East Hawaii News

HVNP Mules, Horse Assist in Backcountry Rescue

September 1, 2015, 12:50 PM HST
* Updated September 1, 12:51 PM
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Last week, Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park’s mules and horse transported two injured hikers who began a hike on Thursday, Aug. 27 by traveling along the Keauhou Trail.

The pair planned to hike to a remote coastal campsite but did not properly prepare for the intense heat, lack of shade, and rough terrain. HVNP reports they were also without hiking sticks and their water filters broke. After turning their ankles, neither were able to continue, so they called the number on their backcountry permit, and the mules, along with first responders, were dispatched.

Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park stock manager Jordan Barthold (first) and first responder TJ Magno head down Keauhou Trail last Thursday. NPS photo.

Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park stock manager Jordan Barthold (first) and first responder TJ Magno head down Keauhou Trail last Thursday. NPS photo.

Rescue crew members located the couple, and park mule Dozer and horse ‘Ōhi‘a took them to safety. Mules Sparkles and Cylde hauled their backpacks.

Last week’s rescue wasn’t the first for the animal rescue team. Park officials say that in mid-July, Sparkles carried a 60-year-old O’ahu man who was on the Keauhou Trail to safety. The man was reportedly separated from his group and became dehydrated and fatigued on the eight-mile hike.

Although both rescues ended up leading distressed hikers to safety, Park Ranger Jack Corrao says the incidents were preventable.


“It’s extremely important to be prepared when going into the backcountry, or on any hike,” Corrao said.  “Have plenty of water, four quarts per person per day, and make sure your water filter works. Never get separated from your group. Know your limits.”


Individuals received a detailed checklist that includes safety tips with all backcountry permits. The list is also available online.

In addition to participating in rescues, the park mules perform a variety of important duties, according to Stock Manager Jordan Barthold, including carrying heavy loads over uneven terrain. Recently, the mules participated in the replacement of the wooden boardwalk at Pu‘u Loa Petroglyphs. They also assist with the transport of equipment to Hawaiian Hawksbill sea turtle crews and in hauling waste from the pit toilets in the coastal campgrounds.

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