In August, I headed to St. George, Utah, to explore a part of the country I’ve never been to and to shake up where I’ve been working.
Having never been there and knowing no one, I relied on Google to find a real estate agent, restaurants, hotels, and hiking spots. What I learned is that Google’s search results have become almost useless, but that is another story for another day.
The hotel I booked looked great online. “Newly remodeled, modern, and clean,” said Google. Not so much. They had put in new flooring, and that was about it. The place reeked of chemical cleaning agents and cigarettes, even though it was a non-smoking establishment.
It was over 103 degrees ins St. George, and the AC in the room didn’t work. I may have been able to overlook all that, but when I peeled back the bedspread and found sheets that looked like they have been in use since WWII and dirt or small bugs in the bed, I left for the Hilton. I should have booked that in the first place.
The next morning, I got up for what was supposed to be quick 1.5 miles out and back hike. Google said it was an easy, moderate exertion hike. That sounded perfect since I needed to get back and get to work, and I wanted to avoid hiking when it got over 100 degrees.
When I got there, it was in the ’80s, and I found the trail to be marked poorly; and I wound up following a ravine for about two miles before realizing it was not the trail.
Undaunted, I headed back, found the real trail, and headed for “The Arch” that was 1.5 miles out – after I had already walked about four miles. Again, I noted the path markers were confusing, and it was covered with a thick layer of sand, making it a lot like trudging through knee-deep snow. After a couple of hours, I was not finding the Arch and decided to head back.
That’s when the hike became troublesome. I followed the wrong trail about five times, only to wind up at a solid wall of rock. The temp had gone way over 100, and I was climbing steep, sand-covered inclines. I started to feel awful, and I was down to 1.5 bottles of water after downing the first 3.5 bottles.
I tried using my GPS on my phone, but it was blank. I tried backtracking, and an hour later, I was back to the spot where I’d decided to go back in the first place. I felt really awful by this time and was down to .5 bottles of water.
Thankfully my iPhone was well charged, so I called a county office to see if someone could ping the phone and get me going in the right direction. They could not, and they told me they were required to call 911, where they could ping the phone. I got a callback, and the person on the phone told me he had to call search and rescue. I resisted but was also well aware that I was feeling progressively worse.
So, while search and rescue were on the way, I made one last attempt to find my way back, hoping I could meet them before they started looking for me. Forty-five minutes later, I didn’t find the trail or the parking lot – but I did see “The Arch” finally. LOL. Now I was pretty much out of the water and decided to take shelter from the sun and wait.
Fifteen minutes later, a gentleman from the Washington County Search and Rescue team, along with a Ranger from the Bureau of Land Management, called my name.
Getting back was no picnic because I felt really sick. I would later learn that I was in the early to middle stages of a heat stroke. The rescue crew was GREAT. They had me down a bunch of water and Gatorade. They explained this happened all the time (they may have been saying that, so I was just a little less embarrassed, but I was grateful anyway), and that the rescue team also explained that they had trouble with the trail markers out there and people not finding the trail from the sand. That did make me feel better. It was my first hike in the sand, and I noted it had blown over any footprints.
They checked me out and declared I was okay to drive back.
Below is the best of the photos and the crew that was good enough to drop what they are doing and look for a total stranger.
You have to love that, and love that we live in a country where there are so many good people like this.
I donated to the Washington County Search and Rescue – and you can too.