John Utsey, who lives in New Mexico, is a fan of long hikes. And he loves to do it along with his family. On one sunny day, the weather was welcoming and suitable for hiking. John was happy to explore the beauty of nature with his kids.
John, with his children, decided to leverage the warm, sunny weather to enjoy the beauty of nature and have some happy moments together as a family. They went hiking along the Windsor Trail in the Santa Fe National Forest. But something interesting happened a few minutes later.
John Utsey embarked on this adventure with his 12-year-old daughter and 10-year-old son. Everything was alright until his daughter was no longer within his sight. It happened that the girl ran ahead of them and was out of his reach. Things got tricky from there.
That was the beginning of a rescue mission that lasted for two days. Even though the great time John wanted to share with his family was ruined, it later became a disguised blessing. This story will show you that there is always a good side to every bad story.
John Utsey, an ex-marine, loves to enjoy the beauty of nature alongside his children. On a Saturday morning, John decided to use the warm, sunny day to have some quality fun time with his kids. He felt it was an ideal day to go hiking.
Have you ever gone hiking with your children? If yes, you may know that keeping things in check can be an overwhelming task. John had such an experience, and this time, it turned out worse. His daughter sprinted ahead of them, and he lost sight of her.
It is common for kids to want to do things their own way. This played out in this story. John’s daughter wanted to explore the forest on her own. So, she moved farther ahead of her father and brother until she was beyond their reach.
Like energetic kids of her age, the excited young girl was just trying to have fun independently. Unknown to her, a series of intriguing events were about to unfold. In the course of trying to find her, the story got complicated – and interesting as well.
Bing, the daughter of an ex-marine, was so energetic. And taking the lead comes naturally with her. As a result, it took her less than a twinkling of an eye to getting ahead of her family. However, they needed to be together.
Even though the hiking trail wasn’t a difficult one, the need to stay together when hiking is very paramount. He needed to call back his daughter. As a former soldier, John knew the right way to respond to the situation. And he did just that!
John wanted his daughter to be close by to avoid losing track of her. At this point, he thought she wasn’t far away from them, so he shouted her name with an aggressive military voice, expecting an immediate response. “I called her name, and she didn’t answer,” John told 29 WFLX News.
As expected, some thoughts were already running through his mind. He assumed she wasn’t too far from them, but then, why didn’t she respond? John took a step further to do what every parent would do – which was to call his daughter’s name even harder.
John was a bit nervous that she was taking too long to respond. He decided to call her name louder. “I [then] called her name really loud, and then I heard her yell back to me from way up around the corner of the trail,” he explained further.
Having heard her response, he thought everything was under control. But he was wrong. His challenges weren’t over, but a chain of unforeseen circumstances was just about to unfold. Hearing her voice relieved him a bit. However, the ultimate goal was to reunite with her.
Embarking on hiking with your loved ones can be fun and memorable. Things can turn out really bad when one of them goes missing. It’s even worse when you lose track of someone that’s your child. John’s daughter not being within reach in the forest must’ve been very disturbing.
John had control of his emotions, and he didn’t allow fear to get hold of him. An average parent could break down in tears in the face of such problems, but John decided to handle it differently. Giving in to fear would mean not being capable of doing the needful.
His adorable daughter being out of his sight was enough to make him afraid. But no, the opposite was the case. The training he received in the military gave him the knowledge and courage needed to deal with this type of emergencies without going into panic mode.
At first, he thought something might be wrong with his daughter but was relieved after hearing her voice. He was optimistic he would reunite with her in perfect condition. However, the optimism was good, but it was no time to rejoice since he was yet to see her.
John expected to hear only his daughter’s voice after yelling her name, but something different happened. He heard another voice coming from the forest. It happened that there was another person in the woods who heard John’s voice. A strange voice responding to his call made him
It wasn’t long before John’s daughter responded to his call, but the aggressive voice also rang in the ears of another person. It was as though his voice was what the mystery person needed to hear. “I heard somebody else answer from way off the trail,” says John.
Since John wasn’t expecting to hear another voice, he was most likely stunned after a strange voice echoed from the woods. Imagine searching for your beloved daughter, only to hear a strange voice respond after you yell her name. Many random thoughts would run through your mind.
The person could be a hiker who got lost in the forest, a hiker who needed help, or another hiker playing the game of Macro-Polo. Best of all, it could be a good samaritan who has found his beloved daughter. John was concerned about the safety of his daughter.
