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Yesterday we were boondocking near Bryce Canyon NP and decided to to a quick 3 to 4 mile hike. Our usual day in national parks.  Since it was a Saturday asked the gate ranger how busy they were, 'very busy' was her reply. So we decided to pick a lesser used hike and picked Swamp Canyon loop trail, we planned to be at the park for another 5 days or so, and there was no rush on the popular hikes. Reported as 3 miles in one place and little over 4 in another. We went counterclockwise, got to the bottom of the switchbacks, and started on the rest of the hike. It is a pleasant hike not highly photogenic.

Well to cut the finale we ended up huddled together under a rock ledge 'cave' in thirty degree temps and a relentless freezing wind. I spent the night feeding a fire including a two AM trip on a steeply sloping rock face in search of more fire wood. I kept the smokey fire burning to around four AM and we froze until daylight at six.

To cut to the second finale, we spent the next day, starting at 6:30 AM trying to figure out how to hike back to our truck. Hiked over 8 miles in very steep terrain, with less than 1 liter of water between ourselves. That was just about down to zero, it was about to thunderstorm, when my wife Cindy managed to find a cell signal, something not seen on the entire rest of the trip. Around 1430

Did I make mistakes, you bet a ton of them. Is the Park Service somewhat responsible, absolutely.

And hats off to the Deputy who picked us up and drove us all the way back to our truck in the park, a long drive stopping so we could buy drinks which we desperately needed. He and the dispatcher reported that this was a common occurrence, the dispatcher knew exactly where we were. 

The moral of the story, if you ever hike the Swamp Canyon loop do it clockwise. A fuller report coming.

 

And thanks once again to that county deputy who has the most difficult and under appreciated job in the country

Edited by agesilaus
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Bryce Canyon elevation is almost 8000 feet and this is still very early May.

On April 29th Lake Davis California elevation of 6000 feet received under forecasted late winter storm with 6 inches of snow.  The forecast called for only a dusting of snow, light rain and cooler temperatures.  

It is very common in the western mountain areas I camp for sudden cold snaps and snow storms this time of year and  a cold wind for a while.

In August of 2019 I ran into a sudden non forecasted snow storm at top of Donner Summit on I 80  around noon that created  icy slippery slush on the roadways.  Donner elevation is near 8000 feet.  I was on a fishing trip from Reno to Rio Vista Ca with no chains or snow tires but did have warm clothing such as jacket, gloves, etc.

My mission is accomplished

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I was at Organ Pipe National Monument in March about five years ago.  The park had a rule that you could not use your generator for AC unless it was a specific date, which it was not, even though it was 95 degrees outside.  Too hot in my RV so I decided to go for a short walk.  I looked at the little newspaper you get when you go through the entrance gate and it showed one hike that was only about 3/4 of a mile long and categorized as "easy."  Headed to the parking lot where the trail started on my bike and found a well-marked entrance.  There was a breeze, and I had two bottles of water with me, enough for a short, easy trail.  (FYI, I was 73 at the time.)

Except it wasn't easy.  What the newspaper forgot and no sign informed me at the beginning was that it had an sharp elevation rise to the top of a ridge.  Also, the start of the trail was well-marked, but apparently whoever marked the trail gave up very quickly, because the rest of the trail had a lot of switchbacks, which could not be distinguished from the animal trails.  No signs, no markers, no nothing.

Anyway, I got off the trail and was fighting my way through cactus, trying not to get scratched.  I could see the campground and the parking lot, but I could not get to them because of the slippery gravel on the slope, cactus, and lack of a trail.  Finally found a couple coming up the opposite direction and asked them to stay where they were so I could find the trail again to go back down.  They had no water at all on them at all because they also were expecting a short, easy trail.  I managed to get down to the parking lot and rode on my bike to the ranger station.  I was furious!!

Walked in with a red face and overheated and asked for the head ranger.  They gave me water and sat me in front of an AC unit.  He came out and asked what happened.  When I told him what trail I had been on, he said that that one was moderately difficult!!  At this point, I made them get me the newspaper printed by the national park system that said it was an easy trail.  I said the true length and elevation change should have been marked at the bottom of the trail, and the newspaper should have been corrected.  Plus, there should have been maps available at the start of this trail or at least a map on a sign.  I also told him it was stupid to set generator dates by the month instead of by how hot it was outside.

Lesson Learned is that you cannot trust descriptions of trails or how well they are marked!!  I don't know if they ever changed the description, but it was their fault for sure, so I know where you are coming from!!!

Edited by Solo18
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Very good information solo 18  and I have experienced similar circumstances both hiking and driving at other locations.  Also in the mountains it can get very dark early and quickly turn to very cold from hot in only a few hours even without wind such as Deer Lake, California, etc. that I was prepared for with warm clothing in backpack and a flashlight or I would have been stuck on steep twisting trail in pitch black darkness.  Elevation is 7103 feet.

