The editor of this fine publication has a J.R.R. Tolkein quote on her vehicle that reads “Not all who wander are lost.” Marc Levesque aims to say, “None who wander are lost.”
Levesque has been a search-and-rescue first responder for 20 years and has been lecturing and instructing on the topic for at least 10 of those years. As of 2021, he is also a published author on the topic.
His first book, “Gila Lost and Found Search and Rescue New Mexico” from Red Planet Press in Silver City features stories from the backcountry and tips for staying safe.
After reading this in-depth compilation of accounts, I found myself contemplating the amount of personal equipment search-and-rescue responders carry and how heavy it must be. Also, think of the countless items and their uses. It takes skill to be able to apply them in the right situation. No wonder one must pass a written test as well as a field assessment to be dubbed worthy of being activated as a SAR team member.
For the gear heads here: In the chapters “Technology Related Incidents” and “How We Find You,” Levesque explains search-and-rescue satellite-aided tracking and the protocols in place to ensure effective SAR missions.
Maps, compass, ropes, radio, first-aid supplies are just a few of the basic tools a search-and-rescue team member would carry. The radio, you would use often enough to communicate over vast distances. The maps and compass, less you would hope. First-aid, even less. I would pray to never need to use the rope. Having to retrieve someone and escape from terrain by rope seems like the least desirable situation. Either way, everything serves a purpose. For some of these items, you would rather have it and not need it, than to need it and not have it.
Hiking in this climate pushes us to rethink some of the “essential items” we usually wouldn’t go without in the backcountry.
I know when I hike in southern New Mexico, it seems like 90 percent of what I carry is water. Often there are zero sources available, paired with an oppressive down force of heat, stripping away any water your body was holding. Levesque profiles the preparations needed to prevent dehydration in his chapter “Too Little Water” as well as “Appendix A: Trip Planning and Trail Tips.”
While the struggle to possess enough water is all too common, there is a time when there could indeed be too much water. Weather in southern New Mexico can be temperamental, and when the snow melt combines with a good monsoon, water levels can explode. Levesque’s chapter “Too Much Water” profiles those times of year when the snow is melting from the peaks, and the Gila River can run with a fury.
He tells the tale of a lost couple and a group of paddlers who, by chance, escape certain danger after a memorable spring deluge, when the Gila River reached flood levels. Right now, at the Cliff Dwellings on the Middle Fork of the Gila River, the water is flowing at about 40 cubic feet per second, maybe a little over knee high at the deeper crossings, but rapidly changing because of backwater. Currently, the area is in one of those “lookout” situations. I would not want to be out in that at 80 cubic feet per second with a 25-pound pack on.
If you are an outdoor type and you want an inside view of backcountry survival and everything to consider along the way, this is a fabulous resource. If you are only mildly interested in actually being outside, but you love the drama of a good story with redeemable characters and unforeseeable twists, this is pretty great for you too. Marc Levesque is a most redeemable character in southwestern New Mexico for his love of the outdoors and service to all of us who live to play outside.