Man hiking from Phoenix to Albuquerque rescued from Santa Teresa Wilderness

Photo By Scott Peavy via Desert Mountaineer: This photo shows the summit of Pinnacle Ridge in the Santa Teresa Wilderness.

By Jon Johnson

SANTA TERESA WILDERNESS – An Arizona Department of Public Safety Ranger rescued an injured hiker in the Santa Teresa Wilderness on Wednesday, after the man activated an emergency rescue beacon in the area of Pinnacle Ridge. 

According to a Graham County Sheriff’s Office report, Michael Jurasius, 55, was hiking from Phoenix to Albuquerque, New Mexico when he became unable to continue. At some point in the area of Pinnacle Ridge, Jurasius reported he had gotten to a spot where he could not escape and was out of water. Later, Jurasius informed that he also had an injured ankle. Pinnacle Ridge is 7,523 feet high at its peak and is categorized as a Class-3 hike for at least a good portion.   

Jurasius was described as an experienced hiker and has chronicled extensive hikes, such as the Pacific Coast Trail from Mexico to Canada. The deputy contacted his girlfriend who advised that Jurasius would not have activated his emergency beacon unless he was in real trouble. 

Jurasius himself recalled what happened in a social media post on his Facebook page. He said he had prepared by taking two liters of water as he left the Klondyke area but later found himself in difficult cross-country terrain after not seeing any available trails.   

“To be clear, the terrain was no joke,” Jurasius wrote in his post. “I had to climb up and down decomposed granite outcrops, and tunnel my way through dense brush to get where I stood, high above the canyon floor, but nowhere mileage-wise, in the peak heat of the day. Feeling trapped, with slippery steep terrain surrounding me, and a swollen ankle, I reluctantly hit the SOS.”

A DPS Ranger from Tucson responded at the request of Graham County Search and Rescue and located Jurasius. The hiker then chronicled the rescue and getting into the helicopter after receiving instructions from a trooper. 

“I knelt in the sand, squinting my eyes to see through a blizzard of silt kicked up from the wash, and when the skid appeared a couple (of) feet from me, climbed gently onto it and into the helicopter. The trooper followed, with my pack in hand. In a minute, I was hovering high above the steep, densely vegetated terrain, still, not a route in (sight). My eyes watered as emotions took over. I had been rescued by a brave and highly skilled SAR crew,” Jurasius wrote in his post. 

Jurasius was transported to the temporary SAR command post that was created near the intersection of Klondyke Road and Sand Tanks Road and was provided with a medical evaluation. The deputy said Jurasius was sunburned, appeared to be dehydrated, and complained of a sprained ankle but what otherwise fine. He declined medical treatment at the scene and was transported to a hotel in Safford.