The mysterious voice distracted John for some time but finding his precious daughter was more important to him than trying to know the mystery person. Having heard his daughter’s voice, he knew he was on the right path to finding her. That was enough to relieve him a bit.
He continued on the path and kept yelling her name louder. Moving down the trail, her voice was getting louder. He realized she was close to him. He continued down the path even though his daughter’s voice wasn’t the only voice responding to him. He was committed to her safety first.
While going down the trail to his daughter, he was already aware that his mission wouldn’t be over after reuniting with her. He could tell from the voice of the stranger that they needed help. But he wanted to make sure his daughter was safe and sound before looking out for the person.
John maintained his determination until he found his daughter. He was excited to find out his daughter was safe. After they reunited, he shifted his attention to the voice calling for help. Since he had accomplished the most important mission, it was time to go on a rescue mission.
As soon as he had his daughter in his arms, he shifted from father mode to fighter mode. The person that has been responding to him from deep in the woods was still crying out for help. From the desperation in their voice, John could tell that they were in danger.
He discarded the initial assumption of the person being a prankster or an inexperienced hiker. The location of the voice was way off-trail. John being willing to help, had to take action immediately. He kept shouting as he advanced in their direction, hoping the person would respond.
John heard the man’s voice, and his mood changed instantly. He was elated after he found his daughter safe and sound. But knowing she wasn’t the only one who needed help made him worry. He was determined to lend a helping hand to the man.
John continued to scream, “are you okay?” but unfortunately, the man’s response wasn’t a good one. John knew that the man needed his intervention urgently. He decided to do everything he could do to rescue his fellow hiker. The next thing was to locate the stranded hiker.
After John felt the need to help the person crying out for help, he went into rescue mode instantly. His first line of action was to find where the man was. In a bid to find the mystery man, John and his kids had to hike around the rocky Santa Fe trail.
Finding the man wasn’t easy. Even though determining his exact location was very difficult, John was committed to doing everything within his power to help. He felt the need to act swiftly because the man was in trouble and needed a quick response to save him.
The only way John was able able to locate the lost hiker was to keep yelling. He kept shouting, hoping that through the man’s voice, he could find his way to where he was. The tension kept building up. After about 30 minutes, they were able to locate the man finally.
They had to go down a steep hill to where the lost hiker was. The stranded man was found about 600 yards away from the trail John and his kids wanted to explore. They got where the man was and discovered he was in very bad condition.
When they got to where he was, John saw a man-made camp alongside a creek. There was no way of finding out what put him in such critical condition. However, John knew that locating the man was already a step in the right direction.
“His lips were all chapped to the point they were bleeding. His tongue was swollen; he was really gaunt and skinny. I’m like, “This guy really needs help’,” John narrated to KRQE. The man looked weak and struggled to be on his feet by himself.
The man’s condition was bad, and he needed urgent medical attention. John wanted to assess the whole situation before thinking of the right rescue steps to take. The injured hiker was about 60 years old. He was able to get water from a nearby stream.
One thing remains difficult to understand – how did he get stuck in the middle of the forest? “I asked him, ‘what’s wrong?’ And he said, ‘My legs don’t work.’ And I said, ‘What happened?’ And he said, ‘I think I fell,’” John narrated to CBC.
Ascertaining how long the man has been stranded was difficult, but John thought the lost hiker would have been lost for two weeks or more. Saving the man’s life was John’s major priority. John didn’t know how to go about it since the man wasn’t in good shape.
Though he had his kids around to help him save the man’s life, John wasn’t sure if they could do it alone without worsening the man’s condition. It looked like a risky move. Where they were was miles away from the beginning of the trail. What was John supposed to do?
John was willing to help the lost hiker, but the best way to do it was what he seemed not to know. John and his kids couldn’t do it alone due to the man’s medical condition and the distance they would have to cover. The step forward was to call for external help.
Calling for professional assistance was a great idea. Leaving the lost hiker alone when he needed help most was a difficult decision for John and his kids, even though they knew they could offer help in better ways by hiking back to look for assistance.
John and his kids finally decided to seek professional help. They got the exact GPS coordinates of the lost hiker’s location. They dropped some food and water for the man before hiking back to the beginning of the trail. They moved as fast as they could.
After walking about three miles, they finally arrived at their starting point. They called 9-1-1 quickly and narrated everything that happened. You would think this was the end of the story, but it was the starting point of an unbelievable rescue mission that no one expected.
Remember that John and his kids left their home with the aim to enjoy hiking and spend quality time together. But their goal to enjoy the sunny day exploring the beautiful forest was impacted by the turn of events that started unfolding. It became a rescue adventure.
