Lost hiker spent night in rain
Vail, CO Colorado
RED CLIFF ” Jack Vriesenga spent the night in the wilderness, though not on purpose.
Vriesenga lost the Fancy Creek Trail due to inaccurate information in a book while trying hiking back to the trailhead Wednesday, he said.
“The thunderstorms came in and I just said, ‘I’m going to have to lay up for the night,'” Vriesenga said.
Vriesenga, 65, of New York, was found about 10 a.m. Thursday on the trail about five minutes from the trailhead, said Dan Smith, spokesman for Vail Mountain Rescue Group.
Vriesenga and his wife, Deborah Stewart, of New York, were hiking when Stewart decided to hike ahead of her tired husband, they said.
“My wife is a much better hiker than I am,” Vriesenga said.
Stewart later decided not to complete the trail loop and when she went back, she could not find Vriesenga, Smith said.
“I was very worried,” Stewart said.
A man planning to hike the trail met Stewart and called police. Two rescuers and a dog searched all night for Vriesenga as he spent the night in a weather-proof Mylar bag in pouring rain in a grove of trees next to a creek, Vriesenga said.
Vriesenga woke up at 6 a.m. and found the trail, he said.
At a camp site off the trail a couple backpackers, who rescuers talked to earlier, spotted him and gave him water, he said.
Five more rescuers began searching at 9:30 a.m. and about 10 a.m. they found Vriesenga on the trail about five minutes away from the trailhead, Smith said.
The couple were experienced hikers who had done the loop once before and this week they were training for high altitude hiking in the Andes in Peru, Vriesenga said.
The couple were grateful for Vail Mountain Rescue Group, which was about to mount a full rescue, Stewart said.
“They were all so kind and so friendly and so wonderful and I can’t begin to say how great they were,” Stewart said.
Like this one, most rescues end well, but any excursion in the wilderness could end in disaster if someone gets injured, Smith said.
Fortunately, Vriesenga had rain gear, Smith said.
The couple should not have separated, Smith said.
“We’re trying to make people be safe out there and when they make a mistake or Mother Nature conspires against them, we’re here to help them,” Smith said.
Fancy Creek Trail is a popular hiking loop south of Red Cliff in the Homestake area, Smith said.
Staff Writer Steve Lynn can be reached at 748-2931 or email@example.com.