You’re on a high ridge forming the east border of Yellowstone National Park, hours into a long walk to the trailhead and the end of this 12-day backpack. Behind you are seven teenagers, your clients, and your lead instructor. Sweat drips from your forehead as you hike the steep wooded trail on a hot summer afternoon. No one is talking. Lost in thoughts of sore feet, thirst, their first burger, and how many emails might be waiting, they pound the dust and pay little attention to the beautiful surroundings.
Sensing something ahead, you look up and see large black-colored bear right in the middle of the trail and too close for comfort. Inhaling loudly, you stop, then tumble onto the trail as the fellow following you stumbles and hits your pack. Someone belatedly yells, "Bear!” Branches snap and crack as the bear bashes the underbrush in haste, heading downhill at an impressive speed. Woven into this confusion is another scream and crash. One of your participants has stepped off the trail and is rolling downhill.
You unclip your pack, throw caution to the wind, and move with surprising grace and speed down the hill. There is John, his roll stopped by a tree. You stabilize him with you hands and try to find those breaths you forgot to take. Your lead instructor, still on the trail, yells that the bear is gone. Scene safety! Yes, of course! Lost for a moment, you find presence and begin the scene-size up and the initial assessment drill. You order another student to carefully descend to the side of the patient and instruct him to maintain spine control. The slope is steep but the patient is stable in the hollow in front of the tree.