GRAND CANYON, Ariz. - William (Billy) Driscoll was found on June 17 as the National Park Service and the Coconino County Sheriff's office, with the assistance of the Department of Public Safety (DPS), made plans to ramp up search efforts.
Late in the evening on Wednesday, June 15, rangers in Grand Canyon National Park received notification that 64-year-old Driscoll of Fredonia, Ariz. had not returned from a backpacking trip in the Grand Canyon. The reporting party, a friend of Driscoll's, stated that he had been expected back no later than Tuesday.
Driscoll had provided his friends with a detailed itinerary of his planned hiking route which immediately helped the agencies focus their search to the Sowats Point, Fishtail Mesa, Indian Hollow area, located approximately 30 miles northwest of the North Rim developed area. Driscoll had planned to enter the park at Indian Hollow, then find a route down to Hualapai Spring, across to Kwagunt and back up to exit near Sowats Point at the Jumpup-Naile Trailhead.
On Thursday morning, once Coconino County Sheriff's Officers located Driscoll's car and confirmed that he had not yet left the area, the park helicopter flew two search patterns over his planned route with no success. Thursday night, a DPS helicopter equipped with FLIR (forward looking infrared) technology, which detects variations in heat signature, also flew Driscoll's planned route with no success.
On Friday, search operations expanded to include teams conducting ground search operations in the Fishtail Mesa to Indian Hollow area. Late Friday afternoon, U.S. Forest Service Officer Steve Hecksel, conducting routine patrol operations, found Driscoll at the junction of FR 255 and FR 447 significantly north and east of his planned exit point.
According to Driscoll, he had hiked his planned itinerary and stayed at Kwagunt on Monday night. However, on Tuesday he was unable to locate the route up to Sowats Point (a route he had never hiked before). After spending a second night at Kwagunt, Driscoll decided to hike out via Jumpup Canyon, a route he had traveled before, camping at Mountain Sheep Springs on Wednesday night and at a cabin near the top of Jumpup Canyon on Thursday night.
Driscoll was reported as being tired and unable to eat much, but otherwise in good condition and high spirits.
The National Park Service credits Driscoll with making sure friends knew when to expect him out of the backcountry, providing them with a detailed description of his planned route and carrying extra food and supplies in case he was in the backcountry longer than expected. In addition, he did not panic when he could not find his route. Instead, he stayed near water and familiar terrain as he searched for his route and contemplated his options.
Visitors are reminded that Grand Canyon's backcountry can be both beautiful and treacherous. Hikers must be prepared for the lack of water, extreme heat and cold, and isolation characteristic of the Grand Canyon. The staff at the park's Backcountry Information Center is a wealth of information and can help you with the required backcountry permits. Remember, mental attitude and adequate water and food consumption are absolutely essential to the success of any Grand Canyon hike, particularly in summer.
To learn more about hiking in Grand Canyon's backcountry, please visit the park's web site at www.nps.gov/grca/planyourvisit/backcountry.htm, or call the Backcountry Information Center at (928) 638-7875 between the hours of 1 p.m. and 5 p.m., Monday through Friday.