Jim Walker

[Courtesy photo]

I’ve patrolled the Slickrock Trail every day this year, except for days that the ice was there. During the start and continuance of coronavirus shutdown, I kept riding the trail, knowing that there was always someone out there and if I didn’t come along, they might be alone when they needed help.

I started to have warnings that I wasn’t riding as well as I used to. Years ago, I would ride the trail in shorts and a t-shirt, without armor beyond a helmet and boots. I knew I wouldn’t fall on my home trail—Slickrock. I’d quit keeping track but must have ridden the trail a thousand times over the last 20 years.

Now, however, I started to fall. Here, into an unseen pothole. Then, into that drop at the Abyss. Or off the side into the hole beside Bust A Cog. I’d hit hard, my helmet cutting my nose, leaving me bloody. Or I’d jam my wrists to save my face. These were slow speed falls. I told myself I’d just be more careful. But they continued. In denial, I kept going on my daily patrol. There were always people who needed help out there, and I was going to go on as long as I could, despite the reflexes and balance that Parkinson’s was stealing from me.

My last fall was one I could not ignore. I was 3.5 miles into the trail, heading up what we call Dragon’s Back, or on some maps called Cogs To Spare. It’s a steep route up a fin that tries to push a rider to the right side. Each bounce pushes one toward that cliff on the right side. Videos often subtitle here “left, left, left!” I’d done the fin a thousand times, but this time it bumped me right, and the bike took off on me. A “runaway,” as we call it. I tried to get under control but moved further right and, finally, the side of the fin went vertical. I realized the tires could not hold any longer and the bike skidded off what was at that point a 35- to 50-foot near-vertical cliff. I kept my feet below me by skidding my boots and hit a boulder at the bottom with my pelvis. I broke that bone and the hit jarred everything in my body. Three vertebrae, two lumbar and one thoracic, crushed at the blow, losing me a bit of height.

I was off the trail, out of sight and broken. I tried to crawl to the trail but felt bones grating and decided I’d better stay still. I felt warm blood running somewhere.

I got my phone out and had service only for 911. Thanks for their better signal! I explained to dispatch where I was and they managed to guide search and rescue to me. The pros arrived and got me out to the waiting ambulance and onto my new journey of repair and recovery. I was very lucky in that we had such a great group of heroes here. They are the best!

I was at times unconscious and couldn’t get names of everyone, but let me thank some of those involved, including John, Melissa, Carly and Scott from Grand County Search and Rescue; Leah, Dennis, Chris, Henning and Andy from Grand County EMS; Barb and Bruce Lacy, Jim Davis and Mike Steele for their at-home help; Moab Regional Hospital ER and St. Mary’s Hospital where I met so many angels, and Debbie Breneman, who dedicated herself to my many needs, past and present!

I am now walking the Slickrock Trail most days. It’s a slow patrol, but all we can do is our best.

Thank you all for your help and prayers!

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