to let the ranch know the rest of her party would be late.
The canyon fell into shadow. It grew dark. Up the South Kaibab Trail, probably a few miles, Phyllis could see the distant headlamps of her husband, brother and sister-in-law. She fretted. Should she go back up? Seek help?
At 8 p.m., she came across Dickson. Craig, an avid backpacker, was camping at the nearby Bright Angel Campground with friends. At that moment he was alone, stargazing.
He also had seen the headlamps. When Phyllis told him her predicament, he agreed to help. He asked her only to find his friends and let them know where he’d gone.
Up on the trail, John Hysong was worried. They were low on water and energy. It would be too dangerous to go much longer. They would have to stop and wait for daylight.
Then Craig bounded up the trail.
“He was sweating bullets when he got there, but he was in great shape, obviously,” John said. Craig said he’d come to help. He told Milo to lean on him.
“I will become your left leg,” he said.
For the next several hours, Craig went up and down the trail like a Himalayan Sherpa. After helping Milo get ahead, he returned and lifted Carolyn onto his back.
“He put her on his back, and he carried her all the way to the Colorado River,” John said.
Not quite that far, Craig said. But close.
It was after midnight when
they made it to the ranch and were reunited with Phyllis.
Back at his own camp, Craig recounted the night to his friends.
“They took turns telling me I was a hero, and nonsense like that,” he said. He answered them with a run-on sentence: “Thank you. I need to lay down, I’m tired.”
He would later check his Fitbit.
“It said I had done 878 floors that day,” he said.
Craig and his friends hiked out the next morning. John did too, but Phyllis, Milo and Carolyn stayed an extra night to rest up. Milo found the hike up, thankfully, to be easier on his knee.
Recounting all this, John gets emotional. Out on that trail in the dark, he said, “I know I was in personal prayer. It was like, ‘Was this an angel?’”
In a letter to Craig’s employers at Veterans Affairs, Milo and Carolyn said the same:
“Craig was on his way hiking back up to the rim early the next morning before we even hobbled out of our cabin, and we wondered if our episode the night before was just a dream. Did such a man as Craig Dickson really exist, or was he truly an angel in disguise?”
But they carried out of the canyon the proof that they had not been dreaming. Feeling they owed the stranger a debt that they hope to somehow repay, they asked for his contact information and took a photograph of Craig’s Ohio driver’s license.
It gave their angel a name.