Search and Rescue


As you can see from yesterday’s journal entry, Larry was found. I just have one more story from that SAR that technically is not one of my stories. I heard it from NPS workers.

There was an NPS trail worker named Larry Evans. Larry’s crew was not involved in the search. Larry was napping under a tree during lunch one day while the search was going on. He was awakened by some hikers coming up the trail calling “La-a-a-rry! La-a-arry!”

Larry sat up rubbing his eyes and hollered back “What?”

Larry found himself surrounded by hikers offering him candy bars and offering to take him back to Richard.

Categories: Backcountry, CCC, Search and Rescue, Tuolumne Meadows, Yosemite | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

June 27, 1987: Searching for Larry

Editorial note: This journal entry is posted pretty much as-is from 1987. I redacted the lost camper’s last name in the interests of his privacy. I decided to keep one word in describing Larry that I would not use today. No offense was intended by it. At the time, this word was a descriptor that was soon to be phased out as offensive in describing developmentally disabled people, but it was a pretty common word. To redact that from a journal entry would not be honest to how things were in 1987. Thanks.)

My, I’ve been getting rather spotty in my journal—haven’t I?

The past couple of days we added to our list of unscheduled events for the summer—this time search and rescue.

The victim was a 26-year-old retarded guy named Larry. There was a group of people here from a state hospital camped just down the road from us and Larry just wandered away from camp Wednesday night. Thursday morning we were called to the ranger station to join the search.

We ran into our ol’ friends from helitac—Hal, Frank, and the rest. Then we spent the next two days doing grid searches north of the Lyell Fork and several miles east of here. On Thursday Dave (Amaral) found an excellent clue (a print), so a dog team (Dog Team 3) was called in to check it out. The dog seemed more interested in chasing a stick than following a track. It seemed to us (Erin, Dave, Wayne, Tammi, and me) that our lead was just shined off. Later when we talked to one of the trackers, he explained that the dog had been shown Larry’s scent, and if the print had been Larry’s the dog would have followed it. By playing with the stick the dog showed us that it wasn’t Larry.

Larry was found Friday afternoon at about 13:00 hours. He was on Johnson Peak, the direction he was first seen to be heading, and in the opposite direction from where we found that print. A chopper found him, and he waved at it. He was safe and sound.

We got to do more on the search than on the fires, and I feel we contributed a lot more to something a lot more important than those silly smolders.

Categories: Backcountry, CCC, Search and Rescue, Tuolumne Meadows, Yosemite | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Grid Searching

As we headed out to meet the dog handler we would be working with, we were all given copies of an information sheet on the lost person. His name was Larry. He was developmentally disabled and was with residents from a San Jose group home. Larry had wandered away from camp the afternoon before. He was last seen headed up canyon, to the south and east, but his counselor reported that he was basically lazy and wouldn’t continue going uphill. We had instructions to approach him carefully if we found him…not because he was considered dangerous, but to keep from spooking him. We were instructed to offer him candy bars and to say that his counselor, Richard, sent us.

The picture on the hand out was interesting. It was a poor photocopy of Larry’s photo ID. Several of us noticed at the same time that the person in the picture could have passed for our crewleader, Glen! I tapped him on the shoulder and said “Hey! Richard sent us. You want a candy bar?” Glen didn’t think that was very funny.

The primary way Yo2 assisted on this incident was by performing grid searches. We were assigned a meadow or a piece of land, spread out in a line on one end of our assigned area, and swept from one end of our assigned area to the other. It was critical that there were no gaps in the line just in case the victim was lying unconscious behind a rock or a log. We had to be constantly looking behind us and under places where a person could be injured, or even hiding from us intentionally.

Dogs assisted in the search as well. On the first morning, Dave found a footprint from a shoe that was about the same size and tread design as the one we had been shown was Larry’s. A dog and handler were brought over to check it out. The dog seemed more interested in chasing a stick than in following the trail. It seemed to us that the dog wasn’t doing his job. We weren’t happy when the handler took his dog to go search somewhere else. Later we talked to another dog handler about this. He told us that all of the dogs had been shown Larry’s scent, and since the dog was more interested in the stick than the print, the dog actually was doing his job by letting us know the print was not Larry’s.

For our last search before sundown, we were assigned to a larger area right outside the Tuolumne Meadows lodge in a populated area. We were being teamed up with an experienced volunteer SAR team. We met them outside the lodge and Erin and the volunteer leader coordinated how we were going to conduct this particular research. Before we started the search, Erin and the volunteer leader gathered everybody around for a pep talk and a reminder of basic search techniques. Erin said, “Remember to be constantly looking behind yourself, too. Under logs and behind rocks. It would be easy to miss a body behind a log.”

A sour look passed over the volunteer leader’s face as he looked around at the tourists within earshot. That’s all we needed, for a rumor to start that we were now looking for a body! The volunteer leader broke in over Erin and said, “Yes, an unconscious person could be easy to miss if he were laying behind something.”

Whew. Dodged that one!

Larry was still missing at the end of the first day.

Categories: Backcountry, CCC, Search and Rescue, Tuolumne Meadows, Yosemite | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Blowing Sunshine

During the day on the trail, we started hearing about a camper that had wandered off and gotten lost. He was a developmentally disabled guy with a group outing from San Jose. He had just wandered away from camp. That night after dinner, a ranger came to our camp and asked if we could help search for him around Tuolumne Meadows. Once again, our trail work plans were postponed.

After breakfast the next morning, everybody loaded up into the van. Erin was even going with us on this one! Moose rode shotgun. On the way out of camp, somebody started complaining about something again. I don’t remember who. I don’t remember what. I do remember that it was really getting tiresome. Erin thought so, too, because he started chewing us out as we got close to the campground used as the Incident Command for this search. As we pulled onto the long, straight road into the campground, Erin finished his rant by barking “We’re not here to blow sunshine up your ass!”

The van fell into a sulking silence. Erin pulled up to the ranger at the check point to the Incident Command, rolled down his window, and said cheerfully “Hi! We’re here to blow sunshine up your ass!”

No more sulking. Everybody in the van, even Moose, broke out laughing. The ranger looked confused. Erin continued, “No, seriously. We’re a trail crew that was requested for grid searches.” The ranger waved us through to the staging area.

We were allowed out of the van, but had to stay together near the van, while Erin and Moose went to find our assignment. As we watched the sun rising over the trees near a big field, a helicopter came in from the west and landed in the field in front of us. It was a familiar looking JetRanger with Rodgers Aviation colors. It landed, and who should get out but Hal, the loadmaster we had worked with over at Crane Flat on the fires! He saw us and waved. We all waved back.

Erin and Moose came back with our assignment. We were to hike to a specific location in the Meadows, meet a dog handler, and grid search a specific area. We got our gear together and headed out.

Later we found out that a tracker had been supposed to go out with us. The IC (Incident Commander) didn’t know where he was when we were ready to head out, so he sent us without the tracker. A little while later, the tracker showed up and asked where the crew was he was supposed to go with. The IC said “They left already.”

“Which way did they go? I’ll catch up to them.”

“Nah. They have a fifteen minute lead on you. You’ll never catch them. When it comes to hiking, these trial crews are animals.”

Categories: Backcountry, CCC, Search and Rescue, Tuolumne Meadows, Yosemite | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

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