DAMMERON VALLEY – The Washington County Search and Rescue team continued its very busy new year Saturday when volunteer responders were called out to rescue a lost hiker on the Red Mountain Trail.
At about 4 p.m. Saturday, a man in his early 60s was hiking on the Red Mountain Trail, between Ivins and Dammeron Valley, when he became lost. He called 911 for help, and dispatchers were able to obtain GPS coordinates from his cellphone to pinpoint the area he was in.
The hiker had entered the Red Mountain Trail on the Ivins side with the intention of hiking to the Gunsight Trail, Washington County Sheriff’s Deputy Darrell Cashin said.
“He hiked up from the Ivins side and obviously got lost on the trail, and he couldn’t find his way down,” Cashin said.
The Red Mountain Trail has been a trouble spot for the search and rescue team. Though the trail remains on some locally distributed maps, it is a rough wilderness area and is not a marked or improved trail, and many people become lost or trapped while attempting to hike there.
The Red Mountain Trail has been removed from BLM and state park maps, Rescue Commander Mike Thomas told St. George News in a previous interview, but at least one local facility continues selling maps with the trail marked on it. The search and rescue team has been working to have the trail removed from that agency’s maps, to prevent others not familiar with the Red Mountain Trail from becoming lost or stranded there, but at the present time maps marking the trail are still being sold there.
“We get called (to the Red Mountain Trail) a whole lot,” Cashin said.
Four hikers who bought a map from that facility were ledged up – unable to climb down from where they were – on the Red Mountain Trail on Jan. 26 and had to be rescued by the SAR team. The man who became lost Saturday also bought his map from that same location, Cashin said.
Saturday’s lost hiker had the presence of mind to call for help as soon as he realized his predicament, Cashin said, which helped rescuers in their search because they had a couple of hours of daylight to work with.
“It took a long time, and that trail is rough,” Cashin said.
Twelve search and rescue volunteers commenced their search for the hiker on ATVs, entering the Red Mountain Trail on the Dammeron Valley side. Rescuers rode through the rough terrain as far as they could go and then ended up hiking the last half-mile in order to reach the man. The rescue mission took about four hours total, Cashin said, and the volunteers were tired and sore by the time they got back.
At one point, the lost hiker placed a second called to dispatch because he was starting to get cold, Cashin said. The dispatcher was able to re-ping his location and get more precise GPS coordinates to help the SAR team find him.
The team was finally able to reach the man and bring him safely out.
Just over a month into 2015, the search and rescue team has already been called out on about 12 rescue missions, Cashin said. In 2014, the team received 53 total calls and went out on 44 searches. If the accelerated rate of rescues continues this year, he said, the team is set to more than double 2014’s rescue numbers.
Cashin said the unseasonably warm weather may have something to do with the spike in rescue calls.
“It’s unusually warm, so it brings people out,” he said. “But it still gets dark early, so once that sun goes down, they’re cold and their calling.”
Operating under the direction of the Washington County Sheriff’s Office, the Washington County Search and Rescue team is comprised of unpaid volunteers who use their own equipment to assist in rescue missions. The only compensation team members receive is the gratitude of rescued individuals and their loved ones when a mission is successfully completed.
“We don’t mind going out helping people. That’s why we’re here,” Cashin said.
This report is based on preliminary information provided by law enforcement or other emergency responders and may not contain the full scope of findings.
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