I would have put their worthless news letter to another 

My mission is accomplished!!!!! 

Edited by NamMedevac 70
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11 hours ago, Solo18 said:

I was at Organ Pipe National Monument in March about five years ago.  The park had a rule that you could not use your generator for AC unless it was a specific date, which it was not, even though it was 95 degrees outside.  Too hot in my RV so I decided to go for a short walk.  I looked at the little newspaper you get when you go through the entrance gate and it showed one hike that was only about 3/4 of a mile long and categorized as "easy."  Headed to the parking lot where the trail started on my bike and found a well-marked entrance.  There was a breeze, and I had two bottles of water with me, enough for a short, easy trail.  (FYI, I was 73 at the time.)

Except it wasn't easy.  What the newspaper forgot and no sign informed me at the beginning was that it had an sharp elevation rise to the top of a ridge.  Also, the start of the trail was well-marked, but apparently whoever marked the trail gave up very quickly, because the rest of the trail had a lot of switchbacks, which could not be distinguished from the animal trails.  No signs, no markers, no nothing.

 

What trail was it?

https://www.nps.gov/orpi/planyourvisit/hiking.htm

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13 hours ago, 2gypsies said:

ust wondering..... why was the Park Service responsible?

The sheriff dept people told us that they frequently rescue people from this one trail at exactly the point from where they picked us up. There is a three way trail intersection: Under the Rim, Swamp Canyon Loop (the one were thought we were on) and Sweep Creek. After looking at the National Geographic map, I'm sure we ended up on the Sheep Creek trail which goes out of the park.

There are NO trail markers/blazes on the Bryce Trail and the Sheriffs dept said that the Bryce NPS refuses to allow the trails to be marked. The NPS seems to have some official "blue blaze" trail markers. But not to be seen in Bryce. Acadia from a report I saw does use them.

And since quite a few people get lost on this one trail you would think that the NPS would take some action. The Sheriff people say that they personally know about one severe hypothermia case that they pulled off that trail.

Now I do not recall seeing any Sheep Creek trail signs. The is an Under the Rim/Swamp Canyon set of signs and I'm sure that's where we went astray, sign we ended up in Mud Canyon outside the park and followed a tiny creek which was probably Sheep Creek. I took photos of every sign but I need to de-dirt my camera before pulling them off.  Just speculation but maybe the Sheep Creek trail is not an NPS Trail and did not get a sign?

But we ended up very close to something called Mud something cliff according to my AllTrails on one of its brief moments of operating. That's another mistake on my part.

That trail as a known trouble spot absolutely needs to be blazed. But I'm not sure that the NPS actually knows how many people get lost on that trail since the county Sherriff dept. ends up doing the rescues and some read in between the lines comments we got makes me think that the rangers don't patrol the roads and don't notice vehicles left overnight where they should not be left.

I will stop and speak to the rangers, but we were in no shape to do so last afternoon especially since it was snowing. I will write my congresswoman and a copy to the local Garland cty rep.

 

 

Edited by agesilaus
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18 hours ago, noteven said:

Glad the situation panned out for you. You displayed some good sense get out of the wind and huddle a fire... 

+I actually count that as one of my major errors. That rocks shelf was several hundred feet up a steep rock face. At the time I was falsely reasoning that getting over that ridge would lead us to a road. But the climb exhausted my wife. We ended up just under the ridge. And the wind relentlessly blasted straight down from the ridge all the long night.

I took a backcountry survival course decades ago from the Go Climb a Rock people in Yosemite. I should have put that too better use and stayed in the forest. I could have built a lean-to, had the fire in front of that- a downwind fire,  gathered juniper boughs for a bed and to cover us with. And there is a LOT more dead wood down there. A much better way for us. But class room knowledge especially far in the past does not drive in a point like living thru an experience..

 

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14 hours ago, NamMedevac 70 said:

Bryce Canyon elevation is almost 8000 feet and this is still very early May.

As for weather, we knew that the temps we down inb the thirties at night but this was supposed to be a two hour hike starting at 1:00 PM. And on day two just after my wife got ahold of the Sheriff Dept it started to rain which changed to snow/sleet. We had to hike back down the ridge we were in to a FR where the truck was. That in the freezing rain.  We would have been in critical danger if we had not been picked up. You could have easily been reading our obits. I was wearing shorts (another error), we only had light wind breakers, my wife lost her hat. We were out of water and had no real food since the morning before.

Edited by agesilaus
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27 minutes ago, agesilaus said:

We would have been in critical danger if we had not been picked up. You could have easily been reading our obits. I was wearing shorts (another error), we only had light wind breakers, my wife lost her hat. We were out of water and had no real food since the morning before.

Thumbs up.  Harrowing story and very educational/useful for people like me, who are less experienced than you and your wife.  

Thank you!

