Helicopter rescues librarian after two nights in Colorado mountains

When her Rocky Mountain adventure went wrong, Everett and her son’s girlfriend found themselves lost in the wilderness for two nights. Soon after, a helicopter came to their rescue, “It was something I’ll not soon forget,” Everett said.

Most trips to the bathroom don’t end with a rescue helicopter ride out of the Rocky Mountains. For librarian Chris Everett, however, that was the case. On her annual Rocky Mountain hiking trip with family and friends, Everett and her son’s girlfriend, Danielle Hohly, were lost for two nights at Mirror Lake in Colorado.

It began at 10,000 feet in Rocky Mountain National Park. Everett’s group was planning on a six-mile hike to Mirror Lake. The trail was one she had never been on. After a three hour drive to the trailhead, the group started hiking around 11 a.m. When Everett’s son’s girlfriend Danielle Hohly stopped to use the restroom, Everett stopped with her, and told her husband and son to go along. When the two started hiking, they walked past the turnoff that would allow them return to Mirror Lake.

“To get to the lake you have to hike down, but coming back up, we felt that we had hiked further up than we had hiked down,” Everett explained. “[We had] missed the turnoff to get back to Mirror Lake trailhead.”

Everett thought that by going up and over the mountain, they would catch the trail on the other side. The women hiked without any worry until the trail started getting narrower, and looked unfamiliar. The plan may have worked had they not been going in the wrong direction.

Everett and Hohly continued down the wrong mountain, and came across a valley that looked just Mirror Lake, river and all.

“We were walking down, and down, and down, and down, and never came to the two bridges we knew,” Everett recalled.

You don’t know how you’re going to react in a situation like this. Not very many people experience something like this.”

— Chris Everett

The women continued to walk, attempting to find the road they had driven upon only hours earlier. When they came over the peak of the hill, there were only mountains as far as the eye could see.

“It was then I started to panic,” Everett said. “It was 5:30 or 6:00 at night and it was starting to get dark.”

The darkness upon them, Hohly suggested they stop for the night. With nothing more than the clothes on their backs and a few utensils in their backpacks, they settled down for the 40 degree evening. They huddled together, trying the retain body heat, and woke up with the sun the next morning, anxious to find a way back to civilization.

The duo actually started back up the correct mountain. However, because they were turned around, they ended up in a corner of the wrong mountain. They were in the trees surrounding the meadow when they heard the sound of a plane above.

“We just thought, ‘we gotta get to the meadow, we gotta get to the meadow,’” Everett said. “We went crashing down, climbing over and under and around all the dead trees.”

A former Boy Scout Troop Leader, Everett had packed matches, a flashlight, hand warmers, a mirror and a whistle just in case of an emergency. Somewhere between 3 or 3:30 p.m., Everett pulled out her mirror and attempted to signal the plane. She thought she saw a tip of the wings, and believed this was an indication they would be rescued.

The women waited for hours in the meadow before finally accepting that the plane hadn’t seen them. They were going to have to spend another night in the wilderness.

By day two, Hohly and Everett were both mentally worn. It had rained and hailed on them, and they were covered in bruises and blisters. Shoes and socks soaked from the river, they found a dry spot within the trees, and settled down for the night. Now, their rescue was vital, as they were completely out of food and water.

During the 5 a.m. sunrise, they woke to a frost covered ground. The cold night produced aching joints and cold limbs. They drank water off the pine needles, stopping and whistling every once in awhile as they climbed through the tree line.

After wandering and whistling for 2 hours, the women heard a call. Looking at each other in disbelief, they started yelling for help.

“We heard ‘Chris and Danielle?’ and Danielle yelled, ‘HELP US!” Everett recalled.

They soon learned the Search and Rescue team had camped out on the other side of the mountain the night before and had been searching with dogs since 2 a.m. the first morning Everett and Hohley were lost.

The team came down, found the two women and began to assess their state. After the team decided the seven mile walk back to the trailhead was too far for the women, they were lifted in a helicopter back to the main part of the park. There, they were reunited with their group.

“You don’t know how you’re going to react in a situation like this,” Everett explained. “Not very many people experience something like this.”