NO RIDER LEFT BEHINDTrail Angels care for injured friend after mountain lion attack.
Every Trail Angel knows -- no rider can be left behind. So when Saddleback member and Trail Angel Jacke Van Woerkom and her friend Lynelle Lund made it to the top of the Whiting Ranch Wilderness Park they immediately began looking for fellow Trail Angels who had ridden ahead. They were six minutes behind the others because Jacke had to pick up one of her son’s friends and Lynelle had stayed behind to wait for her.
No sign of their fellow riders.. To avoid being caught in the dark, they exited the park taking a shorter trail instead of the one where Anne and Debi were. The two rode back to the parking lot, hoping to find the others. Sirens rang in the distance. “There must be a bad accident,” Jacke said. Still once they got to the parking lot, no one knew anything about why ambulances were headed to the Santiago Canyon entrance to the park.
By the time Jacke reached home, she had a phone call. A friend, Jayme, told her that a mountain lion had attacked two people in Whiting Ranch Wilderness Park. Jacke’s mind immediately went to her two friends. She rushed back to the park and noticed their cars were still in the parking lot.
Jacke called Debi Nicholls’s husband to see if he had heard from the two women.
“Debi is okay, but Anne (Hjelle) isn’t,” Debi’s husband told her. “She’s been airlifted out. She’s been attacked by a mountain lion.”
The two shuddered. By that point, other Trail Angels began to file into the parking lot of the Portola entrance of the park, gathering to pray for Anne and Debbi. The group prayed for God to help their friends heal physically and give peace to their families.
For the next few hours Anne, a Christian who attends Life Church in Mission Viejo, remained in serious condition. The mountain lion had sprung out of the brush as Debi and Anne made their way up the trail, pounced on Anne and dragged her by the head to the side of the trail as Debi held onto her leg and would not let go. It would take a few rocks thrown by a few guys on the trail before the lion would surrender and leave.
Her Trail Angel friends wouldn’t leave her behind. They went to the hospital and continued to pray for her and support her over the next several days. Several weeks after the accident they held a fundraiser to help Anne pay for the extensive plastic surgery she needed after the attack. They have also continued to pray for her.
“Over the past several weeks, we have watched God really work through this incident,” Jacke said. “It has been truly amazing – even life changing to see this.”
This has been just one example of a caring attitude that has characterized the Trail Angels since two Saddleback members started it in 1999. Besides a core value of never leaving a biker behind, the group also remains committed to helping beginners learn the basic skills of mountain biking and building confidence.
The group began riding together in 1999 when Jacke and Lisa Yellot met at a Life Perspectives (now called Foundations) class at Saddleback.
“I noticed that Jacke had all these cuts and bruises on her and was really curious why,” Lisa said.
“That’s when I found out she was an active mountain bike rider. So we started talking about riding and I invited her to go riding with me and a friend.”
The group flourished after Lisa and Jacke’s meeting. With several rides a week for people of varying experience – from beginners to those training for competition, this group of riders has continued to grow over the last several years.
The group does more than ride together. For many of the women in the group, it’s the spiritual and clean conversations, prayer before every ride and compassionate response to other riders and fellow Trail Angels that make the group special.
“We really see this group as our ministry,” Jacke said. “These rides allow the women who are participating to connect with others who love mountain biking and God.”
It has become a great outreach tool for many of the believers in the group. From the very beginning, Trail Angels has been open to people of all sorts of spiritual backgrounds. During the rides – particularly the regular Friday ride – spiritual conversations are certainly heard, but it is also the love and laughter felt and heard by others that has created the interest for the group. The believers in the group regularly pray for those Trail Angels who don’t know Christ.
God has given the group even more opportunities for outreach in the past few weeks, doubling the amount of Trail Angels to more than 280 since the mountain lion attack. “My prayer is that they will be able to rejoice in the joy and freedom of having a relationship with Christ,” Jacke said.
The attack itself became an opportunity for the group to share their faith as well. In a recent e-mail, Anne told her fellow Trail Angels that God had protected her during the encounter. Despite the gruesome attack, the lion had not been able to puncture her carotid artery or damage her voice box, esophagus or trachea. According to the e-mail Anne sees the attack as an incredible opportunity for her and the other Trail Angels to share God’s love with others.
“My prayer is that we would be a good steward with what He has given us,” Anne wrote “He has given us a story unlike any other, with which we can reach the world!”
For more information about the Trail Angels, contact Jacke at email@example.com.