From when John lost sight of his daughter to a strange voice yelling for help and when the mystery man was finally found, the hiking adventure was full of unforeseen circumstances. John never imagined searching for his daughter or calling 9-1-1 to rescue a lost hiker.
About one hour after John and his kids called for professional assistance, a team of firefighters was about to become part of the turn of events that overwhelmed John and his family. With the rescue team, they thought the lost man was going to be found immediately.
The team of firefighters was eager to save the life of the 60-something-year-old man, but the mission turned out more difficult than they expected. It was a huge surprise when they couldn’t find the stranded hiker where he was supposed to be.
John was shocked to his bones when he learned that the troubled hiker was nowhere to be found. He was speechless and didn’t know what to make out of this shocking situation. As expected, a lot of thoughts were racing in his mind.
Everyone involved in the mission was equally stunned. They were wondering what happened to the injured hiker. Could it be that someone else rescued him? Or he got the strength to help himself out of the woods. The latter was unlikely since he wasn’t physically fit.
Before leaving the stranded hiker, everyone thought the rescue mission would be very straightforward with the GPS information John got. But eight good hours went into the search, yet he was nowhere to be found. People involved were becoming discouraged at this point.
After eight hours of searching to no avail, the rescue team started losing hope. As a result, the captain had no other option but to arrive at a difficult decision on the next thing to do. Were they going to stop the search entirely?
The stranded man already spent some time before he got John’s attention. According to John’s initial observation, he thought the mystery man would have been stranded in the woods for at least two weeks. Going by John’s speculation, the injured hiker had the resolve to survive.
He was all alone deep in the woods and afraid of getting hurt or even dying in the absence of help. Maybe he must have cried out many times, all to no avail until the day John heard his voice. Having spent many days alone shows determined he was.
Surviving from the harsh situation the injured hiker went through can significantly impact someone’s mental and physical health. His survival instinct was very strong because he could thrive in the harsh environment until John located him.
“He had the will to survive, for sure,” John said to WFLX. The intriguing question was, how did he suddenly disappear from the forest after all the troubles he went through? Once more, his health condition wouldn’t allow him to make it out of the woods alone.
It was difficult to comprehend that the injured hiker in his 60s was nowhere to be found. Shockingly, it was very unlikely he had the physical fitness to move to the beginning of the trail without external assistance.
Whatever happened to the elderly hiker occurred so fast. It took an hour for the firefighters to arrive. Was it feasible for him to walk about 3 miles to the trailhead within an hour? If he was rescued, why was there no trace of such event?
The team of firefighters invested a lot of time and effort into searching for the injured hiker. They spent many hours in the forest looking for him, but the rescue operation wasn’t successful. They already did all they could, and there was no hope in sight.
They were left with no other option but to end the rescue mission. Canceling the rescue mission was a very difficult decision. “It was a little bit difficult to have to call off the search and rescue efforts,” says the Captain of the rescue team.
John was stunned by the fact that the rescue team wasn’t able to find the mystery man. He thought that calling for professional help would end the man’s pain. He had confidence that experienced firefighters would be able to locate the hiker to lend a helping hand.
Having done everything he could to help the injured man, John wasn’t pleased to hear that the team of firefighters called off their rescue effort. The report that they did it because the man disappeared was the most troubling part of the situation. John was thinking of the way forward.
Even though John couldn’t possibly explain the situation, he knew something must have transpired. “I thought it was strange. Like, I figured if they were standing there and he wasn’t, then something must have happened… It was so surreal,” John expressed his frustration to CBC.
John and his kids found the 60-year-old hiker, and they put a lot of effort into getting the mystery man out of the woods. He couldn’t believe the fact that he was nowhere to be found. Could this possibly be the end of the lost hiker’s story?
John was very much disturbed, and it affected his night. He spent the entire night rolling and turning in his bed. He felt that everything wasn’t alright with the report he got from the firefighters. He never thought the rescue team wouldn’t bring the elderly hiker to safety.
“So, I’m laying there [on Saturday night] like, this guy is still in the mountains. So, at 9 a.m. Sunday, I get in and put my hiking boots back on and hike back, and he was exactly where I left him,” says John to KRQE.
John didn’t expect that the rescue mission would turn out the way it did. He thought the lost hiker would be safe by now. John wasn’t comfortable with the fact that the man wasn’t found. And he had a feeling that he should go back.
John decided to go back, and he did just that the following morning. Surprisingly he found the lost elderly hiker at the same place he left him previously. John called 9-1-1 immediately. This time, he gave them the exact location and waited patiently for them to arrive.
