RAPID CITY, S.D. (KELO) — This time of year is perfect for hiking in Western South Dakota along the hundreds of trails throughout the Black Hills. But that also means more people are getting lost, exhausted, or hurt along the trails.
Whether it’s a morning workout, a midday adventure, or an evening stroll to see South Dakota’s wildlife, the Black Hills are known for some of the most beautiful trails in the state.
However, high temperatures, intricate paths and long distances can cause a person to get lost or worse, hurt.
Custer County Search and Rescue has responded to 45 calls since January. That number has been growing each year.
“Which when I joined the squad about 6 years ago that was our annual average,” Sam Smolnisky, Dir. of Custer County Search and Rescue, said.
Tourism numbers have been through the roof in the Black Hills and the population continues to grow. With more people in the area hiking, there are more calls for emergency services.
“I know people are coming out, they enjoy recreating outdoors. So more people, more people outside, we are going to be busier,” Smolnisky said.
It’s a similar situation for Pennington County Search and Rescue.
“With the influx of travelers we see every year, the Hills have been exceptionally busy for rescues. Especially down towards the Black Elk Peak area and Sunday Gulch,” James Dietz, Pennington County Search and Rescue, said.
Chief Gail Schmidt at the Rockerville Volunteer Fire Department says in some areas, rescues can take several hours.
“All of those incidents end up requiring a significant amount of man power. If we are going to ‘Hippie Hole’ to rescue somebody literally out of Big Falls or that creek bottom, that will require 20 to 30 plus people depending on the size of the patient. And we also have the potential to for our personnel to get injured trying to get to some of these patients as well,” Chief Schmidt said.
Multiple agencies are usually called in to help reach the area, get the person out, and get them to a hospital.
“When we see these individuals get injured, they are seriously injured and not able to self rescue and often times that is simply because they are not wearing the proper foot ware or they weren’t carrying water with them, they weren’t well prepared,” Schmidt said.
Hikers can help emergency crews by being prepared.
“Knowing where you are going and what to expect is always helpful. But if people could do two things, it would be stay hydrated before and during your outdoor activities and then go out with a fully charged cell phone,” Smolnisky said.
“Please tell someone where you are going and take a phone with you,” Dietz said.
“A little bit of help on your side, the hikers and those that are visiting our hills and enjoying goes a long way,” Chief Schmidt said.
However, authorities understand that accidents will happen and it’s their job to answer the call and get people to safety.
If you find yourself hurt or lost and need help while hiking, call 911. If you don’t have cell service, find an area at a higher elevation or try sending a text.