MIDDLETON, NS - While the warm weather has many people thinking about hikes in the woods, canoe trips, or ATV adventures in the wilderness, Hilton Seymour is thinking about how to find them and get them out if they become lost, ill, or injured.
He’s president of Annapolis County Ground Search and Rescue and would rather people make trip plans and carry map and compass than get lost and require his team’s services. But worst-case scenario, he and 50 other volunteers have got your back.
He said this is the time of year all search and rescue teams in the province tend to gear up.
“This is the time of year when activities begin to increase, more people are out and around hiking, or taking four-wheelers into the trails, people are kayaking, first time kayakers are going out onto lakes,” he said. “We just want to make sure everyone is well aware, that they have trip plans that they left on their vehicles where they’re going into the trail or with a family member saying ‘this is where I’m going.’”
He said if his team gets a call and they have that trip plan information right away searchers know the point of last contact and can start to go from that point forward.
Map and Compass
“They should have a map and compass. They should be aware of what the weather is going to be. We’re still in the early stages of spring and you could have a great day as it was today and then by midnight tonight you could be down into the negatives,” he said. “So we should be prepared with clothing, food, compass, a way of lighting a fire – matches, lighters, some way to keep yourself warm.”
He said people should have a survival kit of some sort.
“A little survival blanket is a great little tool to carry with you at all times,” he said. “They just need to be focused and prepared. The AdventureSmart (adventuresmart.ca) program that we support, and all G-SAR in Canada support, they recommend the pre-plan, pre-trip -- it has everything on it you should carry.”
Seymour said going to AdventureSmart’s ‘Survive Outside’ page is one of the smartest things outdoor enthusiasts can do.
While cellphones and GPS units are great, they can’t be relied upon. That’s why a map and compass – and the ability to use them – are far superior.
“It was a prime example at our recent search out at Cloud Lake,” Seymour said. “When we got about six kilometres off into the bush – that’s what the distance was from the main road in – all services were lost. There was no cellphone service.”
They had to rely on satellite phones.
“The thing with GPS units and phones is that the battery will die,” said ACGSAR search manager Kent Molyneaux. “Whether or not you have reception for your phone, if your battery dies and if that’s all you’re counting on you better have a good memory -- because you don’t know where you are, you can’t turn it on, you don’t really have any way of communicating where you are if you didn’t leave a trip plan.”
Annapolis County Ground Search and Rescue has been around for more than four decades, but until last year, the volunteer organization never had a home. It’s gone to the next level now.
“Back in the summer of 2017 we sourced out a location, which is here in Middleton on Victoria Street,” said Seymour. “For the first time in our 42-year history all of our vehicles have been under cover since July of last year – which has proved to be a very valuable tool for us. It’s increased morale. After the search in Cloud Lake we had a cleanup party and we had 20 people show up to help clean the vehicles.”
In the past, cleanup would have been one or two people in their own yards because they were the ones who took the vehicles home after long searches or training exercises.
“It’s helped morale,” said Seymour. “Our membership is strong. Gear is centralized and under cover.”
In fact, ACGSAR attracted 18 new members in the past year and the team is up to 51 volunteers.
Molyneaux said the team does some training during meetings but is planning a fair-size, multi-team search exercise the first weekend in July down around Weymouth. “We’ll be having four to five teams involved there,” he said.
Seymour said the five teams in the Western Zone, from West Hants down to Clare, have got together and have done training.
“The province is working towards a CSA standard of training and we’re trying get ourselves in order to follow suit with that training,” he added.
“This summer we’re doing a lot of fundraising,” Seymour said. “We’re just in the process now. We’ve partnered with Meadowbrook Meats and we’re selling meat boxes. We’ve done our first ordering there and the public has really stepped up and supported that. We’re going to keep that going for a couple of months.”
On Oct. 21 the team is having a ‘Lost Soul 5-K Halloween Fun Run’ where participants will pay a small entry fee and run either five or 10 Kilometres -- with prizes for the best dressed costumes.
“The Annapolis County Trail Society and Annapolis County Ground Search and Rescue on July 15 are hosting a ‘Follow Me Run’ where we’re going to go from Bridgetown out through to Mersey Lake. That’s going to be the turn-around point. There’ll be a big barbecue out there for the riders before they come back. That’s a fundraiser as well.”
Molyneaux said ACGSAR is very appreciative of community support, whether it be through fundraisers or during searches.
At the recent search out at Cloud Lake, he remembers Tim Hortons in Greenwood dropping everything at 3 a.m. to make sandwiches for the searchers.
“And Subway in Middleton donated sandwiches for lunch – 10 o’clock on a Saturday morning Subway had enough sandwiches for about 40 or 50 people that were out at the search site. They donated them. One of our guys picked them up and took them out. So we’re really pleased with the community support.”
For information on ACGSAR or how to participate in fundraisers, check out their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/ACGSAR/
Check out AdventureSmart for trip plans and trip essentials at https://www.adventuresmart.ca/
Annapolis County Trail Society can be found at http://www.annapoliscountytrailsociety.ca/