By the time John resolved to go back, it was already a day since he initially found the injured elderly hiker. John knew the mystery man needed urgent medical attention. And that was why he was committed to bringing him to safety at all costs.
A day ago, when he found the 60-year-old hiker, the man was already in a critical condition. He survived another day. His health must’ve become worse. So, John was determined to take him to where he would receive care. Hence the decision to wait till the rescue team arrived.
During the second rescue mission, things turned out good really quickly. The previous day, the team of firefighters spent eight hours searching for the mystery man, all to no avail. But this time around, the team found the hiker four hours after John called them.
John was by him all through the waiting time. And this made it easier for the rescue team to locate the stranded, elderly hiker. His condition must’ve become bad when the rescue team got to the place. Was it already too late to save his life?
The elderly man’s will to survive was so strong. As previously described by John, the man’s ability to survive in the mountains for at least two weeks revealed how tenacious he was. The rescue team was surprised to see that he was still holding on.
“The human body can do some amazing things sometimes, but I don’t think he had very much left in him. He seemed kind of at the end when we did encounter him,” Captain Nathan Garcia of the Santa Fe Fire Department explained to KRQE.
Assessing the hiker’s condition was necessary. Without knowing the state of his health, the rescue team could handle him wrongly. Having been stranded and injured for many days (at least two weeks, according to John), his health was the major focus in the rescue mission.
Even though he was in critical condition, the team of firefighters didn’t think of giving up on the 60-year-old hiker. When they arrived at the man’s location, they quickly assessed his medical condition. This helped them to determine the step they were to take next.
Through the assessment, they discovered that the man’s body temperature was very low. Moving him right away to safety wasn’t a good idea. They hand to, first of all, raise his body temperature before taking the next steps. What they did to bring up his temperature was amazing.
The rescue team did the exact opposite of what they’re known for. They made a fire to warm the old hiker’s body up. The goal was to bring up his body temperature to an optimal level. Helping him to maintain an optimal temperature was necessary to keep him alive.
After some time, they assessed him again to confirm if it was time to carry him to the right place for proper medical attention. When it was right to move him, they wrapped him up using blankets. This was to maintain an optimal body temperature.
The man’s ability to survive in the face of death showed that he was a trooper. Things started getting better the moment the rescue team moved him. Determination pays off. John and the team of firefighters did everything they could to save the man.
It was an interesting twist of fate that triggered a chain of events that led to the rescue mission. The stranded hiker wouldn’t have heard John’s voice if John’s daughter didn’t sprint ahead. The decision to explore the beauty of nature with his kids turned into a rescue mission.
When John was embarking on a hike that morning, he never thought they would save a hiker’s life. “I heard one of the firefighters describe it as a needle in a haystack. And it is. I mean, it’s rough country,” says John to CBC.
His resolve to stay alive was as strong as John’s determination to save him. The lost hiker stayed alive in the mountains for many days, facing the harsh conditions in the woods. His survival revealed the incredible strength he had. That was an outstanding show of perseverance.
The 60 years old hiker endured many harsh days. There was something within the hiker that enabled him to thrive in extreme adversity. Something unique kept him going. “Never had we found somebody who had been out for that long,” Captain Nathan Garcia said to KRQE.
He was rescued, but how did he sustain injuries and get lost in the forest? Something must’ve happened to him. Thriving in extreme conditions without help is difficult. Even for healthy and young people, surviving in the forest for a long time without adequate supplies is near impossible.
The elderly hiker went through that with some injuries he sustained. “The man suffered from chronic back pain and again injured his back while hiking and could not stand or walk. His gear was stolen, at which point he got lost and disoriented,” John explained to CBC.
John’s determination paid off big. He was happy at the end that he didn’t give up until the hiker was found and given good medical care. After the rescue team called off their first mission, giving up was an option, but John refused to quit.
The Nurses restored the man and stabilized him in a healthy state in the hospital. He made it out of the woods alive, but there is an important lesson every hiker should learn from this. Tell someone where you’re going, even when the hiking trail is simple and familiar.
The hero of this story was John Utsey. He was the one that found the stranded, elderly hiker. Other people were involved in the rescue mission. The Santa Fe Fire Department thanked people involved in the rescue effort in a post on Facebook.
“Special thanks to John Utsey, the hiker that found him disoriented and provided food and water for him. Special thanks to the Atalaya search and rescue team as well as Santa Fe search and rescue and Los Alamos search and rescue for all their help…”