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Mother-Daughter Hike Ends in Tragedy

One wrong turn on a densely wooded trail in eastern Utah's High Uintas may be what cost Carole Wetherton and Kimberly Beverly their lives.

Wetherton, 58, of Panacea, Fla., and her daughter, Beverly, 39, of Tucker, Ga., set off on a popular three-hour hike to Long Lake, off the Mirror Lake Highway, on what started out as a bright and brisk day last September. But a gathering storm and a likely error in navigation proved fatal.

Their remains were found June 26, 2004 near the middle fork of the Weber River, almost three miles from the main hiking trail. Although no one knows for sure, the evidence suggests the women made a wrong turn near the head of Long Ridge, about two miles from the Crystal Lake parking lot, as they dashed back toward their rented Jeep Cherokee. At the time, a mid afternoon storm was pelting the trail with rain and sleet at the 10,000-foot level.

Their confusion may have stemmed from the lowering clouds as well as changing vistas. Although an obvious landmark, Mount Watson appears much different from Long Lake than it does from the parking lot. And at the junction in question -- about a one-hour hike from the Jeep -- the head of Long Ridge looks much like Mount Watson does from the trailhead.

The women could have become further disoriented as they trudged down the rugged canyon that bears the headwaters of the Weber River, believing Mount Watson was to their right, when in reality it was Long Ridge, more than a mile to the southwest.

On the morning of Sept. 8, the women had set out from Park City and most likely arrived at the trailhead 25 miles east of Kamas a little before noon.

A ranger who met the pair near the trailhead warned them that they weren't dressed warmly enough for the high altitude and the rapidly changing weather conditions. But with skies that didn't appear threatening and only a short hike in mind, the women apparently continued. "The clouds come in very quickly up there," Edmunds said. "The difference between July and September is like night and day."

Wetherton and Beverly, who were not wearing warm jackets, were most likely soaked to the skin as they hiked farther and farther from their car and safety. Having lost the trail in the Weber River drainage and with rain changing to snow, the women sought refuge along a rock outcropping and attempted a makeshift shelter with pine boughs.

Shivering and without means to make a fire, it's likely that their core body temperatures began dropping, Edmunds said. Eventually, they sank into a hypothermic state. "Considering the way they were dressed, they probably died that first night," he said.

"Most people from the eastern seaboard can't relate to changing conditions at 10,000 feet," the sheriff said. "That played a big part in this."

Tips for Beginners

Plan Ahead.

Know your hike and your terrain. Plan for the journey by researching the area on the web. Be sure to talk to a local Ranger prior to the hike, and ask for information regarding safety and environmental issues. The Park Ranger knows the area well enough to steer you clear of danger and towards the best sites on the trail.

Know your environment.

Whether you are hiking the Everglades, or the back yard, you must know your environment. Any time humans interact with nature, there is a chance of injury. It's best to know which plants and animals in the area should be avoided. It's also important to be very aware of weather. Research the weather patterns in your park before the hike. This way you can avoid the camping nightmare of waking up in a flooded tent..

Always start small.

The first hike of the season should be a short excursion. Those who are just learning about surviving a night in the wilderness should not be very far from their basecamp (home, car, campsite). Until a hiker completes their first aid training, they should never venture very far from proper medical attention.

Know your water.

We all have visions of drinking from the crystal clear mountain brook babbling over the rocks after a hot hike, but beware of the water! Although it appears safe and clean to drink, most natural water sources have huge amounts of bacteria that can make brave adventurers very sick. Be sure to bring your own water or water filter for drinking. Although it may be fine to wash in the stream, a smart hiker will only drink purified water.

Be smart with food.

Whether hiking in an area known to have bears or sloshing through streams, it's a good idea to keep all food in tightly sealed containers. If animals can smell your rations, they may want to explore further, and a hiker is generally very disappointed to find a fat, happy squirrel in their pack, rather than a salami sandwich.

Have a fire source.

