, my comfort quickly started to change to fear. I mean what would your wife do? Well, being as this is the first time this sort of thing had ever happened, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. 

I got out of the car and walked towards the door. My dad said not to worry about the gear and that he would look after everything. I was sort of hoping he would leave it for me to do. I was too scared to open the front door! OK, no more delays. I walked up the steps and opened the door.

I was greeted by a loving wife that thought she had almost lost her hubby. I don’t think she ever held me so tight. I don’t think I ever held her so tight. It was a beautiful reunion that should never have happened in the first place. But I was glad it was hugs and not hits that were waiting for me—although I certainly deserved the latter.

We walked up the stairs and I told her about the adventure while changing and then revelling in a hot shower. When I was done, I looked in on my girls and kissed them both good morning. I slipped into bed with my wife in my arms and before I drifted off to sleep, I thanked God for what I had. Actually, it was thanks for who I had. I thought to myself, “I’ll rescue the quad some other time.” ZZzzzzzz.

Rescuing my quad

Well, as it turns out, “some other time” was just a few hours later. I was up about 11 a.m. and my dad and brother-in-law had rallied a salvage party and were about to head up to Chipmunk. They had every intention of leaving me behind to rest while they go get Big Red. I was not having any of that! For one, they needed me to find it—or so I thought. And after what we had been through, I kind of thought I owed it to her to go get her myself.

So, after securing all our “rescue” gear, off we went. It was my new friend, Ryan, who orchestrated the mini rally and took charge of the salvage operation. He had all the right tools and seemed to know what he was doing. I was starting to wonder if he’d done this before.

It wasn’t too long before we arrived at the spot where I had emerged with the Search and Rescue only a few hours earlier. One of the guys had marked the area really well with fluorescent tape so I could locate it easily the next day. We walked up the trail and I was ready for a good hike. Not 10 minutes had passed before I recognized the uphill trail that caused an end to my trek and saw a glimpse of red. There she was, in one piece and waiting for me. To my utter surprise, there was also something else waiting for me. Another salvage party! 

It was a few other fellows who had seen my quad earlier and decided it was free for the taking—at least that was my impression. I mean why else would they be traversing down an obvious single-track trail with ropes around their shoulders?

We yelled at them to stop and not come any farther or they would not be able to turn around and head back the way they came. Getting around us would not have been possible. They had turned off their motors so they could understand us clearly. Sure, they understood us but it works both ways. With their engines turned off, I was able to hear them talking as well. The two men stood there with their ropes and obviously disappointed faces, talking about how they should have gotten there sooner, and cursing up a storm. They didn’t even offer to help. Who could blame them for being ticked off, right? After all, they almost got their hands on a free quad! They fired up their machines and that was the last we saw of them. Jerks!

That left us to our task of getting the quad down the slope and back home. It was not too difficult of a job but a little nerve-racking watching the ropes strain under the pressure of lowering down a 600-pound quad. With a little skill, a lot of luck and a great effort by one of my friends, Ryan, who’s a bit of a lumberjack at heart, we got the machine down in one piece and rode it back to the trailer. Aside from a little less oil, it ran like nothing ever happened. I love my Can-Am!

For the entire story by Doug Dillon, read ATV Misadventure—Part 1 and ATV Misadventure—Part 2

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