Things were hopping at Cloudland Canyon State Park this weekend as park personnel, local volunteer fire departments, the Dade Sheriff's Department and Puckett Emergency Service employees schlepped not one but two rescuees up and down the famous 600-odd steps of the Waterfall Trail.
Call no. 1 came at around 10:20 Saturday morning, said CCSP's Woody Hughes. Hughes, whose official title is assistant manager, is the park's acting manager after the departure of Scott Einberger, the former park head who has not yet been replaced.
The first rescuee was a man in his early 60s suffering from possible dehydration or food poisoning, said Hughes. "He was all the way down at Hemlock Falls at the platform taking pictures," said the ranger. "We ended up evaccing him out through Sitton's Gulch."
New Salem Fire Department volunteers joined park personnel going down the trail from the top of the canyon to the victim, then carrying him down the mountain where they were met halfway by Trenton Fire Department volunteers and Puckett EMS personnel coming up. As area hikers know, Sitton's Gulch Trail runs from the Canyon Park Estates neighborhood down in Trenton up the mountain to join with the Waterfall Trail.
"First we carried him out in a bucket with the wheel underneath it and then transferred him over into Puckett EMS's ATV," said Hughes. "They transported him out to a waiting ambulance and went from there."
Everything was wrapped up by lunchtime, said Hughes. The man was transported to a hospital for evaluation and as far as Hughes knows is doing fine.
That would have been quite enough of a workout for the park staff, ambulance service and local FDs, but they were not to be allowed to rest on their laurels. The next call came around 5:30 as Saturday's merciless rains were about to break.
This time the SOS came from a woman, age unknown, who had slipped coming up the trail from the waterfalls and sprained her ankle. "It was a bad enough sprain that it swelled up and she was unable to put pressure on it," said Hughes.
The Dade County Sheriff's Department joined park personnel this time, and again New Salem volunteers turned out. They walked down the trail while Hughes drove down Highway 136 to open the gate at the Sitton's trailhead. There he met Puckett EMS employees. "They drove their ATV to the bottom of the stairs and walked up to meet with the individual, and then they actually carried her up the trail and out the top," said Hughes.
Up the mountain, and all those steps, instead of down? "It was pouring down by that point," said Hughes. "That's when the storm actually came in and hit, and that's why they decided to go up as opposed to going down the Waterfall Trail."
Again, as far as Hughes knows, victim no. 2 is also doing fine. "By the time I got up to the top, she was on a stretcher and they were loading her into an ambulance to take her for further evaluation," he said.