By Russ and Tiña De Maris
Rangers at Utah’s Zion National Park say that technology has proven a godsend for some visitors who’ve gotten into trouble. No, we’re not talking GPS systems or satellite phones but, rather, the simple use of cellular telephones.
Here’s an example: A Virginia man tried descending a steep trail after dark. The man stepped off the trail to urinate. He lost his balance and fell onto the switchback below, breaking his leg. Unable to stand, he crawled and reached as high as possible for cell signal to send two brief text messages to his friends who called rangers for help.
In one recent season, Zion’s rangers have dealt with several hiking and canyoneering incidents with the aid of text messaging. These include canyoneering parties who have gotten ropes stuck, were unable to find rappel anchors, and who were underprepared for the route and conditions.
Why is text messaging sometimes helpful? Voice contact from the canyon floors is often impossible due to the nature of the terrain and noise of flowing water. Though cell service is from quite limited to nonexistent in the park’s terrain of deep, narrow canyons, texting has sometimes worked when calls couldn’t. Text messaging has helped rangers respond quicker, and often spare themselves unnecessary danger.
The use of text messaging to get out of trouble isn’t limited to parks like Zion. There are plenty of places that RVers can travel, even without getting too far off the beaten track, where cellular voice service is sketchy. Even in some of these areas, text messaging may work. So, if you find yourself in a predicament and can’t get a voice call through, try texting someone instead.