Know he was lost
September 19, 1996
Steamboat Springs — David and Steve Woiderski's hunting trip to Colorado got off to a bad start before they left their home state of Michigan. They couldn't have known that once they got here, things would only get worse.
David walked out of the mountainous terrain along the Continental Divide in Jackson County late Friday afternoon, oblivious to the fact that he had been the object of an intensive two-day search that involved three different aircraft and as many as 30 men and women.
"Are you guys looking for me?" he asked incredulously when he was reunited with his brother and met members of the search crew at the summit of Buffalo Pass at around 6:30 pm. Monday. His brother had reported him missing Saturday night, Sept. 14, after he failed to show up for a noon rendezvous on Friday.
The trip had been ill-fated from the beginning. Steve is a dairy farmer near Cheboygan, Mich., about 60 miles from the Mackinac Bridge. He milks about 140 Holsteins, and his brother, David, 55, operates a plant that processes his brother's milk.
Just two hours before their originally scheduled departure last week. David was up on a ladder repairing the roof of his home. He slipped and fell through a skylight, landing on his face about 14 feet below. David was taken to a local hospital by ambulance, treated and released. The next morning he was ready to depart for the Colorado Rockies, but Steve made him wait another day.
They finally left Michigan on Monday, Sept. 9, and arrived in Walden on Tuesday. Pushing on, they reached the Newcomb Park Trailhead on the eastern terminus of Buffalo Pass.
The two men had hunted there often, Dsteve said. And they walked up the trail to establish their "spike camp."
The two brothers parted to hunt alone Wednesday morning with plans to meet back at camp on Friday noon. David never showed up
Steve was only moderately concerned about his brother Friday afternoon and evening. He knew he had a tarp and sleeping bag, and enough food for two days. Saturday morning his level of concern increased and he renewed his hunt for elk and deer, but this time in the direction his brother was to have gone.
I thought "He's smart, he knows to follow the streams down" Steve said. But when he returned to camp Saturday at 4 p.m., there was still no sign of David. Steve beat feet back to the pickup truck at the trailhead, hoping his brother would be there.
"The only thing I could hope was he went to Seed house (a distant trailhead on the opposite side of the Park range and almost 20 miles to the north)," Steve said
Alarmed, the brother of the missing man drove into Walden to report his brother missing to the Jackson County Sheriff.
The search began first thing Sunday morning with crews from the Jackson and Routt county sheriff's offices and a large crew of highly trained volunteers from Routt County search and Rescue under the direction of incident commander Mark Steur. They began canvassing both sides of the nine-mile stretch of the Continental Divide Trail from Summit Lake north to Mount Ethel.
A helicopter from F.E. Warren Air Force Base joined in the search on Sunday but wasn't completely effective because it was limited to a flight ceiling of 10,000 feet. After failing to find any sign of David after a full day of searching, the crews withdrew for the night, leaving a skeleton crew in the command bus at Summit Lake.
The search resumed in earnest at 6 a.m. Monday morning with a larger Army helicopter from Fort Carson ferrying crews (including a search dog) into the rugged terrain. By mid-afternoon there was still no sign of David. Then, at 4:40 p.m. word came over the radio that David had walked up to Jackson County Undersheriff Ray Alexander at the Newcomb Park Trailhead. He appeared to be in good condition.
"I was never lost" David proclaimed Monday night.
"Well, I couldn't find our camp even though I looked hard. But I just kept on hunting – I still had some pea soup."
When it began to dawn on him how many people had been involved in the search, he became apologetic, but still expressed some confusion about why such a large fuss had been made. He even said he had spotted a search dog wearing a bell from a distance of about 300 yards on Monday afternoon.
"I seen the helicoptersup there. I said' Who are they looking for?' I knew they were looking for somebody."
It never occurred to David Woiderski that the helicopters were looking for him.
The cost of the search, an estimated $1000, will be covered by a statewide fund created from hunting and fishing license fees. The military does not governments for helicopters involved in searches.