A very bizarre and spooky morning. We hit the trail at 8am with about 1/2 inch of fresh snow from last night. It was me and 1 passenger in my truck (also a 100 series owner and this Saturday will be his 1st run with RS.)
As we got farther back on the loop the snow got to be about 2 inches deep and very slick. It made for some interesting climbs and there's not a lot of room for sliding with all the trees along the trail.
About 1/4 mile from the "T" at the far end of the loop, I had my window down to look out the side of my truck and we heard someone screaming "HELP". Just then a guy popped out of the woods in front of us with a tshirt and cotton pants on, his arms inside the shirt. Not a sight you expect to see in 33 degree temps, with 2 inches of fresh snow at 8am with 30mph+ winds!
It was CHILLY.
He said he was with two other people last night and their truck broke down. He said he left the other two at the truck and went walking to find gas. Really? He had no recollection of where they were or where the truck was. While all this was alarming, he was clearly cold and worn out from spending the night in the woods with no shelter. We gave him a jacket and some water and told him to get in and get warm and lets go find the truck. I said "if you've got people who have been stuck in a truck all night we need to get them help" We asked "Do you want us to call 911?" and he said "No, I think the truck is right up here"
Well, it wasn't.
Then it got spooky. We offered for him to use our phones to call someone. He made a call but no one answered. He left no message and had no other numbers to call. We asked "Do you want to leave a message?" and he said "No, well, the mailbox was full and I don't think they will answer a number they don't recognize". 3 people are lost in the woods and no one will answer a number they don't recognize? I thought it was getting odd and nothing he was saying was adding up or making sense. He asked if we could drive him somewhere off Soda Creek Rd, which I said yes. Some more questions were asked and odd answers given in return. Very odd.
Then we got a return call on my phone from someone he called. The person wanted to know if he had the truck, then they told him the 2 others got the truck started again last night, then rolled it and one of them is injured and in the hospital. I could hear the person on the other end so I knew at least some of the story was legit. Although, why would he ask if this guy had the truck if he knew the truck was rolled and people got hurt? Why wouldn't anyone start looking for this guy if only two people returned from the trip they were on last night and one of them was injured? It was below freezing with snow and howling winds and someone who lives with you never returned from a trip in a truck with no windows or doors and no one is looking for anyone?
Once we got down to the meadow with the picnic shelter he recognized where we were and directed us to where he lived. On the way there, we found the truck. Rolled and damaged. Thankfully, no one was inside or around the truck dead in the snow. We were at least 5 miles from where we picked him up. Finally, we dropped the guy off at the place he said he lived with a group of people, including his girlfriend. She was one of the two he left in the truck the night before. No one came running out to say "I'm glad you're alive" or, "I can't believe you spent the night outside in the cold and snow and wind at 9000 feet in just a t-shirt" Just one guy came out and waved at us as we drove off.
Nothing made sense.
In hindsight, I should have called 911 as soon as we found a guy in a t-shirt who said he spent the night outside. Let alone with two other people somewhere out there. It was all surreal and at the time we were just concerned with getting this guy warm, hydrated and off the trail. It wasn't until we started asking him questions about where the others might be or why isn't anyone looking for you did it get strange. He said he laid down in the dirt after leaving the truck and it started snowing. We asked if he made a shelter and he said no, he just laid in the dirt. He had a lighter but couldn't get a fire started. We asked if the others had any coats or blankets and he said no.
I texted my wife as soon as we found him and told her we found a lost guy in the woods who spent the night in the cold. I told her the name the guy gave us, the trail we were on and where we were taking him. Naturally, she freaked and asked if I called 911. And freaked even more when I texted "not yet". I was just trying to be smart and give someone some information as to where I was....just in case. With all the horrible things we've seen in this state the last few months, I should have been more responsible and thought of my family. I respect our policy about not being armed on any run, and this was the official Pre Run for the SNR.
I made a bad choice by not calling 911 right away. Everything about this whole situation points to alerting someone to a very odd circumstance and a story that doesn't add up. I risked a lot by taking someone in to my vehicle nearly 10 miles from the closest paved road. And risked even more by taking a complete stranger with a story that clearly had holes in it to a property out in the middle of no where. But, someone was in need of help, and very cold, and lost, so just plain continuing on was out of the question.
After it was over, I did call 911. I spoke to the Clear Creek County sheriffs department and told them what happened. I didn't feel comfortable not relaying the information. What if those two others never did show up? What if something really terrible happened/was about to happen? What if there was more to the crazy story? I fully understand some people want their privacy and move to places like that to get away from people and government influence, but I felt like I needed to report something.
There is some more to the story. I did speak to the Deputy again this afternoon. There is one person in custody and one person in the hospital. I'll relay the rest on Saturday or at the next meeting. I was glad to have someone else in the truck with me. And, I'm glad I left my kids at home. I would not, under any circumstances have allowed anyone I didn't know into my truck with my kids inside. 911, some water and a warm jacket handed through a window are all you'll get. And if that ain't good enough, then good luck to you and follow the trail that way>>>.
Be smart and safe on the trail. I should have made better choices today and I will in the future.