After an unintended night under the stars and a seven-hour search by emergency personnel, a lost hiker from Texas was reunited with his family Tuesday morning.
The man, an unidentified 70-year-old from Texas, was camping with family in the area of Price Lakes Road (Forest Service Road 731), in southeast Archuleta County, when he went out for a hike Monday afternoon, said Archuleta County’s Director of Emergency Management Thad McKain.
According to McKain, when the man failed to return from his hike, his family found cell service and called in his absence, with that report reaching search and rescue crews at about midnight.
Upper San Juan Search and Rescue (USJSAR) responded to the call, with three USJSAR members hiking into the area where the man was last seen. McKain reported that it took three hours to reach the family’s campsite on foot.
A Flight for Life helicopter assisted the search, McKain said, and was able to search about 50 percent of the site that was open meadows, though that search was unsuccessful.
Instead, it was the USJSAR ground crew that made contact with the man at about 7 a.m. Tuesday, McKain reported.
McKain noted that the man was in “fine health” when found, but was disoriented.
Because the man had only intended to go out for a short hike, McKain said he was wearing shorts and a T-shirt and had no food or water.
Nine county and search and rescue personnel helped with the incident, McKain said, with La Plata County and Rio Grande County search and rescue teams en route when the man was found, and state resources were on standby to come if needed.
Hikers, no matter how short they plan to be out, should be prepared. Following are tips to stay safe in the backcountry.
- Set easy-to-achieve objectives. Unless you are backpacking, plan to return well before dark.
- Stay on the trail. Short-cutting causes erosion and is hazardous to your safety, as well as to the safety of hikers below you.
- Think safety. Carry a map, water, snacks and clothing to keep you warm and dry. Weather conditions change rapidly in the mountains and it may rain or snow at any time. Always travel with a friend and always let someone know where you are going and when you expect to return.
- Pack out your trash. Help keep the forest clean and pack out trash someone else left behind.
- Trail signs are usually found at trailheads and major junctions of maintained trails. Take a moment to read the information posted at trailheads. Not all junctions or cross-country routes are signed.
Colorado residents and visitors can also purchase a Colorado Search and Rescue (CORSAR) card for $3 per year or $12 for five years at over 300 retailers in the state, including several local sporting goods stores, or online.
Purchasing the CORSAR card contributes to the state’s search and rescue fund, which reimburses local search and rescue teams for costs incurred, and any funds remaining at the end of the year are used to help pay for training and equipment for the teams.
Anyone holding a current hunting or fishing license, or boat, snowmobile or ATV registration is already covered by the fund.
The card is not insurance, however, and will not reimburse individuals or pay for medical transport or treatment.
USJSAR is always looking for interested volunteers to serve on its team. Anyone interested is encouraged to call the Archuleta County Emergency Operations center at 731-4799.