Tuesday, November 26, 2013

SAR Callout To Foresta In Yosemite

Dale Matson

The Fresno County SAR Team along with teams from Tuolumne, Merced, Mariposa and Madera Counties were involved with a mutual aid search with the Yosemite search and rescue team on Monday. There were dog teams and a helicopter used also.

After caravanning up to Yosemite from Fresno with great haste, the Fresno County SART arrived at YOSAR HQ. I long ago learned not to put the magnetic SAR signs on my car until after I arrived at the destination. (They blew off)

Yosemite View From YOSAR HQ

We were briefed at 0700 on the missing person, a Foresta resident. Foresta is an unincorporated community within the park boundaries that was nearly destroyed by fire in 1991 and the scars of that fire are evident.

Matt Stark On Right

We were introduced to the incident commander Matt Stark with sergeant Joe Smith designated as the overall Fresno SAR team leader. I remember the days when Keith Loeber was the incident commander for a multiday Sentinel Dome area search we helped on. We found the Corcoran city manager after three days. He was fine.
The subject of the search, Ann Lory, had been missing since Saturday evening. She had been out collecting rocks. Her jacket was found later on a pile of rocks. I was cold, as I stood there during the briefing in the 32-degree weather. I was thinking, “It would be tough to be out for two nights in weather like this without even a jacket.”

Fresno County had the largest contingent of searchers consisting of Sheriff’s deputies and volunteers from the mountaineering unit. I was on team four with deputy Tim Jacobson and led by deputy David Rippe. The civilians included Bill Allen, myself and newer team members Don McAlpine, Dr. Sue Spano, Christine and two other gentlemen whose names I have forgotten. The deputies included Bo, Matt, Robert (aka Koda Bear), and two other deputies.

Bill Allen drove our mountaineering unit vehicle donated to us by the Santa Barbara SAR team. The coolest vehicle however, was the Merced team’s yellow Hummer.  I want one, but maybe not yellow. They are a tad wide for trails.

The Fresno team convoyed over to Foresta. Jed, a Yosemite front country ranger, assisted us. He noted that he had spent three years as a backcountry ranger too. We parked near the Foresta Firehouse. The teams set out from there at about 0900. Bo’s team and our team headed in the same direction for a time.

General Area Of Search

Thick Brush With Two Team Members

Our area had an enormous amount of buck brush and little holes, made invisible by the weeds, that made travel difficult. We also had difficulty keeping one another in sight. There were a lot of burned logs that we had to climb over and our clothing took a beating. My Outdoor Research gators paid for themselves many times over as they took the brunt of our travels. It wasn’t long before I had shed two top layers. Both my hand were bleeding from cuts so I put my gloves on. Koda gently scolded me later that the gloves go on before you get the cuts. Thanks for the reminder Koda. I would rather run ten miles on the trails at Woodward Park than the 3.25 miles off trail we traveled.

Tim And David

We were out for about two and half hours when a call came on David’s radio that Ann had been found. I understand that she had become disoriented and headed downhill toward highway 140. She fell, was injured and could no longer walk. A relative, who was on one of the search teams, found her. Ann was airlifted to a hospital for medical treatment.

Our team was out for about three hours total and climbed over 500’ in that time. We reassembled and headed back to HQ for the debriefing. I was surprised to see frost remaining in some spots on the valley roads after noon. David’s new cap was now his ‘lucky hat’. I was sorry to hear from Koda  that he had lost his treasured “Storm Stories” cap. It was blown off his head while being airlifted by Eagle One on a recent SAR mission.


Koda and Sue With Christine In Back Left

We celebrated Thanksgiving week early Monday. Thank you Lord for a safe and successful search and thank you for the privilege of working with so many individuals willing to put others first.   



  1. There is a link to the Fresno SART blog on the top right for those who may be interested in joining the volunteer team.

  2. I'm just gonna pick up a few rocks. What could go wrong? It's a nice day, too.

    Oops, I tripped over that stump and the weeds covered the hole. My ankle is badly sprained or broken. Can't walk and this stuff is too hard to crawl over. Wish I had thought to invite a friend.

    Ann Lory can be thankful that Dale and the other SAR folks are better prepared than she thought to be.

    The highest esteem belongs to the 'guys' who volunteer to bravely go out into "the-who-knows-what" to look for the unprepared or unlucky. Nice to know that guys like Dale are there and ready and prepared.

    I'd like to talk to Ann Lory and see what she has to say. Today is Thanksgiving. Thanks to the Fresno SAR. Make that three heaping cups.

    I have known Dale since 1960. We have been best friends since then. I smile when I know "how good he turned out," Any hiking I do in the Fresno area, he'll be at my side. Ya wanna bet?

  3. Dr. Phil,
    Nobody expects to get lost when they go out. I'm sure she is thankful. Maybe the next time it will be me. Two hikers were just rescued by CHP helicopter near Mt. Whitney.,0,2352274.story#axzz2lxYi8MTV