Missing Backpackers Survived On Mushrooms

Marion, Terry Jones Found 2 Miles South Of Big South Trailhead

A Fort Collins couple, missing in the wilderness near Rocky Mountain National Park for five days, hope to personally thank the rescuers who helped find them.

"Thank you, thank you so much," a smiling Marion Jones said outside the couple's home in Fort Collins. A neighbor placed yellow ribbons in their trees when word came they were found safe.

"Neither one of us could have gotten through this without the other," Terry Jones told 7NEWS Friday. Terry says he did his best to stay positive while they waited to be rescued.

"We had no plans to die up there," Jones said. "We were in good shape and had good shelter."

The couple walked out Thursday afternoon relieved, grateful, and a little bit embarrassed -- albeit in good physical shape.

With a bottle of champagne, plenty of hugs and cheers, the couple celebrated their safe return with family and friends at the trailhead at which they were supposed to be ending on Sunday.

"Thank you, we love you," Marion Jones said, panting between breaths. "This whole thing happened because of love, and we know that."

Marion, 49, choked up as she thanked her family, friends and members of the search and rescue teams for not giving up on the search.

"We're very lucky; we didn't think it was always going to turn out this way," Terry, 56, said.

Terry said on Monday morning, they were out of food, so they improvised by eating wild mushrooms, juniper berries and Oregon grape berries.

"We had some delicious mushrooms ... and we are going to leave off the mushrooms for a while," said Terry, smiling.

"We found a lot of food ... We started eating mushrooms because my mother, when we were young, she took us camping, and we picked a whole bunch of mushrooms," Marion said. "She said, 'Wait 30 minutes and if I don't get sick, we can eat them.'"

Marion said she kept thinking about her children during the five-day ordeal.

"We were sustained by thinking about all of our friends and family," she said. "We knew our kids were in good hands."

The Joneses were found about two miles from the Big South Trailhead in the Roosevelt National Forest.

The backpackers got lost when they took the wrong fork near Peterson Lake and wound up on the wrong side of a river. The couple walked up and down the river looking for the trail and after realizing they were lost, they decided to stay put Tuesday afternoon until rescuers found them.

"We knew that a lot of people were worrying about us, so we decided the best plan of action was to stay put," Terry Jones said.

The couple hiked to higher ground and found a fire pit, so they started a fire.

At about 10 a.m. Thursday, Civil Air Patrol reported that they saw smoke coming from a cliff on the other side of the Big South Trailhead and then spotted two individuals waving, the Larimer County Sheriff's Office said.

Sheriff search dogs found the Joneses' scent Thursday morning and led rescuers to their spot around 12:30 p.m.

"We really appreciate all the support," said Marion's brother, Ryan Jones. "We thank everybody."

Marion said that she's grateful for her husband's tendency to overpack on backpacking trips because they used nearly everything. The GPS device they had with them, however, did not seem to help lead them to the right trail. The bridge the couple were supposed to take was washed out.

The couple were dropped off at the Chapin Pass Trailhead on Saturday afternoon and stayed at the Flatiron backcountry campsite Saturday night as planned. But on Sunday, they were supposed to hike the Cache la Poudre River Trail and end up at the Big South Trailhead, where their car was parked, Sunday afternoon.

When Marion and Terry didn't return to their home on Sunday, their family called authorities.

The couple explained that the trail along Cache la Poudre River seemed to dead-end near Peterson Lake.

"There's a fork in the trail up below Petersen Lake where you should cross the river, and there's nothing there to tell you to cross the river," said Terry.

"We never saw a sign," said Marion.

They kept hiking up higher terrain until they realized that they were on a cliff and unable to move higher or go lower.

"That's when we realized we were really, really in trouble," Marion said.

The couple, who have been married 28 years, apologized for causing everyone so much concern and trouble.

"The frustrating thing is, we knew we were OK," Terry said.

"But I thought we were going to die," Marion added, laughing.

"It does cause you to reflect on what's important. We've pretty well got that down," said Terry.

As for their plans next weekend? The couple were scheduled to go out of town on Friday but they said now, they want to stay at home with family and friends.

"Right now I want to hug my family and friends just as long as they will let me!" Marion said.

Both are sending out praise for the Larimer County Search and Rescue Team, the Larimer County Sheriff's Office, and Rocky Mountain National Park officials.