for Pine column

Gary Morris

UPDATE: Gary Morris made contact with the Gila County Sheriff’s Office Wednesday afternoon and crews were working to locate him and airlift him out of the Mazatzal Wilderness. No word yet on his condition or what happened.

Search and rescue teams have been looking for Pine-Strawberry Fire Chief Gary Morris since Tuesday morning.

Morris was hiking the Arizona Trail solo between Sunflower and Doll Baby Ranch in the Mazatzal Wilderness southwest of Payson and was expected back Monday night.

When he didn’t arrive Tuesday morning, his wife called the Gila County Sheriff’s Office around 9:30 a.m. Tuesday.

The GCSO called in Tonto Rim Search and Rescue along with the Arizona Department of Public Safety Ranger helicopter to help look for Morris.

Morris, 73, is an avid hiker and has been completing sections of the Arizona Trail, said Bill Pitterle, commander with TRSAR.

Morris is a member of TRSAR. Pitterle said he completed the same section of the Arizona Trail just last year.

Morris, who had planned to complete the section of trail in four days, reportedly called his wife Sunday evening and gave her the coordinates of where he planned to camp for the night. Pitterle said he is familiar with the ridge Morris was camping at Sunday.

Around noon Monday, Morris reportedly called his wife and told her he was on schedule to reach Doll Baby Ranch that evening.

That is the last time anyone heard from Morris.

It is unclear where Morris was at the time he sent that message.

Pitterle said they have not been able to locate any of Morris’ tracks.

TRSAR plans to send in five teams to look for Morris Wednesday morning while DPS will continue to search by helicopter.

DPS planned to look for Morris overnight Tuesday, looking for any signs of a camp.

Contact the editor at

Contact the editor at abechman@payson.com

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