BSA Venturing Crew 2817 and BSA Troop 828 Trip Story
We had two crews comprised of members of BSA Venturing Crew 2817 and BSA Troop 828 from Stillwater, OK (Cimarron Council BSA) out on the water doing the same 81-mile route. Because we could not travel together, the Venturing Crew/Troop co-ed crew hung back to let the Troop crew get about a half day ahead of us. On our 5th day out, we headed east on Wet Lake and across 2-3 other small lakes coming to the 12-foot falls at the beginning of the fall chain between Wet Lake and Saganagons Lake. This is where we found Stephen Nelson, 61, and his 20-year-old daughter camped on the rocks in the middle of the portage trail at the falls. The previous evening, Mr. Nelson had been making his second trip on this portage when he slipped and fell on the slick rocks. His years as a volunteer on the ski patrol had prepared him to know what it meant when his left knee cap shifted out of alignment to the right accompanied by a crunching sound like crushed Pringles potato chips. He was not going anywhere! Two other canoes came by that evening and the boaters helped erect a temporary shelter over Mr. Nelson where he lay. One of the boaters was in a solo canoe and he left the following morning at 6 a.m. headed for the ranger station in Cache Bay to call in a sea plane. That had been four hours earlier on the morning that we found Mr. Nelson.
We got our satellite phone out and Mr. Sheffert called the Quetico Park Ranger office. After some discussion, the ranger station located a good set of maps that were comparable to ours and was finally able to determine that someone had already called in this injury and a sea plane had been dispatched. About that same time, a sea plane came into view and flew over our area. We waved paddles and PFDs to draw attention to ourselves. The plane rocked its wings at us and headed west, presumably to a larger lake to land. Our youth began removing the center thwart from Mr. Nelson's kevlar Wenonah and packed away the Nelsons' gear. Mrs. Armstrong used her wilderness first aid training to care for Mr. Nelson and immobilized his left knee by using a camp pillow, inflatable sleeping pad and straps. He insisted on scooting down the steep rock face with someone supporting the injured leg to get to his canoe that was now waiting for him at the water's edge. After lifting Mr. Nelson into the center of his boat, we sent Mr. Sheffert to help paddle the Nelsons' canoe and four of our strongest youth paddlers (three boys and 1 girl) in two of our boats to escort the Nelsons back up 3 lakes to Wet Lake where the sea plane had finally been able to land. Fortunately, there was only one land portage where the lakes were also connected by a very narrow creek. Mr. Sheffert and the Scouts carefully pulled Mr. Nelson & his canoe back up that creek and gently lifted the canoe over the top of a beaver dam located at the top of the creek and then paddled him the rest of the way to the waiting sea plane. After loading their gear, Mr. Nelson and his daughter onto the sea plane, the pilot and our guys helped strap the Nelsons' canoe onto the legs of the sea plane and then they watched as the plane taxied away and lifted off the water. The plane circled back over the rocks near the falls and tipped its wings as a "Thank You" to where part of our trek had stayed behind and then circled back over the area where our paddling rescuers where making their way back to the falls and "thanked" them before it made the turn to take Mr. Nelson and his daughter to Cache Bay to catch a water taxi back to the US side where their vehicle was parked.
The Venturing Crew/Troop trek was now about a full day behind schedule, so we got up at 4:30 a.m. the next morning and paddled 21 miles, spending about 30 minutes cutting through tree trunks to clear two blocked areas on one of the portage trails. It was a long hard day, but no one complained as we all felt proud to have been able to use our first aid and paddling skills to help someone in need. It wasn't until both of our crews came off the water that we learned that the solo paddler who had left at 6 a.m. that morning to report the accident to Cache Bay had come across our second crew at about 8:30 a.m. and had called in the accident on their satellite phone. That was why the sea plane had arrived just as we were ready to transport Mr. Nelson.
"Be Prepared" is the Boy Scout motto. We were and it paid off!
Venturing Crew 2817 Advisor
Troop 828 Committee Member
Troop 828 Assistant Scoutmaster