A 19-year-old hiker from Mesa, enjoying a summer outing with friends before college started, was injured Wednesday after slamming headfirst into rocks in Fossil Creek northwest of Payson.
The teen was reportedly playing in the water with six other friends, most in their upper teens, in the area of an old dam when he decided to go through a water slot of sorts, said Bill Pitterle, commander with the Tonto Rim Search and Rescue.
The teen hit his head on some rocks as he went through, sustaining lacerations to his nose and face.
Woozy and in pain, the teen eventually was given a ride out of the canyon on a horse provided by the Gila County Sheriff’s Mounted Posse.
According to Pitterle, the teen had hiked from the upper trailhead of Fossil Creek with a group of Mesa teens down to the creek where there is a waterfall and various pools to play in.
After injuring himself around 11:30 a.m., some of his friends hiked out to get a cell signal while others tried to help the teen hike out the way they had come, Pitterle said. The Gila County Sheriff’s Office first received word that the teen was injured just after 1:30 p.m. and TRSAR was not notified until 2 p.m.
Due to his level of pain, the teen was not able to hike out very far.
When rescuers arrived, there was confusion on where the group was located, given there is an upper and lower waterfall along that area of creek.
“We didn’t have much information on where they where,” he said.
The Pine-Strawberry Fire Department sent rescuers down and TRSAR followed with two hikers from the upper trailhead. Halfway down the trail, Pitterle came across another group and knew where they were. The teen was found and had signs of a concussion, however, he felt well enough to ride a horse out.
Mounted posse volunteers met up with the group and the teen rode out to the trailhead, where paramedics checked him out.
The teen indicated he would seek medical attention in Payson at the urgent care center.
Pitterle said the mounted posse is a huge boon for TRSAR.
Since it formed, the posse has worked alongside TRSAR volunteers and the two have safely and quickly rescued people. While TRSAR still has to haul people out on litters in certain circumstances, the mounted posse has taken a huge load off volunteers’ backs.
“Oh boy, I am sore just from hiking in and out,” Pitterle said of Wednesday’s mission. “So we are very, very grateful for the times they can pull someone out.”
On July 25, posse members rode out an 11-year-old girl from Fossil Creek experiencing heat stress. TRSAR found the girl and the posse provided the muscle to get her out.
“They save a lot of old men from some hard work,” said Dave Pirtle, vice-commander with TRSAR.
And on July 17, the two groups worked together again at Fossil Creek, helping dehydrated and injured hikers out.
For more information about TRSAR, visit www.trsar.org. For information on the mounted posse, visit www.gilacountymountedposse.com.