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Two Hiker Rescues in 24 Hours: Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians Advise 'Plan Ahead'

Indian Canyons, November 2010. Watershed News photo by Guy McCarthy.
Indian Canyons, November 2010. Watershed News photo by Guy McCarthy.
Tribal rangers and volunteers were involved in two separate hiker rescues Monday and Tuesday in the Indian Canyons area, and the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians issued a statement Wednesday urging visitors to exercise caution.

"Engaging in two searches for hikers in just as many days is very rare," a representative for Agua Caliente Tribal Rangers said in a statement. "It serves as a reminder for hikers to plan ahead."

Frost advisories and freeze warnings were issued Wednesday for desert and mountain areas near the Indian Canyons.

The first incident was reported to police at 7 p.m. Dec. 2, Palm Springs PD Sgt. Harvey Reed said in a phone interview. Tribal Rangers reported an overdue hiker and volunteers with the Palm Springs Mounted Police Search and Rescue unit responded.

A Riverside County Sheriff's helicopter crew in Star 94 spotted a small camp fire the hiker was using to keep warm, and a search-and-rescue volunteer was lowered from the airship to the ground, Reed said.

"The hiker had injured his ankle and was unable to walk under his own accord," Reed said.

The hiker was hoisted out of the area and transported to the command post where he was treated for injuries that were not life-threatening, Reed said.

"The hiker, who wished to remain anonymous, was found in a remote area of the canyons that would have taken personnel at least four hours to reach him by foot," Reed said.

The second incident was reported to police at 5:24 p.m. Dec. 3, Reed said.

A stranded hiker on the Westfork Trail of the Indian Canyons called the police department direct. He was identified as a Texas resident, Lester Strait, Reed said.

"Strait informed PSPD Dispatch that he had been hiking and ran out of daylight before deciding to spend the evening on the trail," Reed said. "Based on the current weather forecast and Strait's lack of protective clothing to keep him warm, it was recommended that he be assisted off the mountain."

Palm Springs Mounted Police Search and Rescue volunteers again responded, with Riverside County Sheriff's helicopter crew in Star 93, Reed said.

"Strait was able to guide rescuers to his location and was hoisted off the mountain," Reed said. He did not sustain any injuries during the incident.

Tribal Rangers urge visitors to the Indian Canyons to dress for the weather, pack plenty of water, have a fully charged cell phone, stay on trails, and allow enough time to return to trailheads well before closing time.

"In addition hikers should tell a friend or family member details of the hike, including name and location of the trail and estimated return time," a Tribal Rangers representative said.

The Indian Canyons are listed on the National Register of Historic Places and are the ancestral home of the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians.

For more info visit www.indian-canyons.com.

The Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians is a federally recognized Indian Tribe located in Palm Springs, California, with 32,000 acres of reservation lands that spread across Palm Springs, Cathedral City, Rancho Mirage, and into the Santa Rosa and San Jacinto mountains. For more info visit www.aguacaliente-nsn.gov.

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