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Sun, Dec. 08

Johnson: Lost Son on the Prescott Circle Trail (continued)
Hiking Arizona

When my son failed to come around the corner within a few minutes, I retraced my steps back toward the trailhead but he was nowhere to be found.

I wondered if he took the first right turn he came to instead of the correct one. Would he turn off the main route without me waiting there for him?

I had never been on any of these side trails, so I did not know what to expect. I explored this side trail to find that it immediately split again. Now what would he have done, if he even came this way in the first place? I guessed he would turn left putting him back on the original course of the “main route.” I went about a 1/4 mile. No Caleb. As slow as he was riding, surely I would have caught him by now, if he had even come this way.

I turned back to the Circle Trail and saw a biker coming from Emmanuel Pines and asked him if he had seen Caleb. No. Good, Caleb had not gotten behind me when I came off the main route in search of him. I went to the truck at the trailhead. Still no Caleb.

I tried his cell number. Bad number. He had changed phone numbers several times since I had placed his number in my phone. I called his Mom to tell her what was going on and to get his current number. No luck with the correct number.

I went to Emmanuel Pines and asked them if they had seen him. No. I left my card with my cell number. They began to pray. I went back up Trail 332 and encountered two horseback riders who had been on the west side of the trail where Caleb may have gone. They had not seen him.

My mind started down a dark path. Perhaps that first biker that passed me, while I waited for Caleb was a serial killer and got him? A mountain lion could have gotten him? I got back to the trailhead. Still no Caleb. It was about 4:00pm. Caleb had been missing a couple of hours. We were near Prescott and had four hours of daylight left but I wasn’t going to take any chances.

Thank God we were not in a remote area with no cell phone signal. I called police dispatch, explaining the situation. They dispatched a deputy from the Sheriff’s office.

When the deputy arrived, he tried to locate Caleb with GPS technology. Failure. The deputy readied a helicopter and contained the area with two search units. As we strategized, the first biker I had seen came back across Iron Springs Road from Granite Basin. The suspect serial killer was now a source of information. He had not seen Caleb either.

Just before the helicopter lifted off, Caleb came up the trail. I was ready to skin him alive, after I told him I loved him.

I believe that, “When you fall off a “horse,” you get back on and try again, right? I was ready to finish the route to “teach” Caleb about route finding. The deputy intervened, fortunately. He spoke with Caleb privately and then suggested pizza, as if to say, “Dad, it’s time to back off.” The little adventure I had planned could wait. Now was the time to hug my son. I would skin him alive later, after pizza.

To read the first part of this column, click HERE.

Next: Spruce Mountain Mystery

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

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