Portlander Tomas Quinones loves to find adventure on his bike. While out on a bikepacking trip in a remote section of southern Oregon last week, he found a lot more than he ever bargained for.
Quinones was on a week-long bikepacking trip when he came across an elderly man who had been stranded after his Jeep got stuck in a canyon. According to the Oregon State Police, the man was nearly unconscious after he attempted to walk to safety. “The subject collapsed with one of his dogs faithfully by his side,” OSP shared on their Facebook page. “A bicyclist [Quinones], who luckily happened to be in the area, came across the man and called for help. The gentleman was taken to an area hospital for treatment.”
You might recall Quinones as the creator of whimsical, bike-themed illustrations we profiled back in 2011.
After hearing about this ordeal, I asked him a few questions via email.
Turns out Quinones was riding the Oregon’s Big Country route and was six miles off Highway 140 between Sheldon Refuge and Hart Mountain, just north of the California border. He’d been pedaling for six days and was without cell reception for two of them. It had been nearly 20 hours since he’d seen another vehicle or human.
The red arrow in the map below is where Quinones found the stranded man.
“When I found him, he was already collapsed on the ground, red with sun all over any exposed skin, and not responding verbally to questions but making grunts and trying to move around.”
“At first, I thought it was another dead cow as I had seen a lot of cattle over the last six days,” Quinones shared. “When I found him, he was already collapsed on the ground, red with sun all over any exposed skin, and not responding verbally to questions but making grunts and trying to move around.”
“When I realized he needed help,” Quinones continued, “I started looking around for any sort of vehicle that might be nearby. I had seen some dust being kicked up north of my location, so I gave him a bottle of water and bolted toward the dust hoping to find someone in a vehicle or his vehicle with some clue as to why he was out there.”
According to The Oregonian, the man was 72-year-old Greg Randolph and he’d walked 14 miles in four days looking for help.
It was just moments later that Quinones realized he needed to send out an S.O.S. signal on his Spot tracker device, something he’d carried (and paid a subscription for) for years without ever needing. After he pushed the button to send the signal, he raced back to the man lying on the road. “I did whatever I could to keep him alive until help arrived.”
By this time, Quinones shared, Randolph was still not responding to questions and was shaking uncontrollably as if he was cold, even though the sun was raging overhead and temperatures were in the high 80s. Quinones set up his tent to create shade. Then he got a scare: “At this point, one of his dogs popped out from the bushes and really startled me as I though it was a bobcat or something.” Thankfully the dog was friendly and just wanted a drink.
Quinones figures he spent nearly two hours by the Randolph’s side waiting for help to arrive. When an ambulance finally arrived, EMTs assessed the scene and acted with even more urgency when they realized Randolph was diabetic. Minutes later Randolph was headed to the hospital and Quinones found himself all alone in the canyon with the man’s few belongings and his dog.
“I was running low on water myself, so the EMTs left me with two small, half-drunk bottles of Gatorade,” he remembered.
10 minutes later a Sheriff from Lakeview rolled up. The sheriff wanted to know more about what happened and promised to contact Quinones’ partner to tell her he was O.K.
Quinones wanted to push on with his journey. He said he followed Randolph’s footprints for about four miles before they disappeared on a dusty road. It took Quinones about six hours of riding until he got cell reception again and was able to contact his partner.
According to The Oregonian Randolph has been treated and released from the hospital and is recovering at home. He’s been reunited with his dog.
Quinones’ quick thinking and wilderness first aid training likely saved Randolph’s life. And of course his Spot tracker device came through big time. Without it, Randolph would have suffered for another eight hours or so before help would have arrived. Quinones implores everyone who goes bikepacking off-the-grid to get one. “Even if it doesn’t save your life, you may end up saving someone else’s,” he said.
Someone like Greg Randolph, an extremely lucky man who will never forget the helping hand he received from a stranger in the middle of nowhere.
“It blows my mind that this all took place in a few hours and that he lived. I’m still processing the magnitude of the situation.”
UPDATE, 8/5: Greg Randolph has spoken to The Oregonian. Read more from the man Tomas saved.
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