What happens in Vegas… The Final Battle.. or Something. (Part 3)

*** Note: This is a 3 part post and they are shown in the order I published them. Please read parts one and two below before reading part 3. ***

Try to imagine it. You’re stuck in the middle of the night on top of a mountain surrounded by short pines without food, water, flashlight, or warm clothes.

I carefully and slowly walk around the top of the mountain with the cell phone held up high. I’m hoping to get a signal, but it’s dangerous to walk around in the dark like that. I sit down to think about my situation. I just can’t bring myself to consider climbing back down the mountain. There’s no way in Hades I want to go plunging down the side of the mountain again tonight. I was lucky not to incapacitate myself the last time.

So, I continue to slowly move around the top of the mountain and watch the cell. After what must be hours, I get a slight signal. No bars per say, but the red light turns off. I immediately dial 911. Unfortunately, 911 location wasn’t working at this time so my call got routed to West Michigan. I quickly explain to the Michigan State Police what has happened, and then I have to wait while they transfer my call across the US, praying all the while that the call doesn’t drop.

As soon as this kind lady, who sounded like my grandmother, answered the phone she immediately demanded my cell phone number and instructed me not to call anyone if disconnected. She would try me back. As soon as I give it to her, the call drops. In fact, it drops so suddenly I wondered if she had gotten the number. So, I sit down on a rock, watch the stars, and think about the terrible turn my life had taken this day.

To be honest, I cannot remember exactly who each person who helped me was and which department they worked for so I am making up names. After at least 30 minutes, the phone rings. The kindly elderly lady interviews me.

Me: Hello!
Dorothy: This is Dorothy of the Las Vegas Police Department. What is your situation?
Me: Well, my name is David Stein. I’m a tourist from Michigan and I’ve done something very stupid. I’m lost on top of a mountain, I think it’s Charleston, outside of Vegas.
Dorothy: Are you injured?
Me: I’ve twisted my ankle pretty badly. It’s swelling, but I’ll live.
Dorothy: Do you have water? Are you dressed warmly? Do you have a flashlight?
Me: (sheepish) Umm… none of the above…
Dorothy: Sir, what are you doing in the desert without proper clothing, water, or a flashlight?
Me: Ma’am, I’m stupid. I’m from Michigan and I’ve never been in the desert. Please save me.
Dorothy: Don’t worry, we’ll save you. Use your phone to get your GPS coordinates and I’ll call you right back for them.

I go through several attempts of getting the numbers and struggle to remember them until she calls back. I answer her call:

Me: blurts out the coordinates.
Dorothy: Alright, I’ll have Sargent Smith from Air Rescue call you back. Sit tight.
Me: Yes ma’am. Please don’t forget about me.
Dorothy: laughs… don’t worry.

So, I wait about another hour freezing on top of this mountain and listening intently for mountain lions who I am sure are just waiting for the right time to devour me alive. I think I’ve been away from my car for at least 4 or 5 hours now. Finally, the phone rings. Try to imagine Sargent Smith as an older leathery guy like John Wayne. He certainly sounded like it.

Me: Hello.
SS: This is Sargent Smith of Air Rescue. Is this David? (I swear the man asked this)
Me: Yes Sir.
SS: What is your condition son?
Me: Well, I’ve been out climbing mountains for about 5 hours. My ankle is twisted and swelling. I’ve had nothing to eat or drink, and I’ve got to pee really bad. (I added that last bit as a joke because I really needed to break the tension.)
SS: Don’t you have water?
Me: No Sir. (I cringe because I know what’s coming next)
SS: Son, why on earth are you hiking in the desert without water?
Me: Sir, I didn’t intend to hike. I got lost. I’m an idiot from the Midwest, who’s never seen a mountain before. Please save me anyway.
SS: Well, since you have to pee, you’ll need to catch that and re-drink it. (I swear he said this).
Me: (Incredulous) Umm… how long am I going to be stuck out here? You have got to be kidding me about drinking pee.
SS: Laughs. Yeah, I’m just fooling you. We do that to all the lost people. However, it will be a couple more hours before I can get you out.
Me: Sir, I’m not trying to sound unappreciative but why so long?
SS: Because hikers just found some guy on the other side of Vegas who was lost for over 2 days without water and he’s hallucinating. I’ll call you when the helicopter gets near you.

