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Wednesday, January 16 , 2019, 11:46 pm | Light Rain Fog/Mist 59º


As Trails Beckon in Summer, Search & Rescue Responds

Santa Barbara County officials say more people are heading out unprepared, relying on cell phones to call for help if they get into trouble

Thousands of people enjoy the trails that wind through the Santa Barbara area’s front- and backcountry, and the Santa Barbara County Search & Rescue team inevitably ends up rescuing a few dozen of them each year.

Monday night’s rescue of a dehydrated man who fell ill during a training run makes 99 for this year. There are typically 110 to 130 SAR incidents per year, volunteer Nelson Trichler said, and those 99 incidents translate to 1,000 hours of work.

One of the more unusual 23 hiking-related incidents was about a month ago when an Oxnard-area couple’s dog fell and dislocated its hip, Trichler said. The 80-pound dog was carried down the trail on a stretcher by the SAR team. Trichler said if the owners had tried to carry the dog, they probably would have injured themselves.

Call volume typically goes up in the summertime, as more people want to explore the outdoors amid nicer weather. Trichler said cell phone usage is involved in 70 percent of rescues, and the “9-1-1 mentality” could contribute to the number of rescue calls.

Before cell phones, people would better prepare for emergencies and self-rescue, Trichler said, while many people now rely on calling for help if they get into trouble. He said most hikers who require rescuing went out by themselves, ran out of water, weren’t familiar with the area or were otherwise unprepared.

Resources abound for those looking for an outdoor trek, from message boards and trail and road information to participating in volunteer maintenance projects.

Locally, the Multi-Use Trails Coalition and the Santa Barbara Trails Council have projects and hiking advice galore.

The Trails Council is working on Jesusita Trail reroutes, and its members approached the Santa Barbara City Council about an upcoming fundraising push for long-term reconstruction. Most of the projects were done with little or no public money, and merely for the love of the trails, according to board president Otis Calef and executive director Ray Ford. They said their members have lots of equipment and expertise in the area already.

The Los Padres National Forest Web site and its ranger stations have updates on road and area closures — the La Brea Fire area was recently reopened to nonmotorized uses — and fire restrictions, particularly important for backcountry hikers and backpackers.

Trichler, an SAR member for nearly 30 years, is one of 25 volunteers on the team, which responds to rescues, searches, body recoveries, over-the-side vehicle accidents, plane crashes and hang gliders/paragliders. He said a conscious effort to get the word out on their rescues, and to push education so people better prepare themselves for their wilderness adventures, gives the perception of more hiking rescue incidents this year than previous years.

The SAR team is looking for 10 to 12 new recruits, as most members stay for only three to five years and not everyone can respond every time, Trichler said.

Search & Rescue’s Tips for Hikers

» Don’t hike alone, and always tell someone where you’re going.

» Research your route and weather beforehand, and bring a map and compass with you as well as signaling gear (such as a mirror or flashlight) for emergencies.

» Be familiar with hazards of the area, such as rattlesnakes and poison oak.

» Bring enough water (a quart per hour is recommended).

» Bring basic gear such as a first aid kit, food, a whistle and a knife, and wear appropriate clothing (cotton is discouraged during hot summer months).

» Don’t depend on cell phones to get a signal.

Noozhawk staff writer Giana Magnoli can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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