It was a hike that changed the destiny of a father and son.
John Zickel and Bartosz Ciesielski, Delaware North associates at Grant General Store, were hiking along the north shore of Lewis Lake in Yellowstone National Park, when they heard a cry for help. Looking around, they saw a red spot about 100 yards out in the lake.
Someone was struggling in the very rough water.
Zickel and Ciesielski didn't think they could swim that far, but wading the choppy water proved ominous. Zickel walked out as far into the cold lake as he could and then swam to the person – a young boy.
Zickel supported the efforts of the boy – who was a good swimmer in his own right but was certainly tired – and got him to shore, where he then asked: “Where's my dad? We were out fishing, and the waves turned over our boat and we couldn't right it.”
Again, Zickel and Ciesielski were in a quandary. Finally catching sight of the father about 200 yards away, they had to wait until he was drifting closer. Ciesielski equipped himself with the boy’s lifejacket and quickly set off swimming. Wondering if he had the strength to swim against the currents and waves that seemed to push him back with each stroke he made, Ciesielski reached the man, who was very weak – gasping for air and ready to give up.
Together, they reached Zickel, who had waded a bit of the way in to reduce the duo’s swim. Zickel helped the two, and all three got to the shore.
Exhausted and shivering, the now group of four walked 1 ½ miles – in rain and hail – to Zickel's vehicle. Once there, Zickel and Ciesielski gathered whatever dry clothes they had and gave them to the father, Terry, and son, Trent.
By the time they drove Terry and Trent to their vehicle, Terry said he was all right to drive to Flagg Ranch, where they were staying. After restating their gratefulness, the father and son drove away.
It certainly wasn't just any old hike – or walk in the park – for Zickel and Ciesielski.
PHOTO CAPTION: John Zickel (left) and Bartosz Ciesielski (right) don honorary badges after their heroic efforts in Yellowstone National Park, where Delaware North operates a variety of food, beverage, retail and lodging services.