Hike down trail<br>turns into long night
Before heading to New York City for a business meeting, Peter Jovanovic of San Diego thought he’d make a stop at Grand Canyon with his brother for a little hiking fun.
For Jovanovic and his brother, Tomas, the hiking excursion turned out to be a memorable experience — but for all the wrong reasons.
"My brother and I decided to go down the Hermit Trail and back in the same day," Jovanovic said.
For experienced hikers, going down into the Canyon and back in one day is a challenge. The Jovanovic brothers didn’t have any Grand Canyon hiking experience and found they were under prepared for the trip.
"I had hiked before, but never done the Canyon down to the bottom before," Jovanovic said. "We’ll know to bring double water next time."
Hiking on a Sunday a few weekends ago, the 23-year-old Jovanovic and his brother, age 24, took the shuttle bus into the West Rim area and began the trek down the Hermit Trail at 6:30 a.m. By 10:30 or 11 a.m., the pair had arrived at the Colorado River.
After about an hour or so, the two turned around and began hiking uphill. But now it was getting to be the hottest part of the day. They had each brought only two quarts of water.
"It’s not the smartest thing to do at Grand Canyon in the summertime," GCNP’s Bil Vandergraff said about hiking back up at around noon. That day, the high temperature recorded at Phantom Ranch was 109 degrees, roughly 20 degrees hotter than on the rim.
With drinking water gone, the pair began to run into problems when reaching the base of the Cathedral Stairs. Jovanovic began to complain to his brother with symptoms consistent with heat illness, mainly bad cramping, and couldn’t go any further.
"We thought we were nearly to the top and my brother said he’d get water and come back down," Jovanovic said. "He never quite made it back, it was further than he thought."
To make the situation even worse, Jovanovic then had an accident.
"I was worried and thought something had happened," Jovanovic said. "I slipped on the trail and slid down about 200 meters or so. My ankles were sprained and both of my legs, back and arms were cramped up."
With no water, his knapsack having fallen into the Canyon after the accident and a missing brother, Jovanovic went through a tough time over the next several hours.
His brother Tomas was headed for Santa Maria Spring where there was water. When he arrived, the sun was just going down. At that point, he decided to continue hiking and arrived on the rim at about 8 p.m.
"My brother finally made it up there, cramped and exhausted, a little after sundown," Jovanovic said. "He took a shuttle bus over to the ranger station and reported it all. Thank God he made it."
Grand Canyon National Park rangers received the report from Tomas at 8:20 p.m. Based on the information he provided, rangers made a decision to begin a search that night.
Greg Woodall and Hunter Bailey began the hike down at 10:15 p.m., Vandergraf said.
"The reason they were not able to find him is they probably went by his area at about 1 in the morning," Vandergraf said. "He was about 300 feet below the trail and a quarter-mile off the trail in the Supai traverse," Vandergraf added. "It’s easy to get mixed up in there with clear light."
Woodall and Bailey were picked up the next morning at Hermit Rapids and a helicopter search began. Meanwhile, Jovanovic was trying to attract attention.
"It was a very long night," Jovanovic said. "I tried to sleep, but I was worried and was trying to hear if anybody was around, looking for maybe flashlights or something. I set my watch to wake me up every half hour. I screamed out every half hour."
Although worried, Jovanovic said he knew he was in good shape, hoping only that someone would find him by noon Monday.
In the morning, Jovanovic saw the helicopter go by a couple of times, but he was not seen.
"The copter kept passing by and was not seeing me," Jovanovic said. "I was so dehydrated, I could barely scream out anymore. It was a very scary time."
At first, Jovanovic said he was just waving his arms when the copter flew over. But finally, he took off his shirt and began waving it. That attracted the copter’s attention and he was found at about 9 a.m.
The helicopter landed at Breezy Point in a spot where a little peninsula juts out.
"They climbed down to me and gave me some Gatorade," Jovanovic said. "We made our way slowly back to where the helicopter was."
Vandergraf said Jovanovic was a little nauseated, light-headed and had sprained at least one ankle.
"He was stable and with Hunter’s assistance, he was able to climb back up to the trail," Vandergraf said.
Jovanovic was thankful for the rangers’ help.
"Hunter and their crew was phenomenal," Jovanovic said. "I can’t thank them enough. They will be receiving a nice present in the mail."
Jovanovic decided to cancel his New York business trip and headed home to San Diego after spending some time in the Grand Canyon Walk-In Clinic. There are plans to hike the Canyon again.
"We’re going to try it again," Jovanovic said. "But when the weather is cooler and we’ll carry some more water."
Vandergraf said hikers need to be prepared and realize the challenges of the Grand Canyon.
"If you feel you need to hike, do it when the sun’s not shining," he said. "And have plenty of food and water."
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