SAR — Search & Rescue — is what happens when people get lost, injured, are unprepared, or overestimate their abilities. When another ranger saw a six-day stretch of triple digits coming to the Moab area, she immediately predicted some SARs — and she was right.
The first call came from Arches NP; a 75-year-old man had exited his car at The Windows to take some photos, leaving his wife and dog in the vehicle. He never came back, and it was now the next day and more searchers were needed. Could we send any help down to assist in the tracking operation? He had been missing for 20 hours, had NO water with him, and not even a ball cap to keep the sun off.
In the middle of that one, a man hiked out of a long ISKY (Island in the Sky, where I work) trail to report that his wife was doing poorly and needed help. Two rangers were pulled from the visitor center to go to the Alcove Springs trail to assist her.
Simultaneously, a young man left his hiking group on a frighteningly difficult and steep trail on which hikers are notorious for getting lost. He felt he could strike off cross-country and get back sooner, instead of going around the entire 8.3 miles of the Syncline Loop. He had last been seen 4.5 hours earlier. The dangerousness of this location prompted a call for more rescuers than usual.
I am relieved to inform you that all three had a happy ending. The wandering arches septuagenarian was found alive, only because of our amazing biological soil crust. Every time he took a step on it, he crunched decades or centuries of growth and left a visible footprint. He was located, with many volunteers’ help, semi-conscious and curled up around a boulder that was the only shade he could find. Yes, he had walked in circles and spent a frightening night in the desert alone and terribly thirsty. The searchers fed him teaspoons of water at a time until he began to come around. A life was saved.
Alcove Springs Woman was assisted out from the many-miles-long hike with zero shade on it, and is okay.
Syncline Loop Man needed to be spotted by the helicopter that came from Colorado to assist in searching for Arches Man. Rescue teams were already out there looking for him on foot. He was under his own power and the multiple rescuers were eventually dismissed. It is alleged that he had been high while hiking this tortuous loop.
Yes, there are lessons to be learned. ALWAYS have water on you, even for the shortest of desert hikes. NEVER separate from your group to find a “short cut.” REFRAIN from drug use if you value your life. WEAR protective gear, at least some kind of hat, to keep the sun from scorching you. And so on, and so forth, and write your own…
Oh, yes, and then I heard that a semi truck went over a canyon edge yesterday, but not in either park. I think it will be the BLM’s job to oversee its removal.
Perhaps today will be a quiet, uneventful one…