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I'm going thru and adding items to a list to add to our packs as emergency supplies: bigger packs, life straws, excellent space blankets unlike the junk we had that tore into 4 or 5 pieces and was thin and tiny, make some tinder (that deputy had a great suggestion of making wax impregnated cotton patches), add Swedish fire starters and so on, it isn't complete yet. Maybe some reflextrix pads to sit on. Small bottle with ibuprofen and one or two of any meds you are taking. Small first aid kit.

 

Energy food and more water. We had 2.5 liters will bump that to 4.

The problem is that all this begins to add up in volume and weight. And number one, as per that junk space blanket, open the package and look at what you bought.

Edited by agesilaus
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2 hours ago, agesilaus said:

I took a backcountry survival course decades ago from the Go Climb a Rock people in Yosemite. I should have put that too better use and stayed in the forest.

Mistakes of that sort are so easy to make in times of stress and we probably don't review them often enough. We came very close to making a serious wrong turn that could have lead to an experience such as yours, but luckily met another hiker very familiar with the area just after the mistake and he corrected us. I commend you for reviewing what happened to avoid a future mistake, but will not criticize because I realize that such can happen to just about anyone. I think that what took us so close to a major error was over confidence. I think that if I were to do serious hiking today that I would keep a hiker's GPS with me at all times. I used to have one of the earliest models and in the worst case scenario it would allow us to retrace the route we took on the way in. 

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It sounds like you are working you way up to the "Ten Essentials", a list of "must haves" for backcountry hiking that seem like they have been around for decades.  Some changes over the years (GPS in place of map and compass on some lists) but they are generally these items:

Navigation: map, altimeter, compass, [GPS device], [PLB, satellite communicator, or satellite phone], [extra batteries or battery pack]
Headlamp: plus extra batteries
Sun protection: sunglasses, sun-protective clothes, and sunscreen
First aid: including foot care and insect repellent (if required)
Knife: plus repair kit
Fire: matches, lighter and tinder, or stove as appropriate
Shelter: carried at all times (can be a lightweight emergency bivy)
Extra food: beyond minimum expectation
Extra water: beyond minimum expectation, or the means to purify
Extra clothes: sufficient to survive an emergency overnight

I have carried a day pack with these items for many years, and it is frankly a pain to take it along on what seem like "straighforward" hikes.  But there have been a few times when my wife and I have been happy to have them.  I am often surprised when I see folks heading off into the backcountry with a 20 oz. bottle of water, wearing shorts, a T-shirt and often sandals or some other lightweight footwear. 

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All very good advice. We had some of the items but not enough. We see folks heading out in hot areas, like Arches in summer, with what looks like half liter water bottles (8 oz). We had 2.5-3 liters of water. Sat phone would be very pricey I suspect.

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Please reply after talking to the rangers.  I'd like to know their take on this.  I would highly think that the Sheriff would let the park know if they rescued anyone from the park trails.  Glad you're OK.

We had quite an experience when we won the lottery drawing to hike 'The Wave' in southern Utah.  There is absolutely no trail but you're given landmarks and some GPS coordinates.  Still... we ran out of water even though we carried water on our back in carriers and bottles as spares.  It was a 95 deg day.  We could see the next landmark from atop a ridge but when we went below the ridge it disappeared from view.  The GPS sent us in circles.  We laid under probably the only tree in the desert for a while and took off again.  Hot and no water.  We headed in the direction we guessed was correct.  Finally, we just happened to look up and saw two people walking horizontally to us.  We waved our arms and hollered as loud as we could and they finally looked in our direction.  They waited until we met them; gave us a bottle of their rationed water and pointed in the direction they came.  We eventually made it out but it was one of the scariest experiences ever.  (The other was overturned in a rapid on our Colorado River/Grand Canyon trip but I won't go into that.)

https://www.thewave.info/

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The wave hike is infamous for people getting lost and spending the night on the rock. I've seen reports from a couple of people who got lost. At the minimum you want a compass bearing back to the entrance. There are a number of good apps for your phone with compasses, and usually gps numbers. There are supposed to marker cairns out there but they must be easy to miss.

We drove right by the Wave location and never gave it a thought.

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1 hour ago, agesilaus said:

The wave hike is infamous for people getting lost and spending the night on the rock. I've seen reports from a couple of people who got lost. At the minimum you want a compass bearing back to the entrance. There are a number of good apps for your phone with compasses, and usually gps numbers. There are supposed to marker cairns out there but they must be easy to miss.

We drove right by the Wave location and never gave it a thought.

There's no phone service there.  Yes, people have died on that hike.  The thought crossed my mind!

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7 hours ago, agesilaus said:

Hypothermia is deadly

Having lived in CO & WY for a long time, what amazed me was the discovery that most people who die of hypothermia in the mountains do so in the summer months. People are usually better prepared in the winter. 

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