Advocates working to increase hiker safety after 2 deaths at Cave Creek trailhead

Both deadly hikes started at the Spur Cross Trailhead, and now people are looking for ways to prevent more tragedies there.
Published: Oct. 5, 2022 at 9:30 PM MST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

CAVE CREEK, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) - Exactly one month ago today, a doctor died while hiking in Cave Creek. Since then, another person has died in that same area. Both deadly hikes started at the Spur Cross Trailhead, and now people are looking for ways to prevent more tragedies there.

Evan Dishion, the new father and doctor, died from heat exhaustion after his group ran out of water during their hike. A little over three weeks later, Kathleen Patterson was found dead after going missing for three days. She got off route, taking off from that same trailhead.

“I know what it’s like to think your spouse will be back later that day, and then they don’t come home ever,” said Evan’s wife, Amy. “It’s been really hard, like a nightmare I just can’t wake up from.”

The day Evan died, the trail was open, but temperatures were over 100 degrees. Over in Phoenix, trails were closed that day under the city’s program that shut them down under an excessive heat warning. “I think there should be increased signage but more importantly I think those trails need to be closed,” Amy said.

A spokesperson with the Maricopa County Parks and Recreation, who oversees Spur Cross, says they have had discussions about closing trails during excessive heat warnings. But because it backs up to land owned by other agencies, several access points could make it challenging.

Paul Diefenderfer has been hiking the area since the 70s. There are some signs at the trailhead, but he says it’s something hikers have become immune to. So he and Sunny Parker, who coordinated search and rescue efforts for Kathleen with the community, are trying to prevent this from happening by taking action into their own hands.

“Whistles. It’s a very simple thing,” Parker said. “I would have some sort of a dispensing machine. If you blow the whistle there is a good chance someone will find you. I am really going to hope I can get some backing from the state on this. It’s a simple fix. Very inexpensive and I want to start right here.”

Parker says she has already bought 10,000 whistles. “It’s such an easy fix and I really hope this could save lives,” Parker said. “I’m doing it in honor of Kathleeen and Dr. Dishion.”

Paul says if you are hiking, it’s always good to take a flashlight with you, even during the day. He also said bringing a satellite tracker will send back your location to a loved one every 20 minutes. He suggests getting out early and making sure you have a plan.