Each week New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Forest Rangers participate in backcountry wilderness rescues of hikers, hunters, climbers and others who find themselves in trouble on New York State’s millions of acres of woods and waters. In 2022, Forest Rangers conducted 359 search and rescue missions across the state.
Typically the ages of those rescued vary from children to the elderly. The most recent Forest Ranger report was a bit of an anomaly however, with most of the rescues (five of eight) reported by Forest Rangers involving people in their 60s and 70s, including one man who spent three unplanned nights in the woods, a person lost overnight, and a woman suffering from dementia. Although accidents and emergencies can happen to anyone, these reports are a reminder of the sometimes unique concerns of senior hikers.
The reports begin on Thursday, July 27 at 8 pm, when a woman said her 67-year-old husband missing from their home in Mahopac, Putnam County. The man went out for a walk at about 10 am and did not return. He has epilepsy and needs to take medication four times a day.
Forest Rangers Cowart, Pries, and Russo joined the search and organized a plan for 45 searchers from local police departments, volunteer fire departments, and other volunteers. Despite search efforts, no clues or evidence were found.
On Monday, July 31, Lieutenant Bodo informed Ranger Pries of video showing the subject walking into the woods at the end of Pouting Rock Road. Ranger Lieutenant Ashida joined the other Rangers and 15 Officers searching behind the Town of Carmel Department of Transportation yard. At about 3 pm, a K9 unit found the man and Rangers assisted with medical care and carrying him out of the woods to an ambulance.
A half hour later in the town of Olive, Ulster County, Forest Ranger Horn overheard radio traffic on the Ulster County 911 channel about a lost hiker with early signs of dementia near Bradkin Road in the Slide Mountain Wilderness.
The 73-year-old from Climax, NY had last been seen by her husband while hiking an unmarked trail and unmaintained logging road up a drainage. The husband asked his wife to remain at the trail while he looked for something and was gone for approximately 30 minutes. When he returned, his wife was missing.
Rangers Horn and Rusher conducted a linear search with New York State Police, New York City Department of Environmental Protection, and a search team from Shandaken, NY. More than four hours later, at about 7:45 pm, Rangers located the woman climbing a slope. They provided her food and water, helped her back down, and turned her over to EMS for further evaluation.
Forest Ranger O’Connor hiked in from Whitney Mountain Way to reach the 62-year-old from Alabama and splint the hiker’s ankle. Ranger Praczkajlo drove in with an ATV and transported the subject to the trail junction while Ranger O’Connor walked out with the rest of the hiking party.
On Saturday, August 5th at 9:47 am, Forest Ranger Emerson was notified of a missing 76-year-old from Troy, NY who had left the High Falls lean-to in the town of Fine, St.Lawrence County, at approximately midnight and failed to return.
The subject’s daughter left the campsite and hiked to Wanakena to get help. Rangers took a boat to begin searching the lean-to area while the Cranberry Lake Fire Department and Star Lake Fire Department took ATVs/UTVs on the trail in the opposite direction.
Members of the Star Lake Fire Department located the subject on the trail in good health and Ranger Shea helped escort them back to Wanakena.
The next day, on Sunday, August 6 at about 4:15 pm Forest Ranger Gullen responded to a report of an injured hiker on the rail trail in the Kaaterskill Wild Forest in the town of Hunter, Greene County, in the Catskills. The hiker had tripped on a root and suffered scrapes and bruises to her head and shoulder.
While Ranger Gullen responded on foot, Assistant Forest Ranger (AFR) Staffa retrieved a UTV. Ranger Gullen reached the 70-year-old from Kingston in less than an hour, splinted both of her wrists, and treated a dislocated finger.
AFR Staffa arrived with the UTV and drove the patient to the Laurel House trailhead where she was turned over to Hunter Ambulance for transport to the hospital.
Read past Forest Ranger search and rescue reports here.
Photo of Mahopac Falls search and rescue operation provided by DEC.