I was nearly done with my patrol of the Slickrock Trail. I’d ridden the full loop and was ready to get out of the heat and have something cool to drink. I came around a corner of the sandstone wall and saw a young man sitting in the shade. I pulled up, as I would for anyone sitting out there along the trail.
“How you doing?” I asked.
“I’m OK,” he responded, with a lot of tired in his voice and his head down.
“You’re not far from the end of the trail,” I said, “just this one last hill and you’re there. Have you still got water?”
“No,” he said. “I’ve been out for a while.”
“Here,” I said, pulling one of my jugs of water off my belt pack. “This is probably still cold. I freeze ‘em before I come out.”
“No, thanks,” he said. “I can’t take your water. I’ll be OK.”
This is what they always said. They didn’t want someone else to go thirsty for their sake.
“It’s OK,” I said. “I’m with the Moab Bike Patrol. I brought extra water for you. Take a good drink and let’s put some in your jug.”
He lifted his head and looked at the jug. He said thanks. He tilted the jug and took a sip.
“No,” I said, “you need a real drink. Go ahead. I’ve got more.”
He took a bigger drink, and then another. Then, his head went down on his knees and he moaned.
“Uh-oh,” I said. “Did we give you a brain freeze?”
“No,” he said, “That’s just the best drink I’ve ever had in my whole life.”
During another hot afternoon, Sue and I rode up to two bikers. They were looking pretty warm and dry.
“Hello,” Sue said. “You doing OK?”
“Never better, young miss,” one of the obviously British men said.
“You’re a long way from the trailhead here,” Sue said. “Do you still have water?”
“We are getting low on the water,” the tourist replied. “It’s a different type of air you have here in Moab.”
“Yes, it is,” Sue said. “We’ve got some water for you. Let’s fill those bottles of yours. I’d guess you’ve been conserving and are pretty thirsty about now.”
“That would be wonderful,” the Brit replied, “if you’re sure you’ve some to spare.”
“We do,” Sue said. “Have a good drink here.”
One took a good drink, then the other. They looked at each other and started to laugh.
Turning to us, one explained, “We cannot believe that out here in this unworldly strange place, we’ve come upon two knights in shining armor.”
Sue and I met the couple overlooking the river, where they’d finished the first third of the trail. It was a hot day. Not the hottest, but these folks had not gotten an early start on the trail.
“How you folks doing?” I asked as usual.
“We’re fine,” the man said. The men always said that. I have learned to look to the others to see how they look.
“How about you?” I asked his female companion. She was looking hot and tired. I told them both,“This is the spot where you can turn around and have two-thirds of the trail to ride today. Maybe tomorrow you could ride the other section. It is getting hot.”
“No,” the man said. “I’m a doctor and I know all about dehydration and conditioning. We’ve been working towards this for weeks now and we’re going all the way.”
They had the right to go on. No one was going to tell them they couldn’t, but I thought one more try was worthwhile.
“OK,” I said. “You’re kinda alone out here this afternoon, but I’d guess you can make it around. If you do run out of water, keep an eye out for the potholes that may still have a little water left in them. You can drink that water to keep going and you may not get sick right away. It may keep you going long enough to get to the hospital where they can treat the various diseases you may get by tonight. It can be nasty. I once got what the doctor said was some of the five waterborne sicknesses plus giardia. But, you shouldn’t die out here, anyway.”
The doctor looked at me for a bit, then said, “I think we’ll head back from here.”
As they turned around, the woman let the doctor start off, then, close to me and quietly, she said, “Thank you so much for being out here.”
Jim Walker rides for the Moab Bike Patrol, a volunteer group organized and managed by the Bureau of Land Management and administered by Russ Von Koch.
“They had the right to go on. No one was going to tell them they couldn’t, but I thought one more try was worthwhile.”