Whatever the weather, a hardened hiker will be able to spark a fire. The fire-bearer should be well-versed in fire safety regulations, should know where they can build fires in the park, and should NEVER leave the fire unattended.

Learn First Aid and carry a kit.

The best medicine for adventurers is that of prevention. By avoiding injury in the wild, everyone has fun and no one ends up in the hospital instead of swimming in the lake. But hikers can't plan for every instance, and sometimes there are accidents. Know what to do in case of emergency.

Think before you step.

Complete common sense is sometimes lost in the excitement of the adventure. A mesmerized hiker may be staring at local wildlife, and trip over a tree root causing serious injury. This doesn't mean adventure walkers should stare only at the trail while hiking, but rather that they should be constantly aware of their surroundings.

Always carry out what you carry in.

The first rule with interacting with the environment is: Leave it as you found it. This rule applies to the trees, the earth, the animals, the campsite, and even the flowers. Carry out all of the garbage you carry in, don't feed the animals, and leave only footsteps when you go.

Never hike alone.

NEVER - under any circumstances venture into the woods by yourself. Outdoor adventures are fun for the family, but hiking is only a group sport. The chances of becoming lost, sustaining injury, or losing supplies is much higher when alone, making the sport extremely dangerous. Always go with a group, tell someone where you are going and when you plan to return, and check in at the ranger station so they are aware of your location.

Put the slowest hiker in front and pace the group to that person.

This works great in a group of differing ages! With the fast hikers in the front, they have a tendency to spread out too much. Then someone small at the back gets exhausted running to keep up. If you do divide into faster and slower groups, the one ahead should never get too far ahead and should stop and let the others catch up on a regular basis.

Take regular breaks.

Make sure that kids are drinking water. In very hot areas dehydration is especially dangerous.

Avoid sunburn.

Wear head and arm coverings in sunny or high altitude areas, and use sunblock.

Pace Yourself!

Encourage kids not to exhaust themselves early in a hike. Sometimes little ones run at the beginning, run out of energy and have to be carried. Remember: it is not the destination that teaches, but the journey itself!

Water

Water is an essential of life and nowhere is that more clear than on a hot day on a long hike.

Drink water when you get up in the morning, before the hike (from water kept in your car) and drink frequently on the trail.

Most hikes will need two litres of water and if it is hot, three. Avoid "sport drinks", coffee and juices. What you need is water.

Other Helpful Items

A POCKETKNIFE can come in handy in a wide variety of situations. It is useful for tasks as large as building an emergency shelter or lighting a campfire with poor fuel or as small as repairing a damaged backpack.

A FLASHLIGHT is important for finding your way at night.

A MAP AND COMPASS are probably the most important tools you can have in case of getting lost, but they won't be of any use to someone who does not know how to use them. In knowledgeable hands, they can be used to determine one's location and the best route to reach another location.

A WHISTLE is an essential device in case of emergency, to direct others in how to respond. All hikers should carry a whistle and know the whistle code:

One blast = STOP

Two blasts = COME TO ME

Three blasts = COME TO ME QUICKLY!

Be a whistle blower!

hikers
#1 Tip: Don't Get Lost

BUT IF YOU DO...

1. If you become disoriented, recognize that you have a problem. SIT DOWN and evaluate your circumstances as calmly as possible.

Panic is your greatest enemy. Take an inventory of what you have with you and mentally retrace your steps. You will probably realize your situation is not as critical as it seemed at first.

2. It is no shame to be lost. Once you realize you are, stay in the immediate vicinity. Do not wander. This will likely take you out of the area in which rescuers will search.

3. Without shelter, your chance of surviving an unexpected night out is minimal. Loss of body heat is the primary killer of someone lost and exposed to the elements.

Get out of the wind. If there is nothing else available, bury yourself in leaves, pine needles or other forest debris. In snow, dig down to the bottom of a sheltering tree or burrow a hole, preferably in a depression out of the wind, just big enough for your body.

The smaller a shelter, the more easily it is heated by your body. Insulate yourself from the ground as much as possible.

