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Jennifer McBride, Forum Communications, Published August 08 2012

With horse and headlamps, park staff find dehydrated hiker at night in Theodore Roosevelt

DICKINSON, N.D. - Theodore Roosevelt National Park staff, with the assistance of flashlights, headlamps and two horses, safely brought a 23-year-old man out of the North Unit backcountry at about 12:40 a.m. Tuesday after he became dehydrated and texted for help.

Park Chief of Interpretation and Public Affairs Eileen Andes said Andrew Sparks was well-prepared for his two-night outing, but with the day’s temperature topping out at 96 degrees and his loss of a water bottle, he needed assistance. He started hiking at about 10:30 a.m. and the emergency call came in at about 7:30 p.m. Monday.

“He was dehydrated and unable to walk out,” Andes said.

This isn’t the first call the park has received for help in recent months. Usually there are less than a half dozen calls for assistance per year between the park’s North and South units, Andes said.

“We’ve had between eight to 10 instances this summer season of us having to go in and assist people out and a lot of them have been heat related,” she said. “They don’t realize how rugged the Badlands are and how dry and how much water to take with them.”

Staff recovered the body of Dan Olszewski, 48, Virginia, from the park July 18 after he had been missing for three days. He was also a prepared and experienced hiker, staff said.

The TRNP North Unit is a rugged 24,070 acres.

Sparks was between the Caprock Coulee Trail and the Achenbach Springs, a half mile off trail, where searchers met him.

Chief Ranger Dean Wyckoff assisted in the search.

“We just like to remind people, especially going into the backcountry, to be prepared, carry plenty of water and a map,” he said. “Check trail conditions and take more than you think you will need.”

The park suggests when hiking on a hot day, take a minimum of a gallon of water per person, Andes said, adding it may seem like a lot of water but hikers sweat a lot out.

People should also have plenty of snacks, including salty ones. Take a topography map and a cellphone even though coverage is spotty. Wear a hat and be prepared to stay out longer than you think. Hikers should always let someone know their itinerary, Andes said.

“When they go out into the backcountry it is at their own risk,” she said.

Andes said she did not know what town Sparks is from. The Press was unable to contact him for comment.