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My sister and I have a goal to hike every officially named trail in the Grand Canyon National Park. This was our 11th trip, which originally was supposed to be the Tuckup Trail. Because this was in a remote area of the park, I asked my husband for an early Christmas present – a personal locator beacon – which he bought for me. Tuckup Trail only has one spring as a water source unless potholes are filled from rain or snow. Since we could not verify that the spring was reliable due to the lack of rain for the last 4 months, we decided to change our trip at the last minute and do a 5-day hike of Kanab Creek Canyon Route.
On day 3, Thursday, December 14th, while doing an 8-mile day hike from our camp to the river and back, my hiking pole slid down a rock causing me to lose my balance and fall. My wrist immediately swelled up and looked like a limp noodle; it was broken. My sister used my hiking pole as a splint and her hoodie as a sling. We had to decide whether to set off the beacon immediately where we were, hike to the river and set it off hoping to be rescued before dark, or hike back to camp and head to the river the next day (we didn’t think rescuers could get to our camp in such a narrow canyon). We decided to head back to camp. I thought I would be able to hike to the river the next day because I wasn't in much pain (due to all the adrenaline pumping through my system). During the night, however, I woke up in intense pain. My sister asked me if I wanted to set off the beacon. I said, “Yes.” Since it was still dark, she thought whoever would be rescuing us wouldn't be dispatched at that time, so she set off the beacon at daylight, 7:33am on Friday, December 15th.
There was some confusion about whether or not our beacon signal was actually set off; the satellite that crossed over at 7:30am picked up the signal, but because of the narrow canyon, the next 30-minute interval was missed and a second signal wasn’t obtained until 8:24am. Responders were unsure who should be dispatched because part of the trail is in the wilderness and the other part is in the Grand Canyon National Park. Once they determined the coordinates were in the national park, the National Park Service (NPS) was dispatched and arrived at 10:30am. Seeing that helicopter fly over us, we felt an enormous amount of relief. We were flown out to the south rim of the Grand Canyon and then taken by ambulance to Flagstaff Medical Center where my wrist was re-positioned by the ER doctor. My wrist was still unstable so I flew home to Wisconsin and had surgery on Monday, December 18th. Without the personal locator beacon, the alternative was grim. My sister would have had to leave me with limited mobility at camp in a shady, 20-degree canyon. She would have had at least a 2- to 3-day hike back to the rim, sleeping in below-freezing temperatures without a tent followed by a 1.5 hour drive in order to call for help. We'll never hike again without one of these beacons!
Thank you ACR!
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