Category Archives: SAR JOURNAL

SAR Journal: Lost Hiker

My SAR team spent the last two days looking for a missing hiker from Rhode Island. We were all relieved to find him alive and unhurt; the picture below shows the scale of the area.

Somebody commented that our county is bigger than the subject’s entire home state, so I looked it up. If Wikipedia is correct, Park County is 6,969 square miles (largely undeveloped) and the state of Rhode Island is 1,212 square miles. Wow.

looking out over part of the search area

looking out over part of the search area

Press Release from Park County Sheriff’s Office
(the following pictures were provided by the Sheriff’s Office)

A missing hiker from Rhode Island was found alive and well yesterday afternoon (Sept. 24) at 1:54 p.m. by Park County Search and Rescue in the Pagoda Creek drainage of the North Fork of the Shoshone National Forest. Nolan Reifsteck, age 18 of Wakefield, Rhode Island had been missing since 7:30 a.m. Tuesday morning.

Reifsteck was camping with his sister at the Wapiti Campground, when he left alone to take a short hike before they set out to visit Yellowstone National Park. He was first reported missing later that afternoon by the Wapiti Campground host. Reifsteck did not give an indication of where he was going and it was unknown if he took food or water with him.

The Park County Sheriff’s Office Search and Rescue (SAR) were immediately deployed and began searching the area to the north of the campground. The search had to be temporarily postponed due to darkness. SAR teams were again deployed Wednesday morning at first light.

photo by Park County Sheriff's Office

photo provided by Park County Sheriff’s Office

SAR began searching the Elk Fork area including the Grace Creek drainage. Canine search units had shown some interest in that area. Ground units were aided by a SAR aircraft as well as a fixed wing aircraft from the Civil Air Patrol and a Blackhawk helicopter with forward looking infrared (FLIR) capabilities from Charlie Company 5-159, Wyoming Army National Guard out of Cheyenne.

Blackhawk landing near Staging -- photo provided by Park County Sheriff's Office

Blackhawk landing near Staging — photo provided by Park County Sheriff’s Office

SAR teams began finding articles of clothing this morning that had been discarded by Reifsteck as he wandered through the back country along a steep ridge to the south. They discovered his hat and jacket approximately ¾ miles from the campground and his long underwear another ½ mile to the east. They also discovered bare foot prints assumingly belonging to Reifsteck. All of these items lead searchers to the Pagoda Creek drainage where they eventually located him. He was somewhat disoriented and dehydrated but otherwise uninjured. He was treated by West Park Ambulance Wilderness Medical Team personnel and released to his parents who had flown in to Cody earlier.

Sheriff Scott Steward once again praised the efforts of the SAR volunteers. “During the search, tragically we had a horse fall into a deep ravine,” commented Steward. “The horse sustained a severe head injury but thank goodness the rider was able to dismount before the fall. But this is an example of why there’s no such thing as a routine back country rescue. Our volunteers risk their own safety every time they go out and we’re grateful for their efforts.”


SAR Journal: Lost hikers and a broken leg

I stepped out of my yoga class yesterday, just before lunchtime, to find that I’d missed a page. Two hikers had been reported overdue and interestingly (at least to me), they were right in the very same area I hiked last weekend.

I jumped into the second truck out and we drove to the trailhead (an hour and a half of twisty mountain roads). The plane was already up and circling the area and Alpha ground team was 20 minutes ahead. Minutes after we strapped on our backpacks, Alpha called in to report that they’d made contact. Both hikers were fine and everything was okay.

Before we even had time to take our packs off, Command called on the radio and sent us to a new location, this one an hour away. A female subject had fallen and broken her leg. Command was sending a chopper in but we went out anyway, as helicopters don’t always make it to the scene.


We drove the truck in as far as we could, then hiked the rest of the way, beating the helicopter there by just a few minutes. It was forced to land on a ridge above the patient, so we loaded her into the litter and carried her up there. Things went smoothly and she was soon on her way to the hospital. Shortly afterwards, Alpha arrived on the scene and was able to assist with carrying down the gear.

A good day that ended with everybody safe!

What We Can Learn From This
The hikers were late because they’d gotten lost. However, they had people who knew their plan and were able to call for help when they didn’t show up.

Always tell someone where you’re going and when you’ll be back.

They were well-equipped and had plenty of food and thus could survive an unpredicted night out.

Always carry a little extra food with you.

I don’t know exactly how these hikers got lost, but their experience shows that trails can be confusing. Junctions can be easy to miss and not all trails are well-signed (especially around here).

Always carry a map and compass and know how to use them.

The injured woman did nothing wrong–her experience reminds us that an accident can happen to anyone. What would you do if you broke your leg in the backcountry? Do you have a way to stay warm until we can reach you? Lying on the ground for hours will make you cold, especially if you lie there into the night. Always carry an extra layer of clothing and consider buying an inexpensive bivvy sack for day-hiking. They’re small and light and tuck away into your daypack until you need them.

Stay safe out there!

SAR Journal: Heart Mountain Evac

Hiker Rescued from Heart Mountain (press release)


A female hiker from Atlanta, Georgia was brought down off of Heart Mountain yesterday, by the Park County Search and Rescue Unit (SAR) after she complained of severe abdominal pains such that she was unable to hike back down the mountain.

The initial call came into the Park County 911 Communications Center at 11:15 a.m. The 17 year old was hiking with friends from the trailhead at the Heart Mountain Ranch which is owned by the Nature Conservancy. They had made it to within 400 feet from the summit when her condition deteriorated.

A SAR ground unit as well as a wilderness medical team from West Park Hospital was deployed and able to reach the victim at 1:15 p.m. They were able to stabilize her before walking her down the mountain on a “wheeled litter.”

Due to the elevation and rugged terrain, it took the teams approximately 3 hours to get her back to the trailhead. She was then transported to West Park Hospital by ambulance where her condition is unknown at this time.

My Comments
this is a narrow and often steep trail with many rocky sections. Even with the wheeled litter, we needed lots of manpower to safely bring the victim down.