Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Woman Given a Hand in Hiking Down Gavan Hill

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By Sentinel Staff

The Sitka Mountain Rescue Team escorted a 24-year-old woman to safety Monday evening after she became disoriented on a hike from Harbor Mountain to Gavan Hill.

SMR Director Don Kluting said Rebecca Wells, hiking alone from the top of Harbor Mountain across the ridge to Gavan, called for help by sending a cell phone text message to a friend when she realized she had gone off her intended route.

Kluting added that Wells make a wise choice since going farther down the ravine she was in could have resulted in serious injury, or worse.

"We're happy she used her head and not her feet," he said. It was the second rescue by SMR in two months resulting from a cell phone text message.

While Wells said today she knew she could probably make it out on her own, she wanted to play it safe.

"I figured if I couldn't get out in four or five hours I would be in trouble," she said.

Wells, an avid recreational hiker, lived in Sitka for four years, and graduated from Sheldon Jackson College. Now living in Olalla, Wash., she has returned the last two summers to visit Friends.

Wells said she had planned a day hike from the top of Harbor Mountain, across the ridge, and down Gavan Hill. Her friend, Keturah Sadler, gave her a lift up Harbor Mountain, and the two hiked around with Sadler's dog before Sadler returned to town, and Wells continued on her way.

Wells reached the Gavan shelter, but at some point left the trail and continued along the Gavan ridge by mistake as she started hiking down.

"Not a recommended route," she quipped.

She sent Sadler her first text message sometime after 2 p.m., saying she had taken a wrong turn. But once she realized she could get text messages out, she said she didn't worry.

"Not after I started texting Keturah," Wells said. "I knew we have really good search and rescue people, I knew I would be in good hands." She said her friend is a Sitka Fire Department volunteer, and would know how to reach the right people for help.

Kluting was notified around 2:15 p.m. by Sadler that Wells needed help. "We deployed a team right away," he said. By 2:30 p.m. a team was assembled and headed up the mountain.

Kluting said the first helpful information sent out by Wells via text was that she had reached the Gavan shelter, and had taken a route down a ravine on a compass bearing of 140 degrees.

Wells said she just happened to have a compass with her, and noticed the bearing. But she was not equipped with a map, which would have helped.

In just over an hour the team arrived at the shelter, found the woman's tracks and followed them, Kluting said.

"She took quite a route into risky territory, down ravines that were washed out," Kluting said. The found a water bottle, and confirmed through text messages that it belonged to Wells.

"We knew we were on the right track," Kluting said. By 6:47 p.m. Monday Wells was found at the 953-foot level on the side of Gavan Hill. "She was doing great. A little cold and wet from the environment, but she was in good spirits, and she knew that help was on the way."

"I had my phone, and I could text until about five minutes before they arrived," Wells said, adding, "So I was entertained."

But the phone became waterlogged at that point, and quit working.

She was escorted out by team members to the Indian River trailhead, about a three-mile hike.

Kluting said he wasn't surprised the hiker became disoriented in the whiteout conditions with flat light.

"She did the right thing, to get a text message through," Kluting said. "We told her to stay put. We feared for her own safety, and the best thing was for her to wait for help to arrive."

"They were fantastic, and fast," Wells said of the SMR team, adding, "and we had good conversation on the hike back."
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Green Lake

Keturah, Kristine, Leeann, and I rode our bikes from the gate at the end of the road out to Green Lake where our electricity is made. It was about a 12 mile round trip and the two dogs, Gunny and Meg, were sincerely tired afterwards. Even though it was overcast on Sunday it never really rained on us.
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Mosquito Cove and Starrigavin Estuary

I rode out to the end of the road one day and did the little loop hike out to Mosquito Cove. When I got back to Starrigavin, there was a sow with her two cubs in the estuary. No worries, my zoom is pretty good and the bears were many many yards away.
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Thursday, June 11, 2009

Trailer started and local wildlife

I'm in Sitka now and for another couple weeks. But before I flew up, we actually started building the tiny house on wheels. Look here for more details. In other news... JoJo has become quite the mouser and you can see that here is one pleading for its life.
Windex with her piercing green eyes.
Lucy just relaxing in the freshly mown grass.