With the pandemic limiting the options for outdoor activities, more and more New Yorkers are turning to hiking the scenic mountains and nature trails of the state. In turn it means more and more people underestimate just how challenging some of the local terrain can be for inexperienced hikers. And the number of search and rescue incidents prove it.

Forest Rangers with the New York Department of Environmental Conservation working with other state agencies, local emergency response organizations, and volunteer search and rescue groups made seven search and rescues over a five day period early this month. Here's a rundown of the incidents:

Wilderness Rescue at Kaaterskill Wild Forest in Greene County

Forest Rangers are notified of hiker feeling sick at Kaaterskill Falls. Rangers and local EMS locate a 22-year-old female hiker from Flushing who hiked into the middle pool of the falls via the staircase trail and became nauseated and dizzy.

Wilderness Rescue on Middle Saranac Lake in Franklin County

A Cincinnati, Ohio family report they are stranded with their two granddaughters age 10 and 16, on the shore of Middle Saranac Lake. They had paddled a canoe and two kayaks to the location when the wind became too strong for them to paddle back. Rangers and DEC Operations staff deployed two boats to the scene, one to transport the group of four and the other to tow their canoe and two kayaks.

Wilderness Rescue at Neversink Unique Area in Sullivan County

The Rock Hill Fire Department requested assistance in the search for two hikers in the Neversink Unique Area. A group of approximately 100 individuals staying at Camp Morris in Woodridge hiked into the area and two of the individuals went swimming at Denton Falls around 4:45 in the afternoon. A witness reported the current swept the swimmers down river and he returned to the camp without reporting the incident until after 8 that night. Several agencies including the  Rock Hill and Forestburgh Fire Departments, New York State Police Aviation, a K-9 unit and four search crews eventually located the two swimmers a little after midnight stranded on an island in the middle of the river south of Denton Falls. Using swiftwater rescue techniques the two were rescued.

Wilderness Rescue at Kaaterskill Falls in Greene County

A man recovering from COVID-19 lost consciousness hiking back from the falls and after not getting enough oxygen. Forest Rangers responded advised the hiker to rest awhile and then assisted him to slowly walk back to the trail head.

Wilderness Rescue on Snowy Mountain in Hamilton County

Hamilton County 911 received a call regarding a 29-year-old hiker from Herkimer who  was having trouble breathing and unable to hike back from the top of the mountain. With the hiker's condition reportedly deteriorating, Two Rangers hiked to the scene while New York State Police Aviation and three other Rangers were placed on standby for a possible carry out. After some rest, the Rangers were able to assist the hiker slowly back down the trail.

Wilderness Search at Cranberry Lake Campground in St Lawrence County

While patrolling the Cranberry Lake Campground, a Forest Ranger was flagged down by a Port Jefferson man who reported his 10-year-old son had been missing for an hour. The Ranger organized the campground staff to begin a systematic search of all campground loops, bathrooms, and the beach and playground areas. A second Ranger contacted the Cranberry Lake Fire Department to respond with their boat and dive team and New York State Police to have investigators and a K-9 bloodhound dog team respond to assist. The boy was eventually located in another area of the campground, uninjured.

Wilderness Rescue at Kaaterskill Clove in Greene County

A family from Queens was exploring the Kaaterskill Clove when a 15-year-old girl  jumped off a six-foot-high rock into the swimming hole. Another family member followed her and landed on her back. She was able to swim to the edge of the swimming hole but was experiencing severe back pain and didn't want to be moved. A Forest Ranger and State Trooper responded to scene and determined the girl needed to be immobilized. She was carried out with the assistance of low-angle technical rope rescue systems and airlifted to the hospital.

Wilderness Search at Alder Lake in Ulster County

The International Emergency Response Center contacted the Forest Ranger Emergency Line after receiving an activation from a SPOT beacon. There were no messages, only the SOS beacon. Coordinates placed the beacon at the west side of Alder Lake and a Forest Ranger was sent to locate the person. After a 20 minute hike the owner of the beacon was located. They had triggered the beacon because a bear was at the campsite eating their food.

There are lots of conclusions to be drawn from these stories occurring over the course of a few days.  Forest Rangers, local emergency response organizations, and volunteer search and rescue groups are asked to put their own lives in danger rescuing and searching for others at all times of the day and night. Kudos to all the personnel who not only perform those tasks, but spend countless hours training and practicing to hone their skills.

It wouldn't hurt to also conclude, some people could use a good dose of common sense. Check out some photos from the rescues and searches below and you'll find lots of hiking safety tips at the DEC's website.

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