Lost hiker found in good condition

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Search and Rescue teams found a lost hiker in good condition Thursday night, about four hours after she used her cell phone to report she had gotten turned around on a trail near Clark.

The hiker, an employee at the Home Ranch, was found about 10:15 p.m., two to three miles from the Routt National Forest boundary northwest of the Clark store.

The woman told searchers she had used a hiking guidebook to find a trail leading into the forest from Routt County Road 62. She thought the trail was a 1.5-mile loop, but it led to nothing but a series of confusing cattle and game trails, searcher Scott Havener said.

The trail, which provides National Forest access through private land, most likely is used by hunters, he said.

"She was back in there a ways. It took us a good half-hour to get her out," said Havener, a dog-team handler whose yellow Labrador Luke led searchers to within yelling distance of the hiker, who responded to their calls.

The search was 5-year-old Luke's first find, said Havener, adding that the tracking teams, which analyze footprints and keep search dogs on the right trail, also were invaluable in the effort.

Tracking teams are something new in the Search and Rescue department. The department has one expert tracker and about five trainees.

The hiker, who was dressed warmly, was in "great shape" when they found her, and, since the weather was mild, would have been OK if she had spent the night outdoors, Havener said.

That the hiker was able to contact searchers with a cell phone was somewhat lucky, because searchers' cell phones didn't have reception during most of the search, he said.

Typically, though, hikers shouldn't depend on cell phones to get them out of tough situations in the backcountry.

"Never rely on a cell phone," he said. "You never know when you'll drop it, break it or when the batteries will go out. It's the same thing with a GPS."

Heading into the summer hiking season, Havener advised that even those out for three hours should be prepared to stay outdoors overnight. Good equipment to have on hand includes matches, a flashlight, a small space blanket, a compass and a map -- ideally a topographic map -- of the area, he said.

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