Search Reduced for Two Hikers in Grand Canyon

After five days of extensive searching, today the National Park Service (NPS) is reducing the scale of the search for two hikers who went missing at Grand Canyon National Park on Saturday, April 15. The hikers are identified as Lou Ann Merrell, 62, and Jackson Standefer, 14.

On Saturday evening, April 15 the NPS received an alert from a personal locating beacon in a backcountry area of Grand Canyon National Park near the confluence of Tapeats Creek and Thunder River. An Arizona Department of Public Safety helicopter flew to the location where a hiking party reported two members of their party missing.

The party reported that Merrell and Standefer were last seen crossing Tapeats Creek below the confluence with Thunder River when they lost footing and were swept down Tapeats Creek.

Beginning the morning of Sunday, April 16 and lasting through the end of the day Wednesday, April 19, the NPS searched extensively in both the Tapeats Creek area and the area of the Colorado River below the confluence with Tapeats Creek (approximately Colorado River Mile 134). [Click here for a picture of the area] Three teams (approximately 20 people total) searched ground areas along Tapeats Creek and the Colorado River each day staying in the field overnight.

In order to cover areas that were inaccessible to the ground searchers, each day the NPS also utilized a helicopter and crew, an unmanned aerial system (UAS) and operator, and an inflatable motor raft and associated search team.

Arizona Department of Public Safety and Uintah County Search and Rescue (Uintah County Sheriff’s Department) assisted in the search.

Today the NPS will focus search efforts along the Colorado River below the confluence with Tapeats Creek with a search crew operating an inflatable motor raft. If no additional information is discovered or received today, starting Friday April 21 the search will continue in a limited and continuous mode focused on public outreach and search efforts during regular backcountry patrols. The NPS will continue to follow up and investigate any new information that it receives.

NPS story

Lou Ann Merrell is the wife of Randy Merrell, an accomplished boot maker and president of Merrell Shoe Company. Click here for an article about the family and their business, as well as their efforts to locate their family members.

Biker, Jacob Gray, Missing in Olympic National Park

A search began late Thursday, April 6th for Jacob Gray, a 22-year old Washington man whose bicycle and camping gear was found on the side of the Sol Duc Road in Olympic National Park.

This was originally reported on April 11th and the story was alter updated on April 13:

Rangers continue the search for Jacob Gray of Port Townsend, Washington, who has been missing since April 6th. Olympic National Park Law Enforcement Rangers and Olympic Mountain Rescue have been searching both sides of the the Sol Duc River corridor near mile post 6.3 where Gray’s bicycle and camping gear were found. Park Rangers are integrating the use of search dogs into the operation.

No other information is known at this time.

Snowboarder Rescued in Grand Tetons

Grand Teton National Park rangers, Jackson Hole Mountain Resort ski patrol, and the Teton County Search and Rescue helicopter coordinated a rescue effort for Alex Thompson, 26, of Jackson, Wyoming on Sunday, April 9 after he was caught in a soft slab avalanche in Granite Canyon.

Thompson was snowboarding in the park’s backcountry with three companions after exiting an open backcountry access gate at the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort ski area. Thompson was traversing across the top of Air Force Couloir when the slab broke above him. The sliding snow carried him approximately 1,000 feet downhill until he came to a rest atop the snow. Thompson suffered injuries during the fall due to collisions with rocks.

One of Thompson’s companions called Jackson Hole Mountain Resort ski patrol around 11:30 a.m. shortly after the slide. Ski patrol launched initial rescue efforts and called the Teton Interagency Dispatch Center as the incident was within park boundaries. Three ski patrollers skied down to Thompson’s location with a rescue toboggan and medical gear. They assessed Thompson’s condition and prepared him for ski-toboggan transport to the bottom of Granite Canyon and eventual aerial rescue.

NPS Report

My Visit to Russell Cave National Monument

“Underwhelming” is a decent one-word description of my visit to Russell Cave National Monument in northeast Alabama.

My son and I preparing to be underwhelmed.

