The red rock formations surrounding Moab, Utah have long drawn adventure seeking vacationers westward in hopes of enriching their spirit with natural beauty unique to the arid, rolling stone buttes and canyons of the Colorado Plateau.
Spandex wearing mountain bikers push thick tires through the extensive, interweaving network of trails and plains while hikers tackle the innumerable veins that run to the top of explosions of rock formations seemingly frozen at their crest by some otherworldly force.
The area experiences an annual average of only about 9 inches of rain, meaning the banks of its few rivers, the largest being the Colorado, are poorly equipped to handle any atypical flow of water, which can cause disastrous outcomes for any person unlucky enough to be nearby if a storm hits.
Just last Thursday, this situation played out in Mary Jane canyon, a 7.8 miles out-and-back hike along and through Professor Creek, a small stream that flows into the Colorado river 20 miles northeast of Moab.
A 38 year old woman was hiking with her dog when a quick moving thunderstorm hit the area and sent a deluge of rainwater into the creek, triggering a flash flood.
According to the rescue team’s Facebook post, she attempted to get to high ground and was able to make it atop a sand bank above the water’s flow, but the flood quicky eroded the unstable ground, pulling her and her dog into the raging water. They were carried some 200 feet through the current. Both of her shoes were pulled off during the harrowing ordeal.
After getting herself out of the creek, she attempted to contact a rescue team via an emergency satellite SOS from her phone, but believed that her call didn’t go through when she received a text message saying “Emergency Services: Message Send Failure”.
After receiving the misleading, and quite potentially deadly, text, she began hiking barefoot down the canyon, her dog loyally following her through the harsh terrain.
Classic Air Medical, a helicopter rescue service, eventually spotted the woman a mile and a half from the original SOS call point, at which time ground crews were able to make their way to her. They reported she was covered in mud from head to toe, but otherwise in good shape considering everything she’d been through.
One of the search and rescue team members gave her his shoes and they all hiked back to the trailhead, a potential disaster averted.
I don’t know who needs to be contacted to answer about the misleading SOS response text saying her call for help failed, but my goodness that could have ended so poorly if she decided to take some major risks to get out of there believing that no one was on their way. Fortunately, she was found and wasn’t injured or worse, but man that could have been so bad.
Great work by both the woman and rescue team, and a big old “Who’s a good boy?” to the dog that stayed by her side through this whole thing.