PHOENIX (AP) — The proximity of the Superstition Mountains to metro Phoenix is one of the key reasons unsuspecting hikers run into trouble there.
The Arizona Republic reports (http://bit.ly/ObXsHm) that authorities in Pinal and Maricopa counties launch a disproportionate number of search-and-rescue efforts in the 160,000-acre wilderness east of Apache Junction on the eastern edge of the metropolitan area.
The Pinal County Sheriff's Office has sent search and rescue teams into the Superstitions 22 times since last July, with 10 calls since January. They average 22 rescue calls for the past three fiscal years, records show.
Maricopa County Sheriff's Office conducted search and rescue missions twice during fiscal 2013, which began this month, and 10 times for fiscal 2012, the average. Since July 2009 there have been five deaths and one person remains missing.
In comparison, Coconino County Sheriff's Office Search and Rescue went out 52 times during fiscal 2011, with three fatalities, into the 1.4 million acres of Coconino National Forest that falls inside the county. They went out 40 times with one fatality for fiscal 2012.
Earlier this month, Kenny Clark was found dead five days after he went for a hike in the mountains. His body was discovered off a trail with an empty water pack.
Two years ago, three hikers from Utah seeking the fabled Lost Dutchman Mine disappeared into the mountains. Their remains were found six months later, in January 2011.
Maricopa County sheriff's officials say injuries make up a substantial number of calls in the mountains, but the majority are for lost hikers or, in the summer, hikers who have become stressed due to heat.
An official with the Pinal County sheriff's rescue posse says the calls they receive are a mix of people who are lost, injured or can't get out without help and that the most common factor in many calls is that people aren't prepared.