I almost didn’t set out on an outing this past weekend. I had way too many plans and I didn’t want to end up being too tired from hiking to enjoy them. But my favorite weatherman kept telling me that the temperature was going to be out of the park on Saturday — an unseasonable 63 degrees! It would have been a crime not to try to squeeze some time in for urban hiking before the rain and the cold took over again.
I left bright and early on Saturday morning. Since I didn’t want to overexert myself, I picked a short route and was focusing more on taking photos and pretending to understand my GoPro than going far. Lingering on the bridge between Beach Road and the Zoo, I took shot after shot until I got tired of the stares from the Zoo worker manning the entrance.
Finally getting on my way, I transitioned onto Rock Creek Trail to start my three-hour trek. I’d only made it a short distance from the Zoo’s entrance when I saw them – two men on either side of a shorter woman, supporting her weight as they carefully maneuvered along the trail. They were all dressed in running gear, so I assumed she must have pulled a muscle during their run.
I quickly assessed the situation and mentally took stock of my supplies. I knew I had my trusty hiking first aid kit in my bag. I like having my kit with me whenever I’m on the trail because you never know what you’re going to encounter — even when you’re hiking just a few miles from your home. Should I offer them Advil? Would they even agree to take medication from a well-intentioned stranger?
As I walked closer, I realized I’d misread the situation. Glancing down at the leg she was favoring, I saw that there was blood running down her shin stemming from a large injury to her right knee.
I stopped next to the trio. They regarded me warily, the way you tend to when a stranger tries to talk to you in the city. “Do you need any help?” I asked. “I have a first aid kit.”
The woman, who was surprisingly friendly for someone bleeding from the knee, smiled and said, “If you have a band-aid or two that would be amazing.”
I pulled out my first aid kit, which, as I’ve mentioned in a previous post, is pretty impressive.
“Whoa,” one of the guys said, “you weren’t kidding.”
There was no reason to be embarrassed, especially since I was the keeper of the bandages they needed, but I was. I mumbled, “Yeah…I kind of had an accident while hiking. I learned my lesson.”
As I was pulling out the band-aids, another runner pulled up.
“Do you need a ride?” the new runner asked, pointing to the nearby Zoo parking lot, “I can take you somewhere.”
It was an extremely kind offer from one stranger to another. The sort of kindness that I’m used to seeing out on the trails in the country but not on any of my urban treks. The group thanked her for the offer of assistance and politely refused. Someone was already driving over to pick them up from the Zoo.
Meanwhile, I was ready with the band-aids and an antiseptic wipe.
One of the men cleaned out the woman’s wound with his water bottle. She pulled the gravel bits from her injury and then started to wipe it with the antiseptic towelette.
As the stranger with the supplies, I quietly stood off to the side as they took care of business. It was not a nice wound. She must have tripped and fallen on the path and stopped the fall with her right knee, scraping all of the skin off. If I were her, I probably would have been sitting on the ground crying it out. Not this woman, she was all toughness.
Before I left that morning, I thought about throwing a Ziploc in my pack “just in case,” but of course, I forgot. As I watched the woman clean up her wound and try to maneuver the bloody towelette and the waste from the bandages’ packaging, I felt bad. If I’d remembered a plastic baggie, there would have been a place to safely dispose of everything. Another lesson learned for next time.
As they wrapped up the cleaning process, I spoke up again “Do you want some triple antibiotic cream to put on before the band-aids?”
“Sure, but I feel bad. Now you aren’t going to have this stuff in your kit.”
“Don’t worry about it.” I waved her off. I didn’t tell her this, mostly because I didn’t know her and this was a weird scenario for a heart-to-heart conversation, but this whole incident was a perfect example of why I invested the money, research, and time into making a comprehensive, fully-equipped first aid kit. Sure, I imagined that the first time I used it would be to help myself or a friend, but we’re all friends on the trail. And if I have the supplies, doesn’t that make me duty bound to do what I can for anyone who is hurt?
The woman was so appreciative of my help that she had one of her companions give me a packet of energy beans, which was a nice reward for my good deed.
I know I came upon the injured runner and her companions at a time when they were all having a really terrible start to their day, but I’m sure that they never expected two complete strangers to try to come to their aid.
In the middle of the city, it’s easy to believe that people just don’t care, but that’s not true at all. Maybe we’re a little more cautious and suspicious of others, but when it comes down to it, there are a lot of quality people in this city who are ready to lend a hand when it’s needed.
I came away from the encounter feeling really good. There’s something nice about knowing I could be of assistance to someone else and that, maybe, if I’m ever in trouble again, someone might be able to help me.
I took that good feeling and let it carry me through the rest of my day.