Sometimes that GPS unit doesn't know that you can't get from here to there. A Pennsylvania couple in their 60s learned that the hard way when they tried to take a backroad in southern Utah.
The couple apparently left Big Water, an eye-blink-sized town just west of Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, with hopes of negotiating the Smoky Mountain Road all the way to Escalante. The GPS unit in their two-wheel-drive rental sedan told them it was doable. However, 45 miles down the road, which is decidedly rough and rugged and suited for four-wheel-drive rigs with decent ground clearance, the couple ripped the oil pan off their rental and seized the engine.
This happened in late May. After four days out in daytime temperatures that reached the high 80s with only a few bottles of water and soda with them the couple was spotted by a dirt-biker rider, who summoned help with his cellphone.
NRA rangers called on Classic Lifeguard for assistance, and the company launched two helicopters from Page to fly the couple out. They were extremely dehydrated and were kept at the hospital overnight for observation.
According to rangers, the couple never stopped at any of the various visitor centers to ask for information, nor did they did turn back when they came upon signs on this backcountry road that said the road was impassable. Rangers say that if they hadn’t encountered the person on the dirt bike, it’s likely that they would have perished.
According to acting District Ranger Eric Scott, rangers are increasingly dealing with visitors who rely on navigation systems that may provide misleading information, often with tragic results. While navigation systems such as GPS units can be fine tools, nothing can replace up-to-date information from informed personnel as well as using common sense when out in remote areas. (emphasis added.)