Ranger Kathryn's Arches

June 8, 2010

Day of Three SARs and a semi

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathryn Colestock-Burke @ 9:47 am

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…


  1. A client of mine got heat exhaustion while we were hiking in Blarney Canyon. She stumbled and fell on flat ground, had a head ache and nausea. It was 110 in the parking lot when we left at 4:00 PM. Much more pleasant in the shade but what I learned was some people do not have strong constitutions and may not have as much ability to adapt to different environmental challenges as I do. I did leave the car with frozen waters for everyone (she chose not to bring one) To treat her I used the still chilled water that I had, poured it in her hat and put it on her head. She perked right up and was soon feeling much better.

    Comment by Ed Oak — June 8, 2010 @ 11:50 am | Reply

  2. make sure you reiterate these “rules” to my baby sister and now “all grown up” daughter

    Comment by john — June 8, 2010 @ 1:28 pm | Reply

  3. about the arches sar. i was quite saddened when i went home at 2:30am and he had not been found. arches search team consisted of 23 people from 3 parks, and grand county sar and the blm’s fire helitack. can you believe that? 23 people searching the desert. the gentleman was found very close to a spring which many people don’t realize the strangeness of cottonwoods standing alone in the desert. 24 hours later when they did find him, he did end up with kidney failure. i have to say, a part of me didn’t want to be the one to find him and thought my talents would be better used praying than hauling in a “body recovery module”. what a relief and quite a miracle he survived on the hottest days in arches this year. thank you for reiterating just how hostile the desert can be and what we can do to safely survive here. oh, my new motto is “busting crust in the name of saving people’s lives” which my old one was, “busting crust in the name of science.” oh lordy, i’m going to crypto hell!

    Comment by triciao — June 15, 2010 @ 5:39 pm | Reply

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

What do you think?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: