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Heads Up Hiker
By Cheryl Hartz, Prescott Valley, AZ
The best hikes in the county, safety, plus plants, trees and wildlife on the way!
Thursday, April 21, 2011

Blog: Stupid hikers Part I

 Cheryl Hartz

Official trails are marked with rock cairns like this one in Sedona for a reason. Take note of them.

Photo by Cheryl Hartz

Top 12 excuses pseudo-hikers use when they've gotten in a jam and need be rescued.

"I didn't think ..." Actually I could stop right there. "I didn't think" says it all, but it's not entertaining. So...

"I didn't think...

12. I might get stuck on a ledge if I climbed (down or up) to it.

11. my physical condition was so pitiful.

10. hiking alone was a problem.

9. cell reception might be non-existent.

8. it necessary to tell anyone where I was going.

7. it necessary to tell anyone when I would return.

6. it was that hot.

5. it was that cold.

4. it was that late.

3. it was that far.

2. I might get lost.

And the Number One Excuse pseudo-hikers should use but will never admit -

1. I'm an idiot."

It's time for a series on stupid hikers. For the past three years, in my reporter's guise, I've been filing away emails I've received on rescue operations from the Yavapai County Sheriff's Office. There are 32 of them, with only a couple involving canoeists or motorists. With rare exception, these cases involve carelessness and outright idiocy on the hikers' parts, rather than accidents or just plain bad luck. And the rescues overwhelmingly take place in the Sedona area.

The rescued dimwits - who all are old enough to know better - have cost search & rescue teams hundreds of hours and gobs of money, not to mention tying up people who might be needed elsewhere, or who might prefer to be snuggled in their cozy bed at home, instead of rapelling down a mountain in the middle of the night to rescue someone else's sorry butt. Hasn't anyone ever heard of natural selection? Survival of the fittest?

Some people step on Arizona's desert and mountain trails just about as unprepared as they can be. They don't take water, let alone snacks, sunblock, jackets, a compass, flashlights, matches, or - heaven forbid - a map.

They don't pay attention to where they're going. The sun always rises in the east and sets in the west. Note the sun's position when you start. If you start in the morning and you're coming back in the afternoon, return the opposite direction of the sun. You don't need to be a rocket scientist or even an amateur astronomer to know this. Also watch for landmarks, such as oddly shaped trees, rocks and bushes. Don't leave a trail of bread crumbs. We have birds and lots of critters in Arizona.

Another big problem is what the forest service folks call social trails. These are offshoot paths from the main trail that get a lot of use from locals. The social trails have offshoots, too, getting the people who take the paths all confused if they're not paying attention.

I'll start with the condensed version of a few actual rescue situations.

Case No. 1, Feb. 17, 2008: A man and woman, each 24, from San Francisco got lost on Bear Mountain, west of Sedona. Not dressed for overnight cold temps. Again, this is February. Had taken some water but no flashlights or matches. Called Search & Rescue at 7 p.m., cell phone provided GPS coordinates. Distance to the hikers on the trail was 4 miles, elevation change 1,000 ft., found ½ mile off trail. Rescued and returned to base camp at 11:45 p.m. Thanks Verde Search and Rescue!

Case No. 2, March 12, 2008: Call at 7 p.m. 49-year-old from New York lost in the Devil's Bridge trail area with no food or water. He'd started at 5:30 p.m. wearing shorts, short-sleeved shirt and water shoes, thinking to do the ¾-mile trail in an hour, but didn't anticipate uneven terrain and drop-offs. GPS again worked and he was at trailhead by 8:30 p.m.

Case No. 3, also March 12, 2008: Phone call from relatives of stranded Verde River rafters near Clarkdale - two males, age unknown, one from Prescott Valley - to YCSO dispatch at 8 p.m. The rafters had called relative on cell phone after spending three hours following railroad tracks trying to walk out of canyon. Rafters soaked, very cold and short on emergency supplies (and common sense). One had worn his feet raw and was unable to walk. Houses on opposite side of the river, but flow of river made it to dangerous to cross. Area was inaccessible by rescue vehicle. Rafters told to start a small fire so DPS helicopter could locate them. Airlifted out about 10 p.m.

I think that's enough for now. But if you look forward to more, don't worry, there's an endless supply. Maybe I'll start each regular trail article with one example of a stupid hiker, just to remind us all to hike smart.

Reader Comments

Posted: Monday, January 30, 2012
Article comment by: A cautious hiker

To Congratulations You have started a blog:
Oh my. Do you truly see this as spewing hate? Sadly, you have missed the point entirely. This article takes a tongue-in-cheek approach to get people's attention concerning a very serious subject. Maybe you should read the December 2011 blog about the hikers who died in Sedona. Ms. Hartz treats those tragic events with the straightforward, serious approach they deserve, because she sees no humor in the situation.
Don't we all just want people to hike with more care so they will be safe? I think humor is more effective than lecturing.

Posted: Sunday, January 29, 2012
Article comment by: Congratulations You have started a blog.

And in that blog you got to spew your hate and get it published in the local paper. You must be so proud.

Posted: Thursday, January 26, 2012
Article comment by: J.Jill Fairchilde

Personally, Cheryl, I thought your article was hysterical. I loved the way you listed your top 12 excuses as a count down. I could not stop laughing which is always a good thing.

In regard to your examples of dimwits, I thought they were perfect to show what not to do. And what's wrong with using terms such as "Dimwits" as long as you don't mention anyone's real name?

Thanks for the great writing and good advice.

Posted: Wednesday, April 27, 2011
Article comment by: I like this story.

Can't wait for the next article.

Posted: Wednesday, April 27, 2011
Article comment by: wow a grown up name caller

Did you really write stupid and idiot in the same article? Shame on you for name calling. Uninformed or destructive hikers might have been a better choice.

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