6 residents survive freezing night near Fish Creek Falls
April 12, 1996
Steamboat Springs — The six friends set out to do a little hiking.
What they got was a little cold.
Make that very cold.
After spending an unexpected Monday night trapped and huddled together at Fish Creek Falls, Melissa Peterson, 18, John Farot, 20, Wendy Young, 20, Jay Maylewite, 22, Monica Navarro, 23, and John Krajewski finally walked to safety in the daylight of the next morning.
It was the third incident of lost hikers there this week. Routt County Search and Rescue was not dispatched to the scene because no one else knew they were gone. The other two incidents also ended without injuries.
About 10 p.m. Monday night, the group set out for the falls.
"There was no moon out and it was pitch black," peterson said.
The group's intention was to just hike around the trail area to the falls, but got curious and hopped off the beaten path. All live in Steamboat, but not all were experienced hikers.
"I'm from Detroit, I haven't done that much hiking" Peterson said. "(Wendy) is from Miami – she said all she ever did was lay on the beach and drink fruit drinks."
They scaled back from the river and eventually couldn't find their way out.
Maylewite had even borrowed a pair of night vision goggles just in case. But they were trapped by a bend in the river and couldn't find the bridge to safety.
"(The goggles) put a green glow on everything, but I had no idea where we were," Maylewite said.
"We got to the very bottom of the river," Peterson said. "It was waist deep, soggy snow – we just wandered in circles until we got tired.
They gave up, found a pit where a tree had been and tried to stay warm. Most were in jeans and T-shirts.
When day broke, Krajewski used the group's hats as foot covers and trod to safety to get help. He and a friend were then able to find their way back in, and lead the others out.
"It was very scary," Young said. "We were pretty much frozen."
After responding to 7 or 8 rescue situations at the falls last year, Joe Stevens of Search and Rescue was not surprised hearing of the groups' adventure.
"I've got a feeling Fish Creek Falls is going to be a nightmare this year," Stevens said.
"This time of year can be dangerous, Stevens said, when temperatures are deceiving; warm in the day and cold at night.
"We're not really done with winter conditions," Stevens said.
Also, melting snow and ice can often reveal hidden hazards.
"All it takes is one slip and fall in water – that can be really deadly," Stevens said
If you do hike, tell someone where you are going and wear winter clothing, he said.