Yesterday's Light

Images in Space and Time

Beam me up, Scotty

Rescued Hiker, Death Valley NP

Rescued Hiker, Death Valley NP

Sometimes your longest lens just isn’t enough.

We came upon this scene as we were driving south on Badwater Road in Death Valley NP.   As we crested a small rise in the road we saw a large number of emergency vehicles ahead, with a noisy helicopter hovering nearby.  There were, of course, quite a few tourist-type people (like us) who had also stopped to see what was going on. Since the road was essentially blocked we pulled over as well.  A quick check with some of the other bystanders revealed that they were trying to rescue a hiker who’d gotten himself stuck – overnight – on top of a small mesa in an area near Golden Canyon.  They also said that he didn’t have any food or water.  Rather than climbing up to get him, they were using the helicopter to lift him off.

A few minutes later it was all over.  I didn’t get my long lens on in time to capture the actual rescue, but I did get a few pictures as they were flying off.  There’s actually two people on the end of the rope (or cable) extending from the helicopter – the rescuer and the hiker.  And the helicopter didn’t wait around to pull them up.  They were still hanging out there when we lost sight of them.  Must have been quite a ride.

Actually, this kind of thing happens all too often in national parks.  Sadly, it’s not always a “rescue”.  Sometimes it’s a recovery.  While I was watching this little event, I kept thinking of how embarrassing it would be to die of thirst up there – in full view of a main park road.  You gotta be careful out there………..           


4 Responses to “Beam me up, Scotty”

  1. TomDills

    Definitely not the way I’d prefer to ride a helicopter, Paul. Unfortunately some people tend to not be as fully prepared as they should be when they head out into the back country.

    • Paul Maxim

      Funny thing, but last night while watching the news I saw some helicopter rescues in Texas (weather related) where they did the same thing. Once the rescued person was attached, they got moving pretty quickly. Must be I’ve seen too many movies – I thought they always reeled them in first.

      I’m always amazed at the number of people we see who are totally unprepared as they head out onto difficult trails. Many aren’t wearing the right kind of shoes or aren’t wearing a hat, or worse, have no water with them. Most of the time all of the above. Usually they’re wearing flip-flops. Dumb.

  2. E. Brooks

    I believe I read somewhere that due to budget constraints many of those rescued are now being charged for at least part of the cost of rescue. Perhaps a sign at the entrance stating, “If we have to come and get you it will cost you $10,000+” would turn back some of those less prepared…nah, probably not! 🙂

    • Paul Maxim

      I love your idea! Put a sign up at the entrance warning people that being stupid could cost them lots of money. Heck, everybody stops at the entrance to have their picture taken anyway (you know, next to the sign that says “Welcome to Death Valley NP”, or wherever). Well, not everybody. We don’t.

      Ah, they probably wouldn’t read it anyway. Even if they did they wouldn’t pay any attention.

      My thought is to force people to go through a 1 hour “training” class before they enter some of these parks. Show them pictures of rescues (and recoveries). Force them to see what happens to the human body after it falls a couple thousand feet into a rocky chasm.


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