By ABC-7 General Manager Kevin Lovell
I’ve followed with keen interest and compassion Bob Sumrall’s battle for survival after getting lost for almost a week in the Gila. (On KVIA.com, ABC 7’s Paul Cicala takes you to the cabin Sumrall used as a shelter before being found semi-conscious nearby.)
Sumrall’s tale hits home with me. I’m an avid hiker, having climbed California’s Mt. Whitney and several 14,000 foot peaks in Colorado. Three times I’ve been lost in the wilderness! Not hopelessly lost like Sumrall, but lost to the point of not knowing my exact location and not certain how to get out. In each case, it took time to collect my senses and determine how to retrace my steps. Believe me, it’s a scary, desperate feeling. I’ve never used a GPS – stupid, I know – but was not hiking alone.
At the end of an arduous day, you’re exhausted, disoriented and subject to missing lightly traveled trail junctions.
In October, I went hiking with two friends close to where Sumrall got lost.
We visited an isolated Buffalo Soldier monument along Las Animas Creek north of Hillsboro. Former KVIA weatherman and NWS forecaster John Fausett injured his knee and was limping along with fellow companion Shaun Felice. John’s pace was so slow that I walked in front a quarter mile or so and waited for them. I had marked the creek exit trailhead by hanging a brightly colored shirt. But I had an AM radio and became engrossed in a good college football game. Sure enough, I pranced past the cutoff. John and Shaun assumed I had left the shirt as a marker, removed it, and headed out of the canyon. When they failed to materialize, I retreated certain to find them. I didn’t see them or the shirt! I had the car keys, didn’t know where they were and darkness was descending.
Through trial and error, I found the trail and raced up to meet them at the car. Whew!
I’ve learned my lesson. I’ll never be cavalier in the wilderness again.