Scouts of the Sedona Westerners Hiking Club at their best.
February 07, 2020
By Kelly-Leigh Thomas
Westerners demonstrating the makeshift gurney, made from one jacket and four hiking poles. Photo courtesy of Linda Warren
Mid December’s lovely weather brought out an eager group of Scouts from the Sedona Westerners hiking club to the Boynton Canyon Trail. Always searching for new and fun approaches to hike our tried and true Sedona trails, we spent 5 hours enjoying this area. Walking out of Boynton Canyon involves pretty views of slick rock and the red buttes before meeting civilization at Enchantment Resort.
Our return, however, took a serious turn when we heard a women calling for help! Our group stopped to scan the high slick rock and identified a hiker in distress. Although she was off trail and over half a mile away, we could see and communicate with her. The hiker let us know she was injured and that her husband was missing and that he may have slipped off the mountain. Reassuring her, we told her we would contact 911 immediately and request the help she needed. We met our first obstacle as we grabbed our cell phones. No cell service! Anyone that has hiked in this area quickly discovers that there is no cell service in Boynton Canyon. Today that meant: no way to reach 911!
A plan was quickly put in place. Our Scouts would divide into three groups. The first group would hike back to Enchantment Resort and use their landline to call 911 with the details that we had regarding this distressed hiker and her lost husband. Group two would be a team of four Scouts with emergency supplies, including a SAM splint. They would hike to the stranded woman to offer her help and support. Luckily, among these strong, veteran hikers was a medical doctor. The third group would remain on the trail where they had a clear view of the hiker and could update any first responders that may have been assigned to this rescue.
The group that ran back to Enchantment Resort to alert 911 was told by the Enchantment Resort Security that this had been done and help was on the way. Concerned that our reconnaissance was more up to date, two more calls were placed to 911 by our Scouts. Again, phone signal strength was weak, our calls were interrupted and we had concerns that our information had not gotten through as no first responders were yet present at Enchantment Resort. Jumping into a vehicle and driving toward town, where cell service would be accessible, was the next step. Reaching 911 was successful. Dispatch assured us that they had this information in their system and that triage had started. Search and Rescue had been contacted.
The Scouts know this back country area well and our group of four quickly reached the injured hiker. Two employees of Enchantment Resort had also hiked in, having been alerted by earlier hikers that there was a hiker in distress. They quickly joined in to assist. While assessing her injuries and applying the splint, the remaining Scouts set off in different directions looking for her missing husband and were successful. He was a little disoriented but otherwise fine, and after much needed hydration he was reunited with his injured wife.
The next step was to help the wife and her husband down to the trail. The narrow path made it impossible for the Scouts to help this splinted, injured hiker, hobble off the mountain. Two very strong team members alternated carrying her down the mountain on their backs to the established trail! The other members of the team helped her husband down the mountain. Once there, the Scouts that had kept vigil assembled a litter, “MacGyvered” together with jackets and hiking poles. Taking turns carrying this “gurney” the last mile was completed using up any strength the team had left. Greeted by a Yavapai County Sheriffs Sergeant at Enchantment Resort, our injured hiker was moved to a chair to await the ambulance. In the meantime, Search and Rescue arrived and reviewed transport options to the hospital with the couple. They elected to drive themselves to the hospital instead of waiting for the ambulance’s arrival.
Our hope is that this story reminds hikers that accidents can and do happen on the Sedona trails. Hiking in a group has many benefits. If hiking with the Sedona Westerners, you will have the strength of seasoned, experienced leaders and the comfort of knowing that they are equipped to handle many situations. We are very proud of our team and their ability to respond to this emergency. I imagine there are two Boynton Canyon Trail hikers that would echo this sentiment.
If you are interested in joining the club, please visit the Sedona Westerners website at www.sedonawesterners.org/membership. You are invited to our next regularly scheduled monthly meeting at 7 p.m., Thursday, February 13, 2020, at the Sedona Methodist Church, 110 Indian Cliffs Road.
Written by Kelly-Leigh Thomas