The day started out like any other day with a plan to hit the outdoors. Up in the early morning for a hearty South Dakota breakfast at a favorite haunt, and then the one hour drive to Palisades State Park for a late morning of rock climbing and hiking on the unusually warm mid-fall day. That was the plan, but it didn't happen that way.
We all overslept, and it was a mad scramble to get on the road. Not only was there the pressure of the time, but there was also the fact that our favorite restaurant on the way up stops serving breakfast at 10:30 AM. With not even a minute to spare we got on the road and headed north. When we pulled into the parking lot of Cody's, about 15 miles from our home, it was closed for the day. Located in a remote area, the dining options became very limited.
Arriving in the small town of Elk Point, South Dakota we scoured around for somewhere, anywhere serving up breakfast. We finally ended up eating at a bar that served up surprisingly good food. The lone waitress (who also served as cook) was running in circles due to the crowd, no doubt who also went to Cody's to find it closed. By the time we left the bar, it was past 11:30 AM and half the day was gone.
When we arrived at Palisades State Park we got to the King & Queen Rock Trailhead quickly. I was teased for bringing full gear to the park, the ever brave scout heading off down the 1/4 mile trail. Still, I felt it was important to bring the full gear, and I even double checked the first aid kit before leaving home earlier.
We hurriedly left the OutdoorPlaces.Com van and moved up the trail. We were in such a rush, we didn't even bother to fill our water bottles at the hand pump by the trailhead. It was at the base of King & Queen Rock we ran into him. A young teenager moved down the trail toward us. His right leg below the knee covered in bright red blood and his sock soaked. He was dazed and not aware of the extent of his injuries. I asked him where he was going, and he had planned to hike out. I firmly suggested he sit down and we mobilized.
His friend went to look for his parents, who were up at the trailhead and another went to the rangers station. Within ten minutes the local rescue team had arrived. Because I had brought full gear I was able to administer first aid on the spot and bring the bleeding under control. We found out in conversation that this 13 year-old had fallen about 15 feet off of King & Queen Rock and done quiet a number on himself. He earned a free trip to the hospital in an ambulance.
When we walked out with the rescue team back to the trailhead our photographer noticed something. I had left the drivers door to the van wide open 45 minutes earlier when we first arrived. It was then we had all realized what had happened. Had we left on time, we would have long ago completed our climb and had moved on to another area of the park. Had we returned to North Sioux City for breakfast we would have probably never known about the accident. Had we not been in such a mad rush to get to those rocks, the young man may have staggered down the length of the trail, causing even worse injury to his leg. Had I listened to my climbing mates, the gear probably would have stayed home, or best case in the van.
I have never considered myself religious or a believer that fate is our guide. Call it what you will, but something out there much bigger than you or me was very interested in making sure this young man got help at the very moment he needed it. It was also interested in making sure that we were the ones to be there for him. It is amazing how these things happen, isn't it?