MESA COUNTY, Colo – A hiker and two dogs were rescued, and a fellow hiker was found dead, after the pair became lost for several days in a canyon west of the Colorado National Monument.
On Friday around 1:30 p.m., a group of hikers noticed smoke and heard a person yelling in Mee Canyon, which is located in the Black Ridge Canyons Wilderness between Rabbit Valley and Grand Junction.
The group couldn’t reach the person, so they called 911 and the Mesa County Sheriff’s Office, Mesa County Search and Rescue, and Bureau of Land Management responded to the area to start searching for the hiker, according to the sheriff’s office.
A CenturyLink helicopter flew rescue crews into the canyon and located the group that had called 911. As they neared that group, they saw the smoke that the hikers had seen previously. The crews in the helicopter then spotted a hiker near the fire, waving his arms, according to the sheriff’s office.
Medical personnel were able to treat the 31-year-old man, who was exhausted and dehydrated, but otherwise OK.
He told authorities he and his friend — both from out of state — had spent the last several weeks visiting national parks and had decided to go on a short hike in Knowles Canyon with their two dogs. Then, they became lost. While they had day packs with water and snacks, they didn’t have a cell phone signal to call for help.
After two and a half days of hiking, the 31-year-old’s friend, a 32-year-old man, fell into a canyon with the two dogs, according to the sheriff’s office.
The 31-year-old wasn’t able to reach his friend, so he continued hiking for another day and a half, searching for help. After running out of food and water, he started a fire with a lighter to signal for help, according to the sheriff’s office.
Rescue crews said that decision saved his life.
The Mee Canyon Trailhead had been closed up until the morning the man was spotted by the hikers. The sheriff’s office said he was found about four miles from the Knowles Canyon trailhead, where the men had started hiking four days earlier. Crews estimated that he likely hiked 10-15 miles before he was rescued because of the rugged terrain.
The man provided information to rescue crews about where his friend and the dogs had fallen. They were able to locate them about a mile from where the friend had been rescued In Mee Canyon.
The 32-year-old man was found deceased. According to the Mesa County Coroner’s Office, he died instantly after falling 60-80 feet down slickrock. His manner of death was ruled as accidental.
The two dogs were also located. Both had minor injuries and were rescued from the canyon, according to the sheriff’s office.
In total, the rescue and recovery took two days.