Press-Republican

August 17, 2013

Forest rangers find backcountry hiker

By KIM SMITH DEDAM
Press-Republican

---- — LAKE PLACID — An extensive search by forest rangers in the High Peaks area ended in a successful rescue.

The State Department of Environmental Conservation activated a 10-person search team Thursday after Larry White, 58, of Canton was reported missing along the Northville-Placid trail.

He had started the backcountry excursion on Aug. 7, according to DEC Forest Ranger Kevin Burns, and was expected to arrive in Long Lake on Thursday.

His wife, Rose, called Ray Brook DEC dispatch at 9 a.m. Thursday to report him missing.

DEC spokesman Peter Constantakes said the rangers searched a 37-mile section of the 133-mile-long trail, as well as side trails. State Police aviation assisted with a helicopter crew carrying forest rangers.

NO CELL SERVICE

“We narrowed the search down to his last known point-of-contact,” Burns said. “We knew his direction of travel was from Lake Placid to Long Lake, so I had three rangers coming in from the south at Long Lake. 

“They checked trail registers and logbooks in the lean-tos. That group went into Shattuck (Clearing) and found he did not sign that register, which indicted to me that he was still north.”

The Northville-Placid Trail runs north and south through dense wilderness areas with numerous lean-tos and intersections with other trails along the way.

Though White had a cellphone and a spare battery, there is no service in the backcountry, Burns explained.

Forest rangers were able to glean names and telephone numbers of other hikers from various registries and found some who had seen White’s name at Duck Hole, about 11 miles south of the Lake Placid trailhead, on Aug. 11.

So the rangers broke up into parties, searching six different trail systems that branch out around Duck Hole.

WHISTLE SUMMONED HELP

About a mile south, at Cold River Lean-tos numbers 1 and 2, rangers found an entry from White, saying he was having problems with his knees and had blisters on his feet, Burns explained.

“But the entry indicated he was going to continue south toward Ouluska Pass Lean-to (about 4 miles further).”

The rangers found no log entry at Ouluska.

That closed the search area. The hiker was found about a half-mile north of that point, near the Noah Rondeau Hermitage.

White, who’d been lost for three days, had heard the voices of other hikers, blown his whistle, and they helped him back to the trail, Burns said.

Forest Ranger Scott Van Laer came upon him at about 4:30 p.m. Thursday.

USED TRAIL REGISTRIES

The rescuers back-tracked with White some 3 miles north toward Duck Hole, then took him the last 6 miles by all-terrain vehicle, altogether about a four-hour trip.

Overall, the lost hiker was “very hungry” and somewhat dehydrated, the ranger said.

“He was quiet. He said he had gotten lost, so he hunkered down and didn’t move for three days. He had overnight gear with him. He had a whistle too, so that was very helpful.”

One of the key elements in this search, Burns said, was that White had used the trail register system along the way.

“Sign all the registers as you go,” he advises hikers. 

White had been hiking alone, but he had provided family with a basic itinerary.

“Hiking alone is not recommended. But there are a lot of through-hikers who travel alone on that trail,” Burns said, observing that some 50 people have come out of the woods and signed out of the Northville-Placid route in the past week.

White refused medical treatment, the ranger said, and went home with family Thursday night.

Email Kim Smith Dedam:kdedam@pressrepublican.com