There’s always a reason for someone needing help. When you spend a lot of time on the Slickrock Trail, looking for people who need help, you see a lot of reasons.
I passed three people out at the halfway point. Two men and a woman waiting, it turned out, for the second woman of the group. I said hello and told them I’d look for their friend as I went along their backtrail. I found her pretty quickly, just over the next hill. She was lying nearly upside down on the trail, tangled in her bike, with her feet trapped by the pedal clips.
She wasn’t hurt, but she wasn’t happy either. It seemed she’d been there for at least longer than she thought she should have had to wait for her friends.
I got her untangled, and watched her head off to her friends. I didn’t have to hear the words to understand the gist of the conversation she had with them.
Probably mostly with her boyfriend.
She’d needed help because she couldn’t reach her foot clips, which were well above her head, and because her riding partners were willing to wait, but not to go back to look – yet.
I dropped into the sand at the Abyss, heading for the Wall. As usual, I gave my bike a “Yaaaah!” when I hit the Wall. I’d learned that the yell helped get us up that rough, stepped, 45-degree ledge. Right then, in my peripheral vision, I saw something on the left, at the bottom of the Wall, back a little in the bushes. I turned around at the top and went back down, stopping at the bottom in the sand and twisting around to see what I’d almost seen before.
It was a young boy, maybe 10 or 12 years old. He was almost hiding in the bushes. He was scared. He was alone. He was more than a mile into the trail. And he was bloody.
“Hey, buddy,” I said, “Come on out and let’s see where you’re hurt. I’ve got some Band-Aids I can help you with.”
He came out reluctantly. Probably been told to avoid strangers. But I coaxed him out. He let me start washing the blood off and I found he had a small cut on his arm which he had been rubbing, wiping the blood all over.
It looked much worse than it was, thankfully.
“So, Matt, are you out here alone?”
“No, my Dad and Brother are out here, but I couldn’t keep up with them, so we decided I’d go back to the car.”
“Well, we’ll get you out of here OK,” I said. And we headed out.
Matt needed help because he was left to a situation he couldn’t handle alone.
“Heeeeeyyyyy!” We heard a yell as we came around the corner. He’d seen us first. My son and I pulled up and looked up the steep cliff/hill, where halfway up a motorcyclist was spread-eagled on the face of the rock next to his bike.
He’d tried to ride up the incline and hadn’t made it. Now he couldn’t move without falling 30 yards down the wall of rock, maybe tangled with his bike. You never know what you’re gonna find out there.
“Don’t move,” I called, “We’re gonna come around from above and drop you a rope.”
“You got a rope?” Carl asked.
“Sure. Looks like a good idea right now,” I said.
We went above and tossed the guy a thin cord, telling him to tie it to his handlebars and then to slowly work with us and hold on to the bike as we dragged it up the rock.
“No. Don’t tie it to your hand.” I told him, “I don’t want to hang you by your wrist.”
It worked. We pulled him up.
He’d needed help because he tried something that didn’t work, and he hadn’t really thought about what would happen if it didn’t.
Day after day, year after year, there were people out on Slickrock who needed my help. I was glad to be there. It made the ride special. And, I’m sure, it made me feel that I was somehow special, too. After all, I could do things and help people who needed help.
Then, it was my turn. I was down in the sand with my motorcycle nearly upside down at the bottom of a sandstone hill. The bike was pinning my foot in the sand at the base of a bush. With every movement of my foot, the bike moved down, too. This was a spot where I’d need help. I finally stopped struggling and waited for that help.
Villiam, or “Big V,” as we call him, came to the top of the hill and looked down.
“You gonna come along soon?” he asked.
“Think I’ll just lay here a bit more,” I said.
He pulled the bike off my foot.
I’d needed help because, let’s all face it, sometimes we all need help.
Give help when you can, and accept it when you must. We’re all in this together.
Jim Walker is always happy to be riding in Moab. When he’s on the trail, he keeps an eye out for any fellow riders in need of a hand.