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Sat, Oct. 23

Wright: Finding good … after being found

Yavapai County Search and Rescue Team/Courtesy

Yavapai County Search and Rescue Team/Courtesy

My wife and I set out this past Sunday to find the Giant Alligator Juniper Tree in the famous Granite Mountain Hotshots pyramid photo. It turned out to be a reminder that good things can come out of not-so-good situations, including some preparedness lessons learned.

We took off up the trail that we were certain led to the Giant Alligator Juniper at about 2 p.m. on what we assumed would be a simple 4.8 mile hike, and decided about 4 p.m. to head back, though we hadn’t reached the tree, in the interest of getting off the mountain before dark. Though we are experienced hikers, and had water and some food with us, as well as a portable charger for the cell phones, we discovered just how tricky the trails on the mountain can be. There are few signs, but many trails that looked like cleared paths but ended up in dead ends at overgrowth or large boulders that we didn’t remember passing on the way up. After a couple hours of trying to negotiate our way down the mountain, we just plain ran out of daylight. We managed to find the rarest of spots where we could get a cell signal if we were in that spot at just the right time, and made a 911 call at about 7:30. Dispatch told us to stay put, as they had our GPS coordinates, and there would be help coming.

As it turned out, because of the weak cell service on the mountain the best our signal could do was ping off a tower in Bagdad, so, based on that, we could have been anywhere from there to Granite Mountain, although we had told them our basic location. It was still a lot of ground to cover, but thanks to the dedicated volunteer efforts of the Yavapai County Search and Rescue Team Backcountry Unit, and a few echoing shouts back and forth with them, four members found us at close to midnight. Considering they were wrapping up probably a four-hour search, these guys were the most pleasant, selfless, caring guys you’d ever want to meet. Neil, Dave Josh and Glenn saw to it that we were warmed up with some fleeces and loaned us headlamps for the unexpected two-and-a half mile midnight hike down the mountain to our car. We can’t thank them, and the rest of their team, enough for all their efforts in the chilly darkness of an October evening.

The YCSRT works on a completely volunteer basis under the direction of the Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office. Other teams besides the backcountry unit use off-road quads, horses and dogs to search for missing persons, people stuck in mine shafts or on cliffs, assist with evacuations and roadblocks during fires and floods conduct evidence searches at large crime scene areas, perform backcountry safety patrols or other duties, at all hours and under all conditions. If you’d like to become a part of their team, contact the YCSRT Community Outreach Coordinator at 928-554-6264 or email contactus@ycsrt.org. Get more information about them at ycsrt.org.

We’ve done all our previous hiking in the daylight, and expected this would be no different, but you can be sure that in the near future, headlamps, complete with backup batteries, and two-way radios will be added to our hiking packs, along with other gear for unexpected changes in plans. A night of not-so-good cold uncertainty yielded some lessons, including the fact that we can be even more prepared for the outdoors, and some new friends. Not to mention faith that the good will always come out of the not-so-good eventually.

Oh, by the way, the juniper? On the way back, as we hit the familiar junction of trails, the team pointed out that is a short distance down Trail 39, a left turn at the junction we could have just taken at the beginning.

You can’t make this stuff up.

Jim Wright is the News Editor at Prescott News Network. Email him at jwright@prescottaz.com.

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