Hiker spends night lost in CO park as husband searches. Then she finds visitors center

A hiker spent the night lost in the Colorado mountains with a dead phone while her husband and a team of rescuers searched for her.

They searched almost the entire night — and then she turned up at a visitors center the next morning, the Boulder County Sheriff’s Office said in a news release.

The 50-year-old hiker had driven to the Walker Ranch Open Space area west of Boulder with her husband on Sunday, Sept. 24, officials said in the release.

The couple planned for her husband to fish while she hiked, so they parted ways at South Boulder Creek with a plan to meet at a bridge that intersects the creek and trail, officials said.

She wasn’t there when her husband got to the bridge around the time they were meant to meet, so he waited a bit longer in case she turned up, officials said.

But she never showed up.

He went back to their car to see if she might be there, officials said. She wasn’t, so he started searching for her along the creek and the trails.

While he was looking for her, she called 911 at approximately 6:30 p.m. to report she was lost. But she was only able to tell a dispatcher which trailhead she had started hiking from before her phone died, officials said.

Deputies went to the area to look for clues related to the lost hiker and to find her husband, who also had reported she was overdue from her hike, officials said. They checked trailheads and called for emergency services personnel.

A search party associated with Rocky Mountain Rescue Group and Front Range Rescue Dogs got underway at 8 p.m., officials said. They spent the night searching trails at the 7.9-mile Walker Ranch Loop, Eldorado Canyon State Park and the South Boulder Creek Drainage — to no avail, officials said.

The search was suspended at 4 a.m. on Monday, Sept. 25, but a fresh search party with the two rescue groups, as well as Boulder County Mounted Search and Rescue and Boulder Emergency Squad, went back out at 8 a.m.

A digital alert went out to homes in the area asking homeowners to look out for the lost hiker, officials said.

And then she walked into the visitors center at Eldorado Canyon State Park around 10 a.m., officials said.

Park rangers reported her return. She was uninjured and safe, officials said.

Officials drove her back to the Walker Ranch Trailhead, where she reunited with her husband.

“We encourage everyone to tell a friend or family member where you plan to hike and what route you plan to take,” officials said. “Be prepared with the ten essentials, including things like food, water, extra layers, a headlamp, whistle, a fully charged phone or battery bank. These simple things can be invaluable tools in the unforgiving wilderness of Colorado.”

What to do if you get lost while hiking

If you think you’re getting lost, experts say it’s best to stop where you are and not panic. You should go over how you got to that point and if you’re able to see any landmarks around.

“Do not move at all until you have a specific reason to take a step,” officials with the U.S. Forest Service said.

You should come up with a plan but stay put unless you are “very, very confident in the route.”

There are steps hikers can take to avoid getting lost and be better prepared for the unexpected:

  • Have more than enough food and water with you.

  • Take a compass that you know how to use, or have a GPS device on hand.

  • Don’t rely solely on your cell phone. It probably won’t work because of a lack of signal or a depleted battery.

  • Study the terrain and your route, and you should know how you’ll return.

  • Have the right clothing. Sturdy hiking boots and layers can help you be prepared for rapidly changing weather.

  • Pack a blanket, flashlight and matches.

  • Check with a local ranger for special warnings. They can tell you about “fires in the area, bear sightings, flooding, trail or road closures.”

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