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Fri, Feb. 28

Lost son on the Prescott Circle Trail South of Iron Springs Road
Hiking Arizona

The Sheriff Deputy tried to comfort me, informing me he was trained in search and rescue with the Forest Service. Little comfort, though.

He didn’t know I had trained the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Department to serve on the DARES posse (Desert Alpine Reserve Emergency Services). I had taken courses at Phoenix College in Emergency Medical Technology, Crisis Management and Search & Rescue. I had some training and experience with CAMRA too, (Central Arizona Mountain Rescue Association). While in Scottsdale, I was on the City’s Safety Committee, requiring I be certified in Emergency Response through FEMA. In Prescott Valley, I had similar training. Not to mention experience teaching and leading groups on hikes for the YMCA, community colleges, municipal parks and recreation departments and the Boy Scouts for participants age 9 to 79 for the past 45 years. That was longer than the deputy had been alive but, so what.

If anything, such experience and training only rubs salt in the wound when that which is not supposed to happen, happens to you. When it does, then what? When the absurd happens, understand that absurdity may be the most effective teacher, being served with a healthy dose of humble pie.

All this was going through my mind, when the deputy suggested I sit tight and let them look for my 14 year old son. The deputy then asked, “Might your son be hiding off the trail to push your buttons?” My son’s integrity is rock solid. He didn’t like doing this kind of thing. But I didn’t think he would do that, though the thought had crossed my mind earlier as I went up and down the trail looking for him.

My son had many years of hiking and biking experience. He had also been trained in survival with the Arizona Game and Fish Department along with a gun safety course. He has hiked across the Southwest with me from the Chiricahua Mountains to Mt. Charleston NV and from the North Rim of the Grand Canyon to Mt. Wheeler and the Gila Wilderness in New Mexico.

But none of that explained what happened to him. If anything, it suggested this kind of disappearance would not happen. Where was he?

The deputy suggested I call his mom since the number I had for his cell phone wasn’t correct. Perhaps they could track him through his phone. The attempt failed. His mom wanted to know how I could let this happen. That’s when I lost it. She told me I had to get it together but I was bawling by this time. I told her I would get it together shortly and that she should not come up from Phoenix.

Retracing Our Steps

Coming from the bowling alley in Prescott Valley, we had time for a doing another section of the Prescott Circle Trail as we pieced it together one portion at a time. I showed my son the route on the map and what the profile looked like.

I explained, “We start down a slight grade to a junction. We take a right past the old chimney to Thumb Butte and return.” Simple, right? Wrong. Lacking enthusiasm, Caleb fell immediately behind.

I rounded a curve and entered a road cut where I thought I should wait for Caleb to catch up. He never did.

To be continued.

Ted Johnson is a columnist for The Daily Courier. Reach him by email at

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