4. If possible, start a fire. Learn what natural materials will work best for fires in your area of travel. Fires are a heat-giving, light-giving and psychological comfort-giving companion to the lost. In an emergency, a big fire may substitute for shelter.

5. Find water. Your body will suffer first from exposure and second from lack of water. Your minimum intake of water should be between three and four quarts each day.

6. If you decide you're really lost the next morning, signal your position. Bright fires at night and smoky fires during the day may alert searchers.

Sets of three signals are a universal appeal for help: three fires, three blasts on a whistle, three shots from a gun, three flashes from a signal mirror.

If a clearing is nearby, indicate your position to air searchers by building the largest arrow possible out of whatever is available pointing to your location.

Stamp out an arrow in the snow. Brightly-colored outdoor clothing and gear make very visible markers when laid on the ground or hung from a tree.

berries
Wild berries may look delicious but many of them are poisonous and will make you ill.

7. If you run out of food, don't eat anything unless you can positively identify nutritional wild edibles; the chance of eating something unhealthy is high.

Remember, it takes three to five days before hunger becomes a real problem, and much longer for it to become a life-threatening problem.

8. Especially on day trips, pack and carry a lightweight survival kit with you at all times. Practice using the items in the kit before you need them.

9. Never hike downhill, thinking you will end up back where you started. People often get into trouble by descending into an entirely different valley.

 

 

Preparation
What distinguishes the unprepared from the prepared? The prepared do not go into the back country thinking, “being lost is something that will never happen to me.
storm
Storm clouds gather quickly in the West, and hikers should be well-prepared for sudden changes in the weather.
Hiking
Hiking should be a fun and relaxing way to get outside and enjoy nature. Keep in mind however, that regardless of experience, you are still at the mercy of the elements. Read on and get yourself prepared so that you can safely appreciate the amazing landscape that's right outside your back door.
hikers
Never Hike Alone!

On August 17, 2000 52 year-old Douglas Dent embarked on an 8-day solo hiking trip through the remote Stein River Valley, in SW British Columbia. When Doug did not reach the western terminus of the 87-kilometer trail at Lizzie Lake, near Pemberton, B.C., on the evening of 24th August his son, Greg, became worried. The RCMP were notified and Pemberton Search & Rescue were asked to respond.

The remoteness of the area, its large size and high elevation quickly made it apparent that this was going to be a major search undertaking.  Hikers in the area had previously reported seeing a lone male, of about Doug's age, near Long Lake, just 3km from the Lizzie Lake trailhead.  

A time-line was developed in an attempt to pinpoint the possible movement of Doug, over the last 8 days, in relation to the weather. This plan led to an ever-expanding search area. The incoming SAR teams were then deployed, by helicopter, further east, to the Tundra Lake and North Stein river regions.

At this location the map has a small notation: 'You are two days from any help in any direction. This is the middle of nowhere.' As the helicopter was returning from deploying the second-to-last search assignment, the crew spotted a lone male, standing on a ridge near Tundra Lake, waving a blue jacket at them.

They landed nearby and soon confirmed that they had found a lost hiker - Douglas Dent! Douglas was tired and badly scratched, but was otherwise in reasonable condition. He was quickly flown back to the base camp for a medical examination. 

After the medical assessment Doug explained how he had become disoriented in the low clouds and had headed downhill to the bottom of a remote valley, North of the main hiking trail. There, now completely lost, he camped for three days, waiting for the search teams to find him.

He saw the search aircraft flying overhead a number of times and built a smudge fire, but still he was not spotted. At one time an aircraft circled right overhead - but did not see him.  At this point he became convinced that he would never be found in the valley bottom and so packed all his gear and climbed back up the valley to the ridge above Tundra Lake.

When he saw the helicopter pass overhead, on its way to drop off a search team, he made ready to signal to the chopper should it return in his direction.

