A hike that could have easily turned tragic was instead the impetus for Joseph Brinton Wise’s lifework as Camp LoMia’s “trail angel.” That work has spanned more than two and a half decades and touched thousands who have enjoyed the Camp LoMia trails.
The camp is used by Young Women and others from 56 stakes across the Phoenix area for stake YW camps, ward campouts, youth conferences and family reunions.
Brother Wise, who, with his wife, Gayla, resides in the McQueen Ward, Gilbert Stapley Stake, was recently recognized for “selfless service to Camp LoMia from 1991-2017.”
He said it started when “I was on the Camp LoMia East Rim hike to learn about this difficult trail so I could do the same hike with my stake later that summer. There were probably 100 girls on the trail with only a few leaders.”
He watched six of them start back down the mountain. “Instead of staying on the poorly marked trail, they were headed straight down toward cliffs. I felt an urgent need to help, but I didn’t know what I could do,” he said.
Finally, he left the trail and headed toward where he last had seen the girls.
By the time he got to them, one “had tumbled down a 25-foot, almost vertical cliff, and was stuck on a ledge. Below her was another 20-foot cliff, so she was trapped, unable to go up or down.”
The girl had been injured, “and her shirt was quite bloody,” he says.
He directed the girl to crawl along the ledge, then caught her feet and helped her down the last 10 feet.
“This event profoundly affected my life, and made me keenly aware of the need to properly maintain all the trails at Camp LoMia,” Brother Wise says.
Every year since he has gone there often to put in new trails or close off unsafe areas, explains his daughter, Ellen Bouck, of Mesa. “He’s also put in signs and trail markers, and he makes maps for every stake that goes up there.”
With no little fanfare, he’s done it for 26 years—and has gotten others involved as well.
“He has worked with 36 different young men to help them do service projects at LoMia to earn their Eagle Scout awards,” says Sister Bouck. “Three of those were his own grandsons.”
Elder and Sister Martindale, the missionaries currently overseeing Camp LoMia, recently organized a ceremony to honor Brother Wise.
“He does so much, and I know he is led by the spirit,” Sister Martindale said.
Elder Martindale announced that now, on the trail called Friendship Loop, a large, approximately 300-year-old pine tree, has been dedicated to Brother Wise and renamed, “The Wise Tree.” Nearby, a plaque honors him as a “Rescuer – Devoted Volunteer – Trail Blazer –Preservationist – Conservationist – Map Maker.”
Lindsay Hicks Watrous, the young woman he rescued in 1991, also spoke, saying to Brother Wise, “Not only were you able to help our group, but all of your labors have kept other youth and people who have been using the trails safe for the last two and a half decades, so thank you.”