Search for elderly hiker lost in Madera Canyon continues

The search for a hiker in his early-80s who got lost while hiking in Madera Canyon on Tuesday has turned into a recovery effort, due to the duration of time he’s been missing and the cold temperatures, officials say. 

Joe Smallwood called around 4 p.m. Tuesday and reported he was lost, according to Santa Cruz County Sheriff Tony Estrada. Shortly after, the office sent out a search-and-rescue team.  

Estrada said falling snow covering up Smallwood’s tracks complicated the search.

He said Smallwood’s vehicle was found at the Madera Canyon visitor’s parking lot and is registered in Ohio. Smallwood lives between Tucson and Ohio. His son lives in Ohio and told officials he spoke with his father on Monday and that the older man is a frequent hiker, Estrada said.

The sheriff said the last GPS signal picked up from Smallwood’s phone was 1 mile west of Josephine Saddle trail.

Officials in Pima County, Sahuarita and Green Valley have all been assisting in the search, by air and foot, as well as volunteers with the Southern Arizona Rescue Association. Estrada said dogs have been deployed in the recovery as well.

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