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Hiker dies at Sequoia-Kings Canyon

August 12, 2009 |  4:57 pm

I'm sorry to report there was yet another national park death this week. This one was a bit closer to home, at Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. Kevin Trevor Rodriguez, 19, died of head injuries Monday after he fell 50-plus feet near Tokopah Falls, a popular day hike near the Lodgepole Visitor Center.

Rodriguez -- who was reported to be from the Malibu-Agoura area -- and a friend were scrambling on the rocks above the trail when the accident occurred, according to the National Park Service. Instead of climbing down the same way they came up, they tried to descend via an apparently easier route, albeit one with slippery rocks, and Rodriguez took a tumbling fall, landing in a pool below.

Two teenage girls drowned at the park in July in the Kaweah River.

Sequoia sign I talked to National Park Service public information officer Adrienne Freeman about the accidents, the inherent dangers of certain park trails, and how Sequoia and Kings Canyon deals with it. Freeman said the rocks Rodriguez slipped on were not wet, as they would be earlier in the season when water was high, but were slippery from being "worn smooth from water." She also said Sequoia and Kings Canyon has worked hard on an intensive public education program, complete with volunteer "river rovers" who walk along the rivers, educating people about the dangers of hiking in or near the park's swift water. The park also use signage that Freeman calls "incredibly intense, and even disturbing to a certain extent." One such sign is shown at right.

Ultimately, Freeman said, "You can't warn people about everything." Rocks are going to tumble, rivers are going to rise, and giant tree limbs are going to fall. But Freeman said that in order to educate people, you have to use something that grabs their attention.

-- Julie Sheer

Photo credit: Adrienne Freeman / National Park Service

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