A 64-year-old man from North Carolina was injured in a fall during a solo hike in a remote section of Canyonlands National Park last week. Unable to walk, he faced long odds, since no one was aware of his plans or location. What followed was a tale combining grim determination and alert work by rangers.
The saga began when Amos Richards attempted to hike in and out of Lower Blue John Canyon via the entry and exit route between West and Little Blue John Canyons. During the trip, he fell approximately 10 feet trying to gain the wash bottom, suffering extensive leg trauma in the process.
A serious injury anywhere in this vast expanse of Utah canyon and desert country is always a cause for concern, but Richards was faced with some extra challenges. The location of his mishap was near an area known as the Maze District, which is described as "the least accessible district of Canyonlands. Due to the district's remoteness and the difficulty of roads and trails, travel to the Maze requires more time, as well as a greater degree of self-sufficiency. Rarely do visitors spend less than three days in the Maze, and the area can easily absorb a week-long trip."
Richard's injuries were serious enough that he couldn't bear weight on his right leg, but he was hiking alone, and no one else was aware of his plans or his location. As a result, it was unlikely that anyone would be aware of his plight and began a search. In a remarkable tale of determination, Richards began crawling back across the rough desert terrain in an attempt to reach his vehicle.
His grueling effort would last for the next three nights and four days. The hiker reportedly had no overnight gear, warm clothes or a map, and it rained on him several times during his crawl. The only good news may have saved his life: he had taken five liters of water and two power bars with him on his hike.
This was a situation that could easily have ended sadly, but Richard's prospects began to improve when rangers in the park's Island in the Sky District noticed that a campsite in the Willow Flat campground appeared to be unoccupied and abandoned.
That campground is many a lonely mile from Richard's location in the Maze, but investigation by the rangers led them to believe the visitor may have headed for that vicinity.
A search was begun and Richards was spotted from a helicopter in the area of Little Blue John Canyon, just outside the park’s boundary. The victim was flown to Moab Regional Hospital, where he was treated for leg fractures, internal injuries, trauma, and dehydration.
A park spokesperson says Richards is expected to make a full recovery.