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Rough weekend for Utah hikers offers safety lessons

Published May 3, 2012 2:26 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Let's call it a good weekend for Utah hikers.

A woman from Maine survived with a broken leg and no food for four days in Garfield County.

In Millard County, six teenage boys hiked from their campground then got stuck on some ledges. They were able to call for help and a helicopter hauled them to safety the next morning.

The woman and the boys all could have died. There were some things they did wrong to get into those positions in the first place, but there also were some things they did right that lead to a good outcome.

Before you read my observations on this, let me direct you to something more official. Here are links to hiking and outdoor safety tips from the U.S. Forest Service; from the Bureau of Land Management; and from the Utah Department of Health.

As for the lessons I see from the two weekend rescues:

— Tell someone where you're going and when you'll be back. This is one you'll see on every list. Victoria Grover, of Wade, Maine, was rescued because her bed and breakfast in Garfield County missed her and some astute deputies found her car rental agreement. It took four days to find her because no one knew for sure where to look. Even if you're hiking with a partner or group, share your plans with someone else.

— Always carry a cell phone. This saved the teens in Millard County. You may be tempted to leave your phone behind, figuring you won't get a signal or you don't want to be bothered on your hike. But you get signals in more places than you think. (I recently got infrequent signals in the remote Needles District of Canyonlands National Park.) Besides, if police or rangers launch a search for you, they may move in a mobile cell phone tower.

— Carry excess food and water. When your day hike goes wrong, excess may become just enough.

— Have some basic first aid gear and matches. A fire helped protect the teens and would have helped Grover.

— Don't be afraid to ask for help. The boys did the right thing by calling for help and living with the jokes they probably heard at school today. I'll never forgot how foolish I was the time I didn't ask some ATVs how to hike my way back to the trail head in Red Canyon on the Dixie National Forest. I spent an extra three hours hiking low on water when a simple question could have gotten me to camp a lot faster.

— Nate Carlisle

Twitter: @UtahHikes