The Boy Scout motto has it right: Be prepared.
Many of the searches conducted by Mohave County Sheriff’s Office Search and Rescue would just be an inconvenience for the lost individuals except for the fact that they weren’t prepared. No water in summer can be deadly. No jacket in winter can lead to frostbite.
Fall and spring in Mohave County offer great weather, with sunny days and cool nights. It’s great to go hiking on one of the many trails in the county such as Aspen Peak trail in the Hualapais. The temperature is invigorating at the trailhead; pair of shorts, T-shirt, grab a small bottle of water and ready to go. Later in the day when the hiker becomes tired and disoriented, the sun sets, it starts to get dark, the temperature begins to drop toward freezing as he or she runs out of water. A situation that could have been an inconvenience is fast becoming an emergency. A 911 call initiates the SAR response and help is on the way.
The SAR units have been busy lately searching for lost hikers on Potato Patch Loop in the Hualapai’s, Cherum Peak trail in the Cerbats and SARA’s crack near Lake Havasu City. A common thread in all of these searches is the lack of preparedness by the lost individuals. When the hikers started, they were planning a short hike — the weather was great, they weren’t thirsty and it was daylight.
When they realized they were lost, it was getting dark, they had drunk all their water and it was getting cold. The same happened recently with ATV riders near Dolan Springs. It was going to be a 30-minute ride to show the grandchild some interesting rocks; no jackets, water or map needed. When they realized they were lost, the sun was going down and the temperature was dropping to near freezing. The young boy couldn’t feel his feet. If they hadn’t been found, he could have lost toes or worse.
Why take a flashlight on a hike when the sun is out? To the young man that hiked up Bull Mountain New Year’s Eve to take pictures of the city views, it could’ve prevented him from having to spend a night on the cold slopes of the mountain in the fog.
It doesn’t matter where a SAR member goes; they are trained not to leave home without a 24-hour pack. The pack contains everything they need to stay out for 24 hours including water, flashlight, snacks, extra clothing and maps.
Many of the searches conducted by SAR could have been prevented if the hikers or four wheelers had carried a map of the area; those venturing out need to know where they are going and be familiar with landmarks and places around them. A map can be a life-saver if a trail sign is missed or a trail intersection is confusing. Maps are available from many sources such as the Hualapai Ranger Station or the trail guide hiking book for sale at the Mohave County Museum Gift Shop or the Powerhouse Visitor’s Center in Kingman.
It’s important to plan for changing weather conditions; it might be warm at the trailhead and a jacket seems like extra weight, but what if the hikers are still out after dark and the temperature is near freezing or a storm moves in and it starts to snow? A light source is also important. The mountains in Mohave County are rugged with cliffs and thick brush. Trying to walk in the dark is not smart even if the lights of Kingman can be seen in the distance. What if there is a cliff between the hikers and the Kingman lights?
The need to have enough water cannot be stressed enough. It concerns SAR members to see people start down White Rock Canyon trail to the hot springs with a single bottle of water. As a matter of fact, the National Park Service had to close the trail this past summer because of all the rescues for people that had run out of water. SAR has even had rescues on Monolith Garden’s trails for people running out of water and becoming dehydrated within view of the city.
Keep an inconvenience from becoming an emergency by being prepared:
Plan for what could happen, not just for what is happening now.
Take no less than two quarts of water per person and more if it’s hot. In an ATV, take no less than a gallon of water for the vehicle and two quarts for drinking.
A flashlight or a light source should be with hikers and ATV riders at all times, even during the day. Don’t rely on the cell phone light, it will drain the battery quickly and you may need the phone to call for help.
Maps are readily available locally and online and should be taken on every outing.
Shorts and T-shirts may look fashionable for causal hiking, but becoming disoriented and having to walk through the thick manzanita and oak brush of the Hualapai’s will rip hikers’ legs to pieces. Opt for long pants and take a jacket; be prepared for changing weather.
All this planning and equipment sounds exhausting but the lack of it keeps SAR busy. You might have heard the humorous saying “Support Search & Rescue, Get Lost,” but we would rather hikers and four wheelers stay oriented and not get lost. If someone becomes directionally challenged, they should be prepared so that an inconvenience doesn’t become an emergency.