On its return along the ridge top, Doug frantically waved his blue Goretex jacket and was spotted by the spotter assigned to the chopper. Doug's family and son Greg all breathed a sigh of relief at his safe return. That evening heavy clouds moved into the search area, which would make air-searching and the air-deployment of searchers impossible. Doug had been found just in time.

fits aid kit
Learn first aid and carry a kit. You never know when an emergency situation will arise.
hikers
Always hike with another person. Your chances of getting lost or injured increase if you hike alone.
canyon
You may encounter water that looks clean and refreshing, but remember, most natural water is filled with bacteria. Bring bottles or a water filter.
mountains
Know the terrain you are travelling on, in order to avoid injury
What To Wear

HOT WEATHER: 

  • clothing that is thin and loose-fitting. Cotton clothing should be avoided, as it traps sweat against your skin.

  • light-coloured clothing reflects the sun's heat and attracts fewer insects

  • a wide brimmed hat to protect your face, head and neck from heat and sunburn. This will also allow you to drape mosquito netting over your head if necessary.

COLD WEATHER: 

  • The layer next to your skin should be a long sleeved top that is made of synthetic materials, or a synthetic/wool blend. A long-legged undergarment should be your first bottom layer.

  • A vest as a mid layer will add warmth to vital body areas while allowing ventilation and movement . Wool or synthetic sweaters and pants are also important mid-layer garments, and won't stick to your skin if they get damp and freeze.

  • The outer layer should at the minimum be a synthetic shell that repels wet and wind from your upper and lower extremities. In very cold weather, this outer layer should be insulated.

  • A cap that covers your ears and neck is a necessity

  • Lightweight gloves that are wool or synthetic are ideal for the hands, and allow for the performance of small tasks.

WET WEATHER

  • The outer layer should be a waterproof/breathable rain parka, or a coated nylon parka. These will allow tiny sweat molecules to pass through while keeping out larger water molecules such as rain or snow.

SOCKS:

  • Next to your foot is a liner sock made of polypropylene or silk. This helps protect your foot from blisters by keeping it dry.

  • Outer socks should be made of mostly wool or synthetic material.

BOOTS:

  • Light weight full grain leather boots are the best bet for most hiking as they provide good protection for the feet, good support for the ankles and can be cleaned and waterproofed easily. Break them in before the hike.
Be Smart
hikers
Tips for Kids
AVOID GETTING LOST: 

    kids
    Never go off on your own. Always tell someone where you're going.
  • If you're hiking, stay in a group or at least buddy-up.

  • Carry an emergency whistle.
  • Count the number of people you started the hike with and keep track of them.

  • Tell someone else where you are going and how long you'll be gone.
  • Bring emergency gear such as a blanket, raincoat or tarp.

IF YOU DO GET LOST:

  • Tell yourself that you are lost and STAY PUT! Stay in one place or area. DO NOT WANDER! One reason is that people looking for you move very slowly while searching for clues. If you are out front running along, they won't be able to catch up.
  • Keep warm with the clothes you are wearing. NEVER take any clothes off. Cover up all the exposed skin you can.

  • Make noise - It's easier to find you if you're not polite and quiet.

  • Don't make fires.

  • Find a Cozy Waiting Place, Not a Hiding Place. A cozy waiting place means a warm place out of the wind and rain but not a place where searchers cannot see you. Under a large tree is a good place.

  • Look bigger for searchers. If possible, your waiting place should be near an open space. When you hear someone coming, move to the middle of the clearing and call.

  • Do not lay on the bare ground. Build a mattress made of available materials such as moss, leaves, branches etc. Laying on the cold ground will steal body heat from you.

  • Do not eat or drink anything you didn't bring with you.

  • When lost in the woods, many people will be looking for you and likely will know your name. Don't be afraid to talk to them. No one will be mad at you for getting lost.

  • Don't be afraid of animals, as there are not many animals out there that will hurt you. Answer a Noise with a Noise. If you hear a noise in the woods, make a noise back. If it is an animal it will run away, if it is a searcher then you will be found

mountain trails
Follow these tips and use your common sense, and your trip will be a safe and enjoyable adventure!