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Forest rangers rescue two unprepared hikers

February 1, 2013

RAY BROOK - Forest rangers rescued two very unprepared hikers Monday after the men spent an unplanned night in the woods.

The men, 22-year-old Stephen Hine of Philadelphia and 26-year-old Kyle Austin of Syracuse, told forest rangers that they planned to hike 38 miles from Long Lake to Lake Placid on the Northville-Placid Trail. One of the men was dressed in sweatpants, and the other was in Carhartt pants. They had barely any food and a canteen full of water that ran out a short way into their trip.

"They (only) had two bagels, and the only reason they had that is that ... one of the guys' wives said, 'You have to bring something,'" Forest Ranger Tom Gliddi said. "I think they originally came with a little bit of water. Later on, they were just eating snow."

The men told forest rangers they felt confident that they could handle the trip because they were both long-distance runners. It is unclear how much backcountry experience they have, but they were extremely unprepared for a trip into the woods in January. They had no map, compass, snowshoes or skis, but did have some extra cotton clothes, which are discouraged in the backcountry because cotton dries slowly and holds cold water -?if it freezes, ice -against the skin. Not having snowshoes or skis required them to posthole, which is tiring and slow.

They also had some lightweight sleeping gear. Temperatures were in the single digits Sunday night.

The men's trip started early Sunday, at 1 a.m. in Long Lake. By 10:20 p.m. that night, a wife of one of the men called the state Department of Environmental Conservation's dispatch center in Ray Brook, saying the two men were overdue.

DEC responded that night by sending forest rangers Jim Waters and Delbert Jeffery into the woods from Long Lake on the Northville-Placid Trail. The men searched all the way to the Cold Brook lean-to. Fellow forest rangers Scott Van Laer and Rob Praczkajlo hiked the Northville-Placid Trail from Lake Placid to Wanika Falls.

In the morning, forest rangers Kevin Burns and Pete Evans did an aerial search from a state helicopter and found tracks near the Noah Rondeau Hermitage near the Cold River. The helicopter landed at Duck Hole, dropping off Evans, who began hiking south toward Long Lake on the Northville-Placid Trail.

Also that morning other rangers were sent in via the Ward Brook Truck Trail off Coreys Road and from the Huntington Wildlife Forest from the south.

At 12:35 p.m. Monday, forest rangers Chris Kostoss and Gliddi found the missing men hiking off the trail on Seymour Mountain between Moose Pond and the Noah Rondeau Hermitage. They were on their way down from Seymour Mountain.

"When we found them, we ... gave them hot chocolate and Clif bars and just hiked them out to the trail and the snowmobiles," Gliddi said.

He said both men were shivering, had low body core temperatures and very cold hands and feet.

The men were evacuated on snowmobiles to the Coreys Road and transferred by the Tupper Lake rescue squad to Adirondack Medical Center in Saranac Lake. Adirondack Health spokesman Joe Riccio said the men were treated and released.



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