Anxious drivers scrambling to get out of town and unprepared hikers made for a busy Memorial Day weekend for emergency personnel in Rim Country.
Rescuers helped three lost and dehydrated hikers get back on their feet, two in Fossil Creek and another along the Arizona Trail.
On the streets, officers helped clear up several accidents, most on Monday as visitors made their way home.
The Gila County Sheriff’s Office and Department of Public Safety reported a handful of accidents Monday. DPS worked four accidents north of town on Highway 87 and one on Highway 260 east of Payson.
Emergency crews took several people to Payson Regional Medical Center, but doctors there released them all with minor injuries.
At the Highway 260 and 87 intersections near Cinch Hook, a driver coming off 260 to go northbound on 87 was T-boned by a southbound driver on 87. One driver was flown to the Valley, but also later released, said Sgt. Erik Axlund with DPS.
On the trails, Tonto Rim Search and Rescue, Pine-Strawberry Fire and DPS Ranger helicopter crews were out at Fossil Creek helping several people.
One man called to report in the afternoon he was out of water and didn’t know if he could make it back up the Fossil Springs Trail, a sun-baked, eight-mile round-trip hike that yields frequent rescues when people underestimate the trail’s difficulty and over estimate their own stamina.
Around the same time, a man in his 20s called to report he was lost in the canyon.
The man had reportedly missed the trail back out of the canyon and instead continued east up the rugged canyon. When he realized his mistake, the man reportedly tried to bushwhack back to the trailhead instead, only to run out of water and become completely lost. The Ranger helicopter crew managed to locate the man and drop off a medic near his location. The helicopter then dropped off two members of TRSAR with more food and water, said TRSAR Commander Bill Pitterle.
The group made it back to the creek where the helicopter landed and got them out safely.
Also this weekend, a 68-year-old man was dropped off near Sunflower to hike the Arizona Trail. The man told family he planned to hike 30 miles that day to a pickup near Doll Baby Ranch Road.
When the man didn’t show up as planned, searchers were called in. Crews made contact with the man by phone and learned he hadn’t made it as far as he planned and had run out of water. A helicopter crew dropped food and water to the man and he reported he would stay the night and hike out in the morning, Pitterle said.
Axlund said during any holiday weekend, everyone in DPS district 11 works. That includes six officers and Axlund acting as supervisor.