ESTILLFORK, Ala. – Memorial Day weekend is a busy time for the Walls of Jericho in Jackson County near the Tennessee line.
Volunteer rescue squads and law enforcement agencies respond several times each year to reports of lost and/or hurt hikers.
Rosalie Rescue Squad members tested their equipment, including ATVs and a new mapping system, at the popular hiking spot in anticipation of a summer full of rescues.
“I started mapping this morning where we started here, went up and went off the old logging road horse trail to the bottom, down to the creek,” said squad member Trevor Graben.
Graben recently downloaded the SARTopo system a couple of months ago and is using it to make future rescues and recoveries quicker and easier.
“We’ll have it mapped out so if myself or someone else that ain’t familiar with it does respond to a call, one of the other searchers can pull it up on their phone and already know where to go to,” explained Graben.
The Rosalie Rescue Squad responds as backup to the Scottsboro-Jackson County Rescue Squad when needed.
“It seems like Scottsboro-Jackson County gets called up here at least every other weekend or through the week sometimes,” said Rosalie Rescue Squad Captain Patrick Gifford.
Gifford tells News 19 hikers can protect themselves at the Walls of Jericho by wearing good hiking boots, having plenty of water, and bringing a flashlight and a compass.
He says it is key for hikers to stay on the trails.
“If they get off the trail, it’s slippery in some places on some rocks and they could fall, they could hurt their head, and they could also be dehydrated from not carrying enough water in,” explained Gifford.
The hiking trail itself isn’t too rugged or difficult to follow thanks to clear markings, but News 19 Northeast Alabama Bureau Chief Tiffany Lester saw firsthand the trails emergency responders have to use when searching for a lost or injured hiker.
The road was steep, rocky and difficult to maneuver at times.
“It is very dangerous down through there,” said Gifford.
“It’s very risky, anything we do,” added Graben. “The roads we have to navigate with side-by-sides and four-wheelers and stuff to get down to the bottom, carry our equipment and stuff in without walking are pretty rough and pretty steep.”
So rough and steep that Gifford, Graben and Lester got stuck a few times on rocky road. After some work, they were able to get back up the mountain and to the hiking trail parking lot.
Gifford and Graben tell News 19 they encourage hikers to be smart to protect themselves and the volunteers who have to travel the treacherous mountain to help those hikers who may be lost or injured.