Student group saves lost hiker during spring break

Katelyn Holley

When a group of students left for a spring break trip to the Grand Canyon, they expected a carefree week of hiking with friends. Instead, their trip became a part of a rescue mission. 

The group of eight students were led by architectural engineering senior Sara Beirne and educational administration graduate student Devon Dorn, two guides for UT’s RecSports Outdoor Recreation Program.

Beirne said on the second night of the hike, she and her fellow guides observed a lone headlight heading toward them. An experienced hiker, Craig Hall, approached them and asked if anyone had seen a girl named Ginger who he lost on a trail earlier that day. Beirne said at first, she was unsure of Hall’s agenda and felt scared. 

Dorn, the other guide, reported Ginger’s disappearance to the National Park’s Service Search and Rescue, who told him they would begin searching for her in the morning. Dorn said the group went to sleep thinking they would never see Hall again. 

The next morning, Dorn said the group ran into a dirty and exhausted Hall, who explained he had been awake all night searching unsuccessfully for his friend. Dorn decided to stay behind with Hall and place another call to Search and Rescue while Beirne continued their hike with the group. 

“At this point, we were looking for a body basically,” Dorn said. 

About a mile into their hike, Beirne said they spotted a girl who looked lost. Beirne called down and asked the girl for her name, confirming she was Ginger. 

Ginger’s pant pockets were blown out from sliding down the canyon and the soles of her shoes were so worn the group had to give her duct tape to hold them together. Beirne said all she had was a small backpack, small water bottle and no way to make shelter. She had slept on the side of the cliff in an effort not to fall into the canyon. 

Dorn and Hall reunited with their group and the Search and Rescue team found them shortly thereafter, clearing everyone to go on with their separate trips. Dorn said his training from UT allowed him to stay calm during the trip and turn it into a learning experience for the other participants. 

“The participants loved it,” Dorn said. “They got to be a part of a search and rescue.” 

Dorn said getting lost while hiking is not uncommon, but they were glad to help Ginger. 

“When people don’t know the importance of sticking together, things go wrong,” Dorn said.

Beirne said the rest of the trip proved uneventful, but finding Ginger was an experience they are not likely to forget. 

“Thankfully, it was successful and she wasn’t hurt or anything,” Beirne said. “We got experience as guides we never thought we would have.”