By Mary O’KEEFE
Montrose Search and Rescue member Cindy England celebrated an anniversary over the Thanksgiving holiday. It wasn’t the normal anniversary celebration – England was celebrating getting lost … and found.
“It was a lot warmer [this time] than it was 20 years ago,” England said.
England with friends and family summitted Mt. Baldy on the day after Thanksgiving coming full circle from her last hike to the area that ended much differently.
“When we got to the top, it was all pretty impacting. The [hike] was to the day of our hike 20 years ago. It was a feeling of accomplishment,” England said. “Sometimes Mt. Baldy can be so harsh. I felt that I had control when I felt out of control before.”
Being in control of the climb this time meant a lot to England. She is now a member of Montrose Search and Rescue, but 20 years ago on the day after Thanksgiving she was a hiker on her way to summit Mt. Baldy.
She was with a group of friends, a mix of adults and kids. The weather was not great, but England had decided she wanted to continue to reach the top; most of the friends did not want to go any further. One of the kids on the hike, a 9-year-old named Ryan, was adventurous and also wanted to continue the climb.
The two made it to the summit but the visibility was getting worse. They followed a trail in the direction England thought would lead them back to the car. England had seen a couple on a nearby trail earlier in the day.
“I assumed they were heading down, so I thought I knew [where the head of the] trail was, “she said.
Unfortunately the trail she chose led them to another mountain. They were now on a path walking away from where they were to meet the rest of their group and it was getting late.
“I was going to go back up [Mt. Baldy] but Ryan was just too exhausted. He couldn’t go back up,” she said. “The others in our group had headed down to the car.”
England and Ryan spent two nights on that trail as several search and rescue teams, including Montrose Search and Rescue members, looked for the lost hikers. The Sierra Madre team found them on the second night.
“[Ryan] was a stoic little kid … to be stranded like that, he was not really that [scared]. He trusted me,” she said.
Instead of turning away from hiking after that experience, England decided to join the Sierra Madre Search and Rescue team. She volunteered on that team for many years until transferring to Montrose Search and Rescue. Now when she finds hikers she knows exactly how they feel when they see the team.
“Those are the great saves. I can feel their relief,” she said.