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Shoe print, request to other campers helps rescuers find missing hikers

A lost hiker who sent searchers a photo of her boot sole and two campers who asked a campsite neighbor to call for help if they weren't back by a certain time helped give Yavapai County Sheriff's Search and Rescue personnel information to find them over Veterans Day weekend.

At 3 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 9, a 44-year-old Scottsdale woman called to report she became lost while hiking in the Jacks Canyon area of Sedona, said Dwight D'Evelyn, YCSO spokesman.

When searchers arrived they received updated GPS information from her cellphone, and at 4 p.m. they spoke with her and learned she was alright, had some trail mix, water and a fully charged cellphone battery, but no jacket, D'Evelyn said.

The rescue team asked her to take a photo of her boot sole and send it to them, which they used to verify her boot tracks on the Hot Loop trail and determine her direction of travel. At 8 p.m. searchers found her at the top of a mesa in good condition and escorted back to her vehicle.

"The lone hiker accessed a trail she was not familiar with," D'Evelyn said. "Always plan your hike around marked trails following research of the area you plan explore. A late start could mean an overnight stay in the outdoors if you become lost."

Hikers should consider bringing extra clothing, matches, water, first aid supplies, a cellphone with a spare battery, and a light source, D'Evelyn said.

On Veterans Day, searchers answered a call in the Pine Mountain Wilderness area after two campers hadn't returned by the time they told a campsite neighbor they should be back, D'Evelyn said.

At 10 p.m. on Nov. 11, searchers spoke with a woman at a campsite on the 20,000-acre area that straddles the Verde River Rim and the boundary between the Prescott and Tonto national forests.

The woman told searchers that two Peoria women, ages 41 and 53, who camped nearby, told her to call for help if they were not back by 9 p.m., D'Evelyn said. Just after 10 p.m., the woman drove a distance down Dugas Road to get cellphone service and called YCSO.

"The missing hikers were wise to share their expected return time with nearby campers, especially since cell service in the area was unlikely," D'Evelyn said. "A satellite-based personal tracking device would have overcome this obstacle and helped rescuers find them."

Search personnel, including the Quad and Backcountry Units from the Yavapai County Sheriff's Office Response Team, looked for the women. At 4 a.m., a DPS Ranger helicopter from Kingman found two people standing near a fire about a mile from the campsite, but could not fly low enough to confirm they were the lost hikers.

As a result, the Backcountry Unit searched the area. Just before 6 a.m., searchers found the missing hikers, and escorted them to safety.

The women told rescuers that a hike delayed their expected return and when it got dark, they stopped, built a fire, and decided to wait for daylight before heading back to camp, D'Evelyn said.

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