When you think of who will come to your rescue in the Squamish backcountry, Squamish Search and Rescue are probably the first to come to mind. But it was taxi driver Kelly Joanette and a tow truck driver who answered the call for help on Sunday, May 19, when a family of four and their two dogs said they were stuck on a steep, isolated forest service road.
Joanette, who has driven a taxi in Squamish for 12 years and lived here for 52 years, said this is the first time she's ever driven up this particular forest service road.
On the province's map of Forest Service Road Conditions, the description of the Stawamus-Indian Main Forest Service Road (sometimes referred to as the Indian Arm or Indian River FSR) recommends 4-wheel drive vehicles for the steep and rough sections. It also notes the road experiences frequent washouts and may not be accessible.
"I was very worried about the fellow that was in the tow truck trying to hook up the truck, because he was left there for two hours by himself to get this vehicle out. I just wanted to make note of how people not only put themselves at risk, but also others involved in that situation," Joanette added.
The dispatcher who was on call during the weekend rescue, at Payless Auto Towing, said it's not uncommon for the company to get calls from people stuck unprepared on logging roads, especially during the summer.
Joanette decided to share the experience as an example of how easy it is to get in a dangerous situation in unfamiliar terrain. She said the family's vehicle was about 16 kilometres (10 miles) in on the forest service road, with a flat tire and no cell phone reception. When she arrived in the taxi, she said she gave them food and water. But she was perplexed as to why a family would go into that area in the first place, given the amount of family-friendly camping areas in and near Squamish.
The father, Joanette said, had managed to get a ride down the road with someone else, and called the taxi company and towing company for help at 10 p.m. She added they were lucky someone else was in the area, which she said is known for cougars and bears.
"Up here, you're just sitting bait," Joanette said. "Had we not gone up, it would have been a helicopter rescue. It was so rough going up that steep incline that you couldn't even stop going up."
She said it took her an hour to reach the family, then she drove them to a hotel for the night.
After the experience of the weekend, Joanette said, "I hope people think before they go. Because it could end up a heck of a lot worse than it did."