The outdated and rundown visitor’s center’s main highlight was a dog calmly lying in the sunlight out front. An informational video was the centerpiece of the visitor’s center. It narrated the history of the cave and the evidence discovered showing human activity dating way back. The visitor’s center also included displays of various items found in the cave.

The two park rangers seemed rather disinterested in their job and their visitors, yet very interested in their conversation with each other. There was a family of four there with us.

After a short walk on a railed boardwalk, we arrived at the aforementioned cave–a large hollowed out spot in a cliff with a stream running out of it. Visitors are not permitted in the cave. Archeological paraphernalia is in the cave giving the idea that we were in an important place. We could see darkened rock in the cave ceiling, which the video told us was evidence of years of camp fires.

Arriving at THE Russell Cave. You could cut the underwhelmedness with a knife.

And that was it.

We were there for maybe half an hour, ten minutes of which were spent watching the video. It was unique and pretty in its way, but you’re not going to spend much time there.

John F. Kennedy set the land apart as a National Monument solely for its historical significance–the fact that many people came here over the years. And by so doing, made sure few people would come in the future. This is perhaps the worst National Anything I’ve ever been to. It is possible that JFK really didn’t need to do this for his country.

Hiker’s body found on Longs Peak

The body of a 39-year-old Thornton man was recovered Sunday afternoon after he was reported missing by the friends who he had been attempting to summit Longs Peak with.

The man, who was not identified by name, was last seen at the top of the Loft at around 9:30 a.m. Saturday. He had been winter mountaineering in the area with two friends when he tried to descend down to the trailhead, according to the National Park Service.

When the man’s friends got back to the trailhead later that day, rangers say they noticed his vehicle was still in the parking lot – prompting them to report him missing.

Local News Story

NPS story

The Loft section between Mount Meeker and Longs Peak

Here is a hiker’s description of what The Loft is as well as information about The Loft route up Longs Peak:

The actual loft area that gives this route its name is the wide-open flat plateau that separates Mt. Meeker and Longs Peak. Regardless of season, due to the somewhat uniqueness of this small area, The Loft is usually a windy place. Since Longs Peak carries so much prominence and is anchored by the equally lofty Mt. Meeker to the southeast, this area, though definitely NOT a col, functions in accordance by funneling the winds across its flat expanse. Exceptions in weather always exist of course, but the norm is to expect windy conditions on this plateau.


Tourist falls off Mather Point at the Grand Canyon

Park rangers said they received a call around 4:15 p.m. Tuesday about a park visitor falling off the rim of the canyon west of Mather Point. Friends and family told KCCI that Gom Dang was posing for a picture when he fell to his death.

“He started handing me his phone,” Ruot said. “I don’t know, I guess I was a little far from him or whatever the case was, and he slipped backward. He fell with his back, and he rolled over.”

NPS Story

His family has established a GoFundMe to defer costs of getting his body transported to his home state of Iowa.

Family’s remarks and GoFundMe

Iowa Local News story

Illegal Tour on Hawaiian Volcano

A tour guide based in France and a tour group of 13 people were caught early Monday morning sneaking into the closed area at Halema‘uma‘u, the erupting summit crater of Kīlauea volcano.

National Park Service law enforcement officers spotted the group just after midnight, and issued citations for violating the terms of the closure to all 14 people. The tour guide was issued additional citations for operating a non-permitted business in the park and creating a hazardous condition. All 14 were escorted out of the park.

The 44-year-old male tour guide, affiliated with the French tour company Adventure et Volcans, must make a mandatory court appearance and faces a maximum penalty of $5,000 and six months in jail. His name is being withheld as the investigation continues. The violation of closure citations are $100 each, with a $30 processing fee.

“This is a serious violation,” said Chief Ranger John Broward. “Areas surrounding Halema‘uma‘u Crater are closed because of extremely hazardous volcanic conditions that include high concentrations of toxic gases and particulates, ongoing volcanic explosions and frequent collapses of the crater walls,” he said.

National Park Service Report

Not all tours are licensed by the National Parks. I have heard of the same thing occurring at the Grand Canyon and other parks. Unlicensed tours are illegal and could end in disaster.