ST. GEORGE – The next time Chad Bennion goes hiking in some remote corner in the middle of nowhere, he’s taking a shovel.
Bennion, 52, made headlines over New Year’s weekend when he failed to return after a hike in the Motoqua area of Washington County Saturday afternoon. Unable to contact him and his fate unknown, his family contacted authorities and a search began that day and ran through Monday morning.
See video in the media player top of this report.
As for Bennion, he had gotten his SUV stuck in the sand in a box canyon at a spot called Slaughter Creek. Despite his efforts to get his SUV out of the sand and mud, it wouldn’t budge and the sun was going down. On top of that he was unable to call home due to his phone being out of signal range.
“It was an unintended adventure,” Bennion told St. George News Monday afternoon. Earlier in the day he was able to get his SUV unstuck, thanks to a man passing through who was hunting mountain lions.
Kelly Ballow said he walked up to Bennion’s SUV and tapped on the window and woke up the man. Ballow observed that Bennion had gotten his SUV stuck in the middle of a wash that had water running through it, and it appeared Bennion had diverted the water flow around his vehicle.
Ballow hooked a towline to Bennion’s SUV and after about 90 minutes, pulled the vehicle to freedom.
“I’m glad we could help him out,” Ballow said.
The prey Ballow was hunting had actually paid an indirect visit to the stuck hiker Saturday night after he had gone to sleep.
Sometime between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m., Bennion said, a mountain lion had entered the slot canyon near the SUV and left fresh tracks nearby.
An avid hiker and runner who loves the outdoors, Bennion said he wasn’t too worried about his situation. Though he was isolated and unable to contact anyone at the time, if worse came to worse, he would abandon the SUV and hike out. He had seen campers and other folks about 8 miles back and also figured it was about 10-15 miles to a stable signal for his phone. It wasn’t beyond his hiking range, he said.
“I love the outdoors,” Bennion said. “I love these remote areas … I just do the best I can to be prepared.”
Packed in Bennion’s SUV were sleeping bags, blankets, dehydrated foods, water, matches and other items – except a shovel.
“I’ll pack a few more things (next time),” Bennion laughed, “a shovel and a winch for sure.”
While he wasn’t worried about himself, Bennion did worry about what his family may he experiencing, particularly after he learned Sunday over the SUV’s radio that he was reported missing and a search was underway.
“My biggest concern was for my family and friends who didn’t know where I was and didn’t know I was alright,” he said, adding that, “It’s what your mind does when someone isn’t there when you expect them to be” that concerned him.
Bennion’s sister and brother-in-law were out searching for Bennion, and he figured that they, along with other family and friends, were imagining worst case scenarios.
“I’m the one case where everything went right,” Bennion said, acknowledging that many other cases of someone going missing don’t always end well.
As for Bennion’s family, he said they were quite happy to hear from him Monday morning when he was finally able to contact them over the phone.
“I think they were really happy, relieved,” he said. “A lot of tears, of happiness that I was okay.”
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