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Local Story: Textbook how to be found when lost in the woods

Sep 15, 2018 08:05AM ● By Editor

By Michael Valentini from The Cook County News Herald - September 14, 2018


The Cook County Sheriff ’s Department, Cook County Search and Rescue and the Gunflint Trail Volunteer Fire Department joined forces on Wednesday, September 5 to search for a hiker who had been on a three-day trek into the BWCA. Robert Klaver, age (well north of 60 anyway) was scheduled to end his hike on Monday night, although his permit indicated that he may come out Tuesday. When he wasn’t heard from by Tuesday evening a formal search was initiated.

I’ll end the suspense at this point and let you know that he is now home safe and sound. This search had a happy ending, mainly due to the steps Bob took prior to his adventurous trek into the wilderness and the clear thinking he exhibited once he knew the journey wasn’t going according to plan.

For starters, he had a well laid out plan including where he was expecting to go and when he thought he would be out. He also had a contact person Terri, who knew the plan and would be able to call for assistance if something went askew, which it did. Bob was embarking from Rockwood Lodge so her first call to check on him was to the resort. As often is the case, hikers sometimes get delayed and usually show up a few hours later than anticipated. When Tuesday came and went, then that called for action.

She contacted the Cook County sheriff and they set in motion a formal search. We used the GTVFD Hall NO. 1 at Mid-Trail as an incident command post. This is where all responding parties will gather and a detailed search plan will be implemented. Communication amongst all responding parties is paramount so we don’t complicate the incident by becoming victims ourselves.

Searchers were dispatched in minimal groups of two covering the various trails that could potentially have been traversed. We requested a flyover from the U.S. Forest Service and sought help from Zak Baumann, who has a drone. Aerial reconnaissance can cover vast stretches of trails in a hurry that would take hours to cover on foot as long as the foliage allows for visibility. Cross River Lodge, as is their standard MO, sent food to the command center for the responders.

Lo and behold, a couple hours into the search we were informed that the USFS Beaver had spotted our lost traveler on the shores of Partridge Lake. They were able to land on the lake and transport Bob to Hungry Jack Lake where EMS personnel were able to assess his condition. A few scrapes and scratches and a hungry belly was about all that was wrong. A very fortuitous ending to be sure.

There are two important lessons to take from this incident. The expertise and efficiency of law enforcement, dispatch, search and rescue, the USFS and the fire department working hand in hand made this a well-coordinated recovery. But make no mistake; it was the levelheaded thinking on Bob Klaver’s part that had the most to do with the success.

He is a very seasoned hiker who began his journey with all the proper gear and supplies. Getting lost or disoriented happens often on hikes especially in areas new to the hiker. Once he knew he wasn’t where he thought he should be he made all the necessary decisions.

First he didn’t panic – he calmly assessed his situation. Rather than keep walking blindly he made his way to the shore of a lake, set up a camp in a site that would be visible to searchers on water and air. Then he waited for help to come his way. He had plenty of firewood to keep a campfire going and foliage to throw on the fire to create a smoke signal. He was fully aware that when he didn’t return on time that help would be coming his way.

So if you ever find yourself lost in the woods try to remember the lessons learned from this incident. Many factors come together to have a successful outcome. The most important ones involve you. First notify someone of your itinerary and where intend to travel. Once you realize you’re lost, stay where you are. At least you’ll be relatively close to where you should be as opposed to walking in a far off direction. Then find an open area where you’ll have maximum visibility, get a fire going if possible and wait for help to come your way. We’ll get there.

Bob asked to send his sincere thank you to all those who had a hand in his rescue.

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