When Robin Phillips of Bountiful, Utah, planned a six-day hiking trip into the Grand Canyon for his troop of Boy Scouts last month, he knew the remote route would be waterless. But maps and guidebooks couldn't tell him it would prove deadly. Three days into the trip, which, as it turned out, Phillips could not attend, the group of five Scouts and three adults ran out of water. That afternoon, Phillips' 15-year-old son David died from heat exhaustion and dehydration.


The survivors were evacuated by helicopter the following day. Less than a week later, rescuers evacuated another group of parched Scouts from the canyon, reports the Salt Lake Tribune.


Boy Scouts aren't the only visitors who run into trouble in the park. Each year, rescue crews handle about 400 "search and rescue" incidents involving groups of unprepared or unlucky hikers in the Grand Canyon; during the peak season from June to August, two to three helicopter evacuations take place every day. "We have signs on the trails that say "do not go beyond this point without food and water," "''''says park spokeswoman Maureen Oltrogge. "People walk right past them."


Visitors can experience heat exhaustion, heat stroke, and hyponatremia or "water intoxication," says Ken Phillips, the park's search and rescue coordinator. All three are easily prevented by drinking ample water (the Park Service recommends that each person carry one to two gallons per day in the Grand Canyon) and replacing electrolytes by eating salty snacks or drinking sports drinks. Phillips also says it's important to obtain an accurate backcountry permit, wear rugged shoes or boots, carry a first aid kit and pack what he calls "backcountry life insurance' - a signal mirror.


*Greg Hanscom