Matt Blackner

© Copyright 2014 by Matt Blackner

Photo of men preparing a stretcher.

          It was in the cold winter of 2007 that something happened I’ll have a hard time ever being able to forget. I was in a wilderness program called Aspiro and we had been going on weeklong camping trips all over Utah for a month. At this time we just happened to be down in Moab where the desert red rock sharply contrasted with the frosty white snow. The snow looked so out of place there. I remembered going there a few times before this when it actually looked and felt like a desert. Now it was so cold that even the rivers were frozen over. I remember how the water was so amazingly clear it looked like glass. I remember walking across rivers and looking back at the reddish sand prints my hiking boots left on the surface of the clear frozen water. Most of all, I just remembered the cold.

The group I was with consisted of two older staff members and about six of us juvenile delinquents or otherwise troubled youth. Every one of our parents and our judges had made the decision to send us on this cold miserable quest to help change our troubled lives. I don’t know the names of the staff members but I know the names of the other guys I was surrounded by. Zach was becoming a pretty close friend of mine. He had a big reddish afro and was from Detroit. Korbin was a tall guy with dark hair from Chicago and would always tell jokes around the campfires. Trevor was from Denver and was a talented graffiti writer. Connor was from Seattle. The other guys were named Jake and Jordan but I didn’t connect with them as well as with the others.

After hiking for hours through the canyons with my thirty pound camping backpack my shoulders were getting sore and my legs needed rest. We stopped to take a break. All of us took our backpacks off and sat down to give our bodies some rest and drink some water. After about fifteen or twenty minutes we put our backpacks on and continued hiking up the canyon. We hiked up to a spot where there was a big drop off and at the bottom was a frozen pond. Some of us thought it would be a cool idea to drop boulders onto the ice below to crack it. Each of us grab big rocks and carefully step out to throw them down below. I go and throw my rock and hear a loud crack when it hits ice. Zach and some of the others do the same. We watch closely as Korbin picks up a huge rock and steps toward the edge of the drop off. We watch him swing the boulder with all his strength and suddenly he slips on some invisible ice. I remember vividly watching Korbin and his backpack slowly falling forward off the ledge head first. We all yelled KORBINNN!!! It felt so unreal, like I was watching a movie or something. Those few seconds seemed like entire minutes. We looked around at each other in shocked disbelief. After we came to our senses we all rushed down to the bottom of the drop off to find that our friend Korbin had just fallen off a twenty foot cliff and hit a lower ledge on the way down that helped to soften the impact before landing onto the very pond we were dropping rocks on. There was blood on the ice from the cut on his forehead which he got from the lower ledge. We all quickly ran over and pulled him off the ice which was cracking and breaking apart. One staff member talks to Korbin and makes sure he’s conscious while the other starts breaking trees to build a stretcher. He tells us to take off our outer layers and put the two skinny trees through our zipped up coats. In no time we’ve got Korbin laid out on the make shift stretcher made of trees and coats and we’re being told to head back down the steep and sometimes narrow canyon. The canyon has other cliffs along the traverses we need to carry him down. At one point Korbin asked to have a helicopter brought in but our staff said no.

After carrying Korbin five miles down this canyon our forearms were completely sore and burnt out. We finally got to where the other staff members with suburbans were to drive Korbin to the hospital.

Waiting for days to hear about Korbin we continued to camp and hike like they planned for us. About two days later we hear that Korbin was sent back to our main camping spot and headquarters of Aspiro where he had a stitched up forehead and was on crutches, but miraculously managed to survive a fall from a twenty foot cliff. We all learned a lot from that experience. It created a tight bond between everybody who was there that day. I will probably never forget that week during a freezing cold winter in Moab.

        My name is Matt Blackner, I'm graduating this Summer in Communications at the University of Utah. My major was Journalism. I've always enjoyed writing for assignments but thought it would be fun to try and get into contests and things with my writing. Attached is my story. 

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