Even Experienced Hikers Get Lost

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Even experienced hikers can do everything right and still get lost.

Tonto Rim Search and Rescue (TRSAR) responded to a call to look for two overdue Barnhardt Trail hikers around 11:30 p.m. Friday, March 17.

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The Barnhardt Trail is a popular hike about 10 miles south of Payson.

Two hours later, under a nearly full moon and light cloud cover, rescuers headed down the trailhead looking for Ernst Bauer, 78, and Michael Altman, 45.

"They did the most important thing right," said TRSAR member Kathy Baas. "They let someone know where they were going and then they actually went there."

"We actually turned off our lights for quite a bit of the hike because it was easier to see the contours in the trail," said TRSAR member Bill Pitterle. "The trail becomes a little bit more defined in even light. When you shine a light on it, it sometimes becomes kind of faded out there."

Three hours and three-and-a-half miles later they located Bauer and Altman.

"They climbed Mazatzal Peak, and on the way down they missed the trail in an area that is becoming increasingly washed out due to excessive runoff caused by the Willow Fire," Pitterle said. "Some hikers lost the trail in the same area last fall."

Bauer is certainly grateful for the TRSAR team.

"Although we would have managed by ourselves to return, it would have been much later and in complete exhaustion," Bauer wrote in an e-mail.

"The help of (TRSAR) was really greatly appreciated; in particular, that they went on the search during the night."

Bauer was uninjured and was able to return to work Monday.

He had been carrying a backpack with a camera, but he lost it in a fall. He also lost his glasses, making navigation of the terrain even more difficult.

Had he still had the camera they could have use the flash to signal the search helicopter.

"A photo flash really stands out in the dark," said TRSAR member Hal Baas. "A phone that takes pictures with a flash is something hikers might not think of that can also be used in this kind of situation."

Noting Bauer's lost backpack, Baas advises hikers to carry a few crucial survival items on their person.

"During an accident you can get separated from backpacks and fanny packs," he said.

Always carry more water than you think you are going to need because the Arizona wilderness is unforgiving and dry, he said, and layering clothes is key.

"Things do happen unexpectedly even to people who know what they are doing and are prepared," Baas said.

Bauer wrote, "It was a good lesson for the future and I certainly will not give up the mountains. I have spent all my spare time in them, ranging from Paine (Patagonia) to Mt. McKinley (in Alaska), from Matterhorn to Mt. Fuji, and plan to climb them as long my knees allow it."

"I'm an experienced hiker and I've been lost, too," said Pitterle, who has been hiking since he was a child. "It's one of the reasons I do search and rescue."

TRSAR meetings

Tonto Rim Search and Rescue meets at 7 p.m. the second Thursday of each month in the meeting room at the Public Library. Anyone who would like to join the group is welcome. Volunteers do not need to hike. When there is an emergency, TRSAR needs people to make phone calls. There are fund-raising and many other activities and ways to make a contribution of time.

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