MECCA HILLS: Couple, 75 & 57, airlifted from Ladder Canyon
MECCA HILLS — A 75-year-old man and 57-year-old woman were rescued from a popular but remote desert slot canyon, south of Interstate 10 and east of Highway 86, late Sunday afternoon. The couple was not injured, but had become lost and disoriented while hiking in the canyon, named for the countless ladders peppered throughout the trail, which are necessary to use if completing the full, 5-mile canyon loop.
According to area hikers familiar with the well-known hiking destination located 40 miles southeast of Palm Springs, covering the full canyon loop can take 3-5 hours for experienced hikers in excellent physical condition.
The trail, which often catches hikers off guard and ill prepared, is the sight of many area rescues every year. According to officials, the most common reason for most of those rescues is lack of proper planning and preparation.
Deputies from the Riverside County Sheriff’s Thermal Station and other emergency first responders were dispatched to Ladder Canyon in the Painted Hills area of the Mecca Hills Wilderness Area shortly after 5 p.m., after the couple called 911 to report being lost. The couple told emergency dispatchers they only had a small amount of water and no warm clothes, Riverside Sheriff’ Sergeant Chris Olsen explained after the rescue.
The couple was advised a rescue could take several hours and instructed the pair to remain where they were so rescuers could hike in to find them. As the rescue was getting underway, Deputies established a command post on Painted Canyon Road, from where the evening’s rescue was coordinated.
Volunteer members of the Riverside County Desert Sheriff’s Search and Rescue Team responded to the scene to assist in locating the couple and team members eventually hiked into the canyon and located the couple.
Although the couple was not injured, because of the distance and terrain necessary to hike back out of the canyon, a sheriff’s helicopter was summoned to the scene to assist with the rescue, according to Olsen.
An aviation crew responded to the area in “Star-9” and after picking up the couple, ferried them out of the canyon. They were eventually taken to the Sheriff’s command center where they were checked out by waiting paramedics.
Olsen took the opportunity to remind hiking enthusiasts to always carry proper equipment for any outdoor excursions.
“Consider taking plenty of water, food, and a mobile charging port in order to maintain a charged cell phone,” Olsen explained. “Hikers should also be aware of the weather report and take appropriate clothing for the conditions.”
Proper preparation also includes a well thought out travel plan shared with friends and family, as well as familiarity with common hiking equipment, such as GPS, maps and compasses.
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Trevor Montgomery, who recently moved from Riverside County to Shasta County, runs Riverside County News Source and Shasta County News Source. Additionally, he writes for Riverside County based newspapers Valley News, The Valley Chronicle and Anza Valley Outlook as well as Bonsall/Fallbrook Village News in San Diego County.
Trevor spent 10 years in the U.S. Army as an Orthopedic Specialist before joining the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department in 1998. He was medically retired after losing his leg, breaking his back and suffering both spinal cord and brain injuries in an off-duty accident.
During his time with the sheriff’s department, Trevor worked at several different stations, including Robert Presley Detention Center, Southwest Station in Temecula, Hemet/Valle Vista Station, Ben Clark Public Safety Training Center and Lake Elsinore Station, along with other locations.
Trevor’s assignments included Corrections, Patrol, DUI Enforcement, Boat and Personal Water-Craft based Lake Patrol, Off-Road Vehicle Enforcement, Problem Oriented Policing Team and Personnel/Background Investigations. He finished his career while working as a Sex Crimes and Child Abuse Investigator and was a court-designated expert in child abuse and child sex-related crimes.
Trevor has been married for more than 27 years and was a foster parent to more than 60 children over 13 years. He is now an adoptive parent and has 13 children and 14 grandchildren.