So, I wait another 2 hours, until I hear the helicopter’s wump wump wump… As soon as I hear the helicopter the phone rings.

SS: Alright Son, they are looking for you. Can you shine your flashlight at them?
Me: (cringing again) Sir, I don’t have one. Again, I’m an idiot, please save me.
SS: What are you wearing?
Me: A black t-shirt and ripped dark green shorts.
SS: How are they going to see you? Why don’t you just hide under a tree?
Me: Laughs. Well, I can signal them by using my camera to flash at them.
SS: Good, do that. I’ll be in contact with the pilot. Good luck.

So, I repeatedly take pictures of nothing but the dark outline of the copter and it hovers above me. A real mountain man comes down on a line and winch kind of like this.

Rescue Harness

I have a conversation with the Mountain Man. We’re yelling as to be heard over the rotors.

MM: Sir, I’m Jeff and I’m here to get you out.
Me: I’d greatly appreciate that Jeff.
MM: Put this harness on like I have mine (and he helps me).
MM: Are you a hiker or mountain climber?
Me: Do I look like one? (I ask this in a joking way as if you’ll remember, I am a large person)
MM: Well, how did you get up here with a bad ankle.
Me: Umm.. I was terrified. I could have carried that helicopter up the side of the mountain if I had to.
MM: How much do you weigh?
Me: Around 250lbs.
MM: Oh no. That winch isn’t rated for that much weight. We’ll have to have you dangling out on the line when we fly out. You won’t actually be inside the helicopter.
Me: (I was just about at my emotional breaking point) You have got to be freaking kidding me???
MM: Yeah I’m messing with you. It’ll pull you inside the copter.

So, he goes back up into the copter and I wait for the line to come back down. I hook myself up and I slowly raise into the air. I wish I could say that I handed it like this:

Robert Downey Jr.

Robert Downey Jr. Air America

However, the truth is that I am scared to death until Mountain Man gets me into the copter and buckled into my seat.

Amazingly, the pilot doesn’t take me straight back to my car. They buzzed around Vegas and gave me a tour. It was an amazing ride. At this point I asked the Mountain Man how much the fine would be. I figured they gave me the tour because there was going to be a huge “stupid tax” I would have to pay and I was more than willing to do so. Again, I was amazed to find out the rescue was paid for by the tax payers of Nevada. They did tell me that I could donate to a fund for new equipment as the Mountain Men were volunteers. I did so after I returned to Michigan. They sat me down right near my car and suggested I go to the hospital to have my leg looked at.

So, why did I tell this story? Well, because parts of it are really funny, though I suspect it’s better when I tell it in person. Also, it was a great experience because I learned something about myself. I learned that I can go farther than I thought, and it’s important to test your limits from time to time. For another, I learned that I need to watch more SurvivorMan.

Finally, I learned to take tours and refrain from getting myself into stupid situations.

In fact, this year I’m going to skip the rental car.

5 comments to What happens in Vegas… The Final Battle.. or Something. (Part 3)

  • I’ve been reading along for a while now. I just wanted to drop you a comment to say keep up the good work.

  • That is so awesome. In retrospect, of course. What a tough story….

  • Jason Griffith

    Well, that certainly beats any similar story that I could tell. I’m not nearly as adventurous as I used to be, but if you took away the chest-biting cactus, then I can relate pretty closely.

    Very interesting read though.

  • Fred Crawford

    David, I was ready to pee myself reading this. It sounds like something that I would get myself into.

  • I volunteer for my county’s Search and Rescue. We meet far too many people out in the forest who wind up lost just like you did. You were extremely fortunate that you had a cell phone and managed to get a signal. In some areas of the wilderness, you’d never get a signal at all. Next time you’re out there, please be sure to take a small backpack with basic supplies with you when you leave your car. A compass and map would also be a good idea. 🙂

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