needle in a haystack

tuesday night, i was sitting at home and cell phone started roaring at the family [i have a home made sassquatch ring tone.  don’t ask.  i’m silly].  it was a trail running friend, molly, with news that a gal from our trail club, gina, had gone missing.  gina had set out with her brother-in-law on early sunday morning into a pretty gnarly area of the cleveland national forest for a 6-8 hour run and had not come home.  authorities were currently searching, but even the experienced SAR weren’t familiar with the network of trails or which routes we typically run in that area.  quickly, members of the trail club mobilized and were out passing out flyers and preparing to hit the trails to help the search.

wednesday morning, i received a call at work from my trail partner, special k, asking if i was free to join him in the search.  i had been waiting for a conference call at 1pm w/ trail club members to find out what the search status was and possibly assist in the afternoon, but instead i cleared my schedule, headed home and geared up for a 100+ degree day in the sun.  special k showed up at my place at about noon and we headed up into the mountains to meet up with other trail runners at the lazy w command post. 

on the drive in, special k, dr. mader and i all talked frankly about the situation.  the brother in law had come stumbling off of the trail earlier that morning, and with no news from the authorities on his story, the whole thing just stunk and although we hoped for the best, we really feared the worst.

when we arrived at the command center, we took stock of where the other teams were out on the trails and formulated a plan to head up to blue jay and start down one of the lesser used trails in hopes of finding gina or a sign of her passing.  as we were waiting for a couple other runners to show up and join us, the spokesperson for the search came out and donned a jacket for a press conference.  he had mumbled something about “not good news” to molly as he headed toward the cameras and our hearts just sank has he began what sounded like a death announcement.  he started in by saying that a woman matching gina’s description and clothing had been spotted in a canyon nearby.  after a long, pregnant pause, he said, “she is alive.”  we were shocked and overjoyed.

just minutes before, as we were driving through the lazy w canyon, we had heard a helicopter circling overhead and molly said that she was pretty confident that she knew which canyon it was that she was in.  we had so much nervous energy that we just couldn’t sit still.  we flew to our cars and to the trail head, geared up and headed out with hopes of either getting to gina before the rescue helicopter could get there or at least being able to get close enough to give her the news that help was on it’s way.

we hammered our way up the los pinos trail and up onto the ridge that overlooks the canyon that gina most likely was in.  as we pushed through the loose trail and overgrown brush we saw the SAR helicopter fly overhead and into the canyon that we were paralleling.  then another SAR helicopter and finally a news chopper joined the fray.  the two helicopters worked in tandem and as we continued to move along the ridge, we watched as they pulled her out of the canyon and made a beeline for the mission trauma center.  we shouted, waved and cheered as they flew over us and into the distance, beside ourselves with joy at gina’s rescue.

we’re still waiting for all the details of the adventure, but the good news is that both gina and her bil are in good shape and are expected to recover fully.  the best part of the whole ordeal, though, was the way that the trail club and the ultrarunning community rallied around one of their own and made radical sacrifices to help.  there were thirty or so trail runners out on those trails combing the mountains looking for gina with more in support at the trail heads.  the assistance of key club members was invaluable to the SAR as well, with information on the trails, routes and radio equipment.  cudos to everyone in the club for really showing what a community is all about.

soundtrack for this post
The Essential Clash lick:
Lost In The Supermarket
The Clash
The Essential Clash

14 thoughts on “needle in a haystack

  1. Wow Jeff… this is amazing and really puts my bad day into perspective. Thanks for sharing this story. *wipes tears*

  2. I feared the worst when I first heard this story .. it sounded like the beginning of something very bad. Thank God they’re both OK, and kudos to all of you who assisted the effort to find them

  3. O.M.G That is insane! That is so scary! And that is absolutely amazing that she was found and that ya’ll pulled together to help. Wow. Speechless over here. Your friend will be in my thoughts and prayers today.

  4. hahaha repete! i heard you guys running down the trail up ahead and knew that you’d know who i was if i roared loud enough.

  5. i’ve been following that story from far away and was amazed to hear when she was found alive. i certainly had been expecting the worst and it sure felt good when the news came.

  6. I just found out about this story on another blog and am so relieved that both were found and going to be OK. What a scary situation to be in, and these are experienced trail runners. Just goes to show you never can be too careful.

  7. Jeff, This is a hug praise!! Thanks for sharing it on your blog. We don’t this kind of news out in AZ :) Love you my son. You’re a great man with a great heart!!

    Mamacita :)

  8. Pretty cool how the community rallied for one of their own. Nothing beats the kind of intel you bring to the table in a search like that.

  9. a good ending to the story, i wonder what happened? i read they split up to look for water…they didn’t bring enough or did they get lost? hmm, well at least everyone is ok!! nice job pitching in

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