La Plata County Search and Rescue found a 19-year-old Nebraska man who was reported missing Thursday above Vallecito Reservoir after he failed to return from a hike.
Christian Clear, of Alliance, Nebraska, was discovered by a Flight for Life helicopter Thursday afternoon. A medical team linked up with him about 3:10 p.m., said Dan Bender, spokesman for the La Plata County Sheriff’s Office.
Clear began the hike with his father, George, and twin sister, Bailey, on Sunday after disembarking from a stop on the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad, Bender said.
“Yesterday (Wednesday), they were crossing Hunchback Pass when dad started feeling dizzy, probably from altitude,” Bender said. “That’s many miles north of Vallecito, they tell me.”
The group decided to hike down Vallecito Creek Trail, and Christian Clear went ahead to go down to the Vallecito Creek Campground to see if someone would help him go over to the Pine River trailhead, where the family’s vehicle was parked, Bender said.
Upon exiting the trail, neither the vehicle nor Christian Clear were present to meet the family, he said. The car was still parked at the original location with no sign of Clear.
“They had planned to camp at Emerald Lake last night,” Bender said, “but camped along the Vallecito Creek Trail instead on their way out.”
Clear became lost after stopping to ask for directions from a fellow hiker and being directed to follow Johnson Creek Trail and camping along it Wednesday evening, said Ron Corkish, president of La Plata County Search and Rescue.
“He was right on the trail waiting for them to come by, and in his mind, it was the Vallecito (Creek) Trail.”
Thursday morning, Clear retraced his steps, realized his error and proceeded down the correct path, but he was behind his family, eventually encountering Search and Rescue personnel.
Corkish said 15 personnel from his organization were involved in the operations on Vallecito Creek Trail on Thursday.
Upper Pine Fire Protection District also had crews involved.
There was a report from Flight for Life that Clear had suffered injuries and was hobbling out with assistance from another individual, but these were found to be inaccurate, Corkish said. “The lad is walking out on his own steam with our team.”
This is the second rescue in the area this week. On Monday, more than 30 people searched for Bayfield resident Dustin Beaver and his children, 8-year-old twins and a 6-year-old son, before they were escorted to the Pine River trailhead by hikers from Arizona on Monday night.
Clear had a Colorado fishing license which includes a Colorado Outdoor Recreation Search and Rescue stamp, which covers the cost of mileage for team members and the fuel for the helicopter used to search for him, Corkish said.
For people who do not purchase fishing or hunting licenses a CORSAR card can be purchased online through the Colorado Department of Local Affairs or at outdoor sporting goods stores in Durango.
Luke Perkins is a student at Fort Lewis College and an intern at The Durango Herald. Reach him at email@example.com.