Have you ever been sincerely and completely lost?
Or, have you ever been stranded in such a way or in a place that rescue or help is highly unlikely?
I am not talking about having a flat tire with no spare on the side of a road. Nor am I talking about not being able to find the address of the office you are looking for that you are late to a meeting at.
What we are talking about today is being stranded in the Alaskan mountains.
Have you ever been truly stranded?
I have, a couple of times. It is a terrible feeling. Knowing there is no one to know you are missing. Knowing that even if someone realized you were missing, it is doubtful that they would know where to look and impossible to get to you.
Standing for Survival with #Stand4theManinBlack really brings this situation to light.
Just yesterday we received word that a gentleman and his grown daughter, last seen in the Yukon, were to have said to be heading our way on horseback and hadn’t been heard from.
Stand for the Man in Black is a fundraiser to raise the funds to replace the aircraft lost to a fire in September 2013.
“Where are they?”
It was easy to see that this was seriously tormenting the Boss, Master Guide Terry Overly (The Man in Black) before he said a word.
“We must have an airplane.”
Were they lost? Were they hurt? Worse?
There was no one who could find what is lost better than the Man in Black. Master Guide Terry Overly, Alaskan Bush Pilot, is the one that people call when things go wrong in this block of Alaska’s remote mountain ranges.
After a meeting with maps, weather reports and discussions of routs, trails and options that may or may not have been open; the bottom line was we had no idea as to where to begin to search.
A new full time resident to Chisana had flown in a few days ago and after a few quick phone calls and a couple of jugs of av-gas, the neighbor and Terry took off inn his “town” plane (stock with no altitude modifications), a Cessna 185, to go look for the missing riders.
“We didn’t see them and we saw no horses.”
Terry explained they had flown over the multiple routes the riders may have taken, but the 185 was just so fast and the pilot wasn’t really comfortable flying really low to the ground.
They were looking for any trace of the overdue and missing Father and daughter. Flying above Alaska’s tundra and dangerous terrain, Terry was also looking for kicked up divots of earth that would mark the passing of horses, even at a walk.
“All we saw, in all the territory we covered was one person standing beside the big lake watching us fly over. They never waived or motioned to us, so I don’t know if it was a hunter dropped off by a plane on floats or what. There were no horses around.”
After deciding to pack a message and some emergency supplies including a hand-held radio along with some food, we wrapped and padded a feedbag and attached it to a parachute to be dropped from the plane.
He left to meet the pilot to fly again and drop the parachute to the unknown person and to keep searching.
I know Terry was concerned about dropping the parachute from the unknown aircraft. But I also had full confidence that it was only a matter of time, as a passenger even if not the pilot, that Terry would spot the missing people.
“Found them! The Father was asleep in the trees. They had lost their horses and were walking towards Chisana. We’ll go pick them up tomorrow with the 4-wheelers.”
The two men left early the next morning with the 4-wheelers to make the cross-country trip to the big lake on the other side of a nearby pass. Both the Father and daughter were happy to see them and happier yet to arrive in Chisana early this afternoon.
When I asked the Father, Doug, this question he breathed a deep sigh before he answered.
“I don’t know.
The mare Stephanie (his daughter) was riding went down, she simply collapsed, I thought she had broken her leg.
She struggled and struggled unable to stand up for the longest time and when she finally did get up, she wouldn’t move.
We had unpacked her by this time and I couldn’t feel anything broken obviously, so we decided to just camp there for the night.
We hobbled the other four (4) horses we were using and left the three (3) following loose. I didn’t hobble the mare, because honestly I thought I would have to put her down in the morning. I was still convinced she had broken her leg somehow.”
That’s where he stopped and so I sat next to him on the couch and waited. After a good ling while, I looked at him and asked, “Where are the horses, Doug?”
So we sat there for a bit longer, sipping our coffee in front of the warm wood stove with three dogs laying beside and on our feet.
Finally Doug sighed and turned to me and told me what had to have been hard for him to say; this experienced and respected mountain man and gifted horseman.
“I just don’t know. Terry said he flew all the way to where we put in. There was no trace of them.
Stephanie and I walked to the top of the little mountain to look down at the valley, but we couldn’t find them either. We found one set of hobbles about half way up the mountain, but no others.
I can’t imagine that they would cross the river on their own, so they have to be on this side.
We decided to wait. I knew Overly would come find us. Even without a plane, he’d be here. That’s what I told my daughter, Stephanie. He’d be there.
Ha! And when that bag came flying out of that plane yesterday, I knew it was him. Crazy old Guide.
Well, when the horses took off and dammit I should have known not to leave the hobbles off that mare, injured or not.
Sure was relieved though, when Terry flew over.”
Nodding, I sat back and we settled into the peaceful silence and each gave our own thanks to having both Doug and his daughter Stephanie safe in Chisana.
#Stand4theManinBlack is a fundraiser for survival.
This fundraiser is a matter of survival.
- Survival of a way of life.
- Survival of anyone who find himself or herself in need, here in the wilderness.
- Survival of the range horses.
- Survival of a near-century old business.
- Survival of a community.
- The very real survival of the spiritual place humanity needs to know is available to them.
This search and rescue turned out fine. Doug and Stephanie are safe. Our own Professional Guides will help Doug and his daughter find the missing horses and their own adventure will continue.
This is what Stand for the Man in Black is all about. This and so much more.
To find out more about Stand for the Man in Black: