It was another busy week for Tonto Rim Search and Rescue volunteers who battled sleep deprivation and exhaustion in a series of overnight rescues.
Last Wednesday, a 45-year-old woman from Young went missing after leaving her home for a late night ride on her quad.
The woman had planned to return home quickly, but soon found herself lost in a maze of trails 12 miles west of Young, near the Flying W Ranch. Around 8:30 p.m., the woman called home to report she did not know where she was. Her family called authorities and gave a “sketchy” description of where she was, said Tonto Rim Search and Rescue Commander Bill Pitterle.
Gila County sheriff’s deputies searched for the woman for several hours, but found no tracks to her whereabouts. Around 1 a.m., Pitterle received a call for assistance from the sheriff’s department and rounded up a small group of volunteers.
Using information received from the woman’s cell phone company that stated she was 15 miles away from the cell tower, five searchers were able to plot a map where she could be located. Searchers scoured roads until early morning but could not find the woman. Even a helicopter found no sign of the woman or her ATV.
After five hours of searching, Pitterle finally got a break around 6 a.m., when he spotted the woman walking down a dirt road several yards below his vehicle.
The woman was uninjured but dehydrated and cold.
Four days earlier, on July 18, searchers had spent another exhausting night out on the trail, this time in Bear Flat, hunting for an out-of-town couple.
The couple, who were staying with a friend, had discussed hiking several trails in the area earlier in the day. When the couple’s friend left to run errands around 5 p.m., the pair decided to set out on an evening hike. By the time the man returned, the pair was still out. So, he decided to wait and see if they would turn up. However, by 11 p.m. the man decided to call the sheriff’s office to report them missing.
Nine volunteer searchers set out on several trails surrounding Christopher Mountain, which is 30 miles east of Payson, while a helicopter searched from the air.
After five hours of looking, Pitterle decided to call back his searchers around 5 a.m. Pitterle planned to send everyone home for a few hours to rest and then begin looking again around 8 a.m.
However, the couple ambled into the -Bar-C Boy Scout Ranch before rescuers could return.
Reportedly, the couple, in their 40s, had set out on a trail but got lost when they took a wrong turn. Realizing they were lost, they camped for the night and when daylight came, headed downhill to the camp.
With the exhausting mission completed by Sunday morning, Pitterle thought he could head home for some rest.
Only a few hours after returning home, Pitterle received a call that a woman was lost in Star Valley on her horse. The woman had recently moved to the area and was mixed up on a trail. She reported she could see Highway 260 but could not figure out how to get there. Pitterle sent several searchers up on quads who escorted her home safely.
Pitterle got another call around 4 p.m., this time reporting a group of hikers was dehydrated on Fossil Springs Trail. Searchers located the group, gave them water and walked them out to their vehicles uninjured.