Slow and Steady

patrick walkerBy Patrick Walker

Early on a misty June morning in Redwood Regional Park, in the hills between Oakland and Moraga, my dad and I were running ahead of the pack on a 20-mile run with my Boy Scout troop. This annual run helps us train for a summer High Sierra backpacking trek.

We were about 12 miles along and passing through a grove of ancient redwoods, quiet and still in the fog, when I noticed in the distance someone hunched on the side of the trail. It didn’t look right.

As I drew closer, I saw a person sitting with legs crossed, his head bowed and hidden inside a cinched hoodie. My SAR instincts and training immediately took over. I stopped a few feet away and asked him if he was OK. He did not respond. I spoke louder and authoritatively. “Sir, are you okay?”  He shook his head.

I asked him to remove his hoodie so I could see him and with slow, deliberate movements he obeyed my request. He was a Caucasian male in his mid-20s, unshaven and bewildered.

 “Can you talk?” I asked. He responded with a scarcely audible, “I think so.”

“Are you hurting?”

“I’m cold. Very cold.”

I asked how long he had been there. He said he came to the park the night before to “clear his head,” became disoriented when it grew dark and lost his way. He wandered in the night and eventually gave up trying to find his way back to his car and eventually found a place to sit down. He had endured a very cold and lonely night and was shivering, hungry, cramping up and confused.

I told him I have had medical training and could help him. For the first time, he looked up and offered a slight smile.

I asked if anyone would have reported him missing. With a touch of melancholy he said, “No one is expecting me back except my boss.”

I asked him to stand up. He was cold and stiff.

A couple of miles away was a Cub Scout camp where I knew they had fire, food and warmth.

“Can you walk?”

“I can try.”

Slowly, we began our trek. After a while, we passed members of my Boy Scout troop running along the path. They were surprised to see me going the opposite way. I told them that I was taking a break from the run to help someone. When I encountered the leader of the troop, he said, “Geez, Patrick, you find lost people even when you’re not looking for them!”

Our journey was painstakingly slow as he clearly was not well physically and maybe mentally. I was glad my dad was with me because I’m not sure I would have been comfortable alone with him. I suspected drugs or alcohol may have been an issue and he could have been suicidal.

As we walked slowly beneath the redwoods, he spoke. He said he felt lucky that we found him, and he said he appreciated our helping him. He asked my name and said his was Jeremy (name changed for privacy).

A half-hour later we made it to the Cub Scout camp. The troop had a fire blazing, hot chocolate and hot food, and the Scouts were generous in sharing it with Jeremy. I left him there with my dad, and then ran several miles further on to where a ranger lived. After explaining the circumstances and Jeremy’s current status, the ranger said he would take over and transport him to medical treatment.

I returned to the camp and Jeremy was seated by the campfire with a cup of hot chocolate, now warmed up, even smiling. We said our goodbyes and I rejoined the 20-mile run.

I was now in last place instead of first, but I knew that what I was able to do for a fellow human being – thanks to my training and experience on COCOSAR – was far more important than winning a race.

Searcher Spotlight(s): The Riggs Brothers

Riggs Casey-MThey are most often referred to as the Riggs, or “the twins” (although they are not the only set of team or even Explorer twins, anymore). Individually, one or the other might simply be called “Riggs,” but people who do that confess to doing so because they have trouble telling Micheal and Casey apart.
Various methods have been used to distinguish them: the shape of their glasses; a hairstyle, perhaps; something tied to a shoelace. But often even that fails to make a clear distinction. (And, on at least one occasion, the uniform blouse wasn’t an accurate way to tell, either, because they’ve been known to switch shirts – not on purpose, of course.)
When asked to answer the spotlight questions, the first response was a joint one covering both boys. They do, after all, both live in Walnut Creek and are originally from Danville. They both joined CoCoSAR as ninth graders, at the ripe age of 14.
Both love hiking and backpacking. Both work on and off at the Brenden Theatres.
Neither likes to read, particularly, though Casey will pick up a book on a subject that fascinates him and Michael likes the P.G. Wodehouse books on tape. At 17, they are both looking into the same colleges and plotting a similar path in the world of filmmaking, which includes their recent acceptance into an exciting mentoring program with a professional filmmaker.
Riggs Micheal-MBut a little digging determines there are a few variances, albeit subtle ones and not just the physical “my head is more rounded and Casey’s is narrower” types of differences Micheal cites.
Casey, for instance, got into making film first. He loves photography and it’s the videography and production end that most grabs him.
When Micheal finally caught the filmmaking bug, too, he veered toward the technical end with editing more up his alley. Casey says his plan is to get a master’s degree in cinematography and photography. Micheal will aim toward editing and sound mixing.
Asked if they will then work together, Casey says “why not?” since it’s easier to get his brother to do the editing than to hire someone else. You’ve heard of the Coen Brothers, he says, so, “Why can’t it be the Riggs Brothers?”
They also love the “culture of the outdoors,” but Micheal says Casey is more of a “hipster” kind of guy but he is all about plaid. Casey will venture farther afield to conduct missions such as building a house in Mexico, whereas Micheal is content to hang and hike around home base.
Casey is a little quieter around the SAR camp, a man of fewer words than Micheal. “One of the most valuable things I have experienced in SAR is teamwork,” he says. “Searches and trainings continually show me how working as a team produces the most effective results.”
Micheal, on the other hand, is likely to pop up and offer a little speech when the opportunity arises, like at an orientation night. And he is a little more verbose in his evaluation of his SAR experience, so he gets the last word(s):
“There are many times, during my SAR training and during some searches I think of something Yvon Chouinard said: ‘Real adventure is defined best as a journey from which you may not come back alive, and certainly not as the same person.’ I may not really be in danger of dying during my SAR experiences, but it has definitely changed my life for the better,” Micheal says. “The mission, the different types of people and the work have given me an experience I would not have had in any other way.”

Team Commendations, March


Micheal and Casey Riggs are Explorers, and at the very young age of 15 have captured the spirit of community service. In their first year on the team, both Micheal and Casey have participated in many trainings, and volunteered for many support roles—in addition to their regular attendance at team meetings. They have helped at several public relations events, promoting SAR by speaking at schools and safety fairs. Not stopping there, they have participated as role players at many of the medical trainings.

Micheal and Casey have logged the most hours of any of the Explorers, and have attended nearly every full-team training over the past year. Most importantly, you will find Micheal and Casey always with a smile and an offer to help with whatever needs to be done

Jamie Cole was chosen to be recognized for his continued service to the Logistics Division on Logistics Night, as well as his ongoing support in the field. Jamie has been there every night, whether it required five minutes of work or five hours. He also has a great let’s-get-it-done attitude that fits right in with the rest of the logistics crew. Jamie is a very hard worker who always looks for the next task necessary to keep the team mission-ready. He consistently offers to help on searches and trainings, staying without complaint until the work is done. Logistics Lieutenant Chris Poppett says he is very proud to have Jamie on the team, helping so unselfishly to support our ongoing logistical needs.