One Arizona law enforcement official has insisted that his sheriff’s office never intended to “sandal shame” a female hiker on social media, who had to be rescued from a treacherous 10-mile hike after struggling to continue due to her inadequate footwear. Instead, the officer claimed that they simply shared the cautionary tale to warn others.
Reps for the Gila County Sheriff’s Office (GSCO) took to Facebook on Monday to make an example of a near five-hour rescue on the Fossil Creek Trail in Flagstaff’s Coconino National Forest.
“This hiker failed to take the posted warnings seriously as she and seven others had to be rescued out of Fossil Creek yesterday. Definitely not appropriate footwear for the ten mile hike,” reps for the department wrote online, sharing images of a woman’s feet in stylish, albeit delicate, ankle-wrap sandals.
In the days since, the post has since been shared over 300 times and sparked just as many comments.
Many Facebook users condemned the woman’s “stupid” decision to wear such footwear that would inevitably require a rescue, and called for her to pay for the save out of her own pocket.
“No common sense anymore...they need to pay for the rescue!” one commenter cried.
“Such a waste of resources! Be prepared, seriously. It's hot in Arizona!” another agreed. “There are snakes etc.. wear hiking shoes...take extra water...bananas...etc. Be smart or stay home. Thank you Gila County Sheriff's Office for a successful rescue and for telling it like it is.”
Others, meanwhile, accused the GCSO of “sandal shaming” the naïve hiker, Yahoo Lifestyle reports.
In response, Undersheriff Michael L. Johnson of the department told the outlet that officials only want to keep people safe, a message especially poignant to communicate regarding the dangers of the ever-popular Fossil Creek Trail.
“We try not to embarrass people or anything like that. We just want to get the information out there for people to take it seriously,” Johnson said of their decision to share the story.
According to the official, on April 26, a group of eight people (including the “sandal-shamed” woman) ranging in age from 10 to 36, ventured five miles down the Fossil Creek Trail and attempted to turn around at about 4 p.m.
Things quickly went south when they realized they’d need a rescue, due in part to the woman’s sandals that made it “nearly impossible” for her to climb back up the trail, as per Yahoo.
“We arrived about 5:00 at the trail head and were able to get down to the bottom by 6:00. And then, once we got them some electrolytes and got them rehydrated, the rescue was just working our way out with them slowly,” Johnson recalled. “I think they hit the top of the mountain about 9:45 that night.”
The woman’s shoes were eventually bolstered with medical tape by a search and rescue team member, and the group eventually made it out of the woods without issue.
Now, the GCSO hopes that sharing the story can prevent similar situations from happening in the future.
As noted by ABC 15, the popular Fossil Creek Trail receives a whopping 100,000 visitors each year, with first responders rescuing about 200 people annually.
“Don't be a statistic,” a search and rescue sign reads ahead of the trail. Recommendations include bringing at least 1.5 gallons of water per person, wearing sturdy hiking shoes and ensuring that you are able to to hike 10 miles at 100 degrees at 6,000 feet of elevation before embarking on the excursion.