Lost hikers rescued from Sam Houston National Forest

Photos courtesy of New Waverly Fire DepartmentNew Waverly firefighters escort lost hikers back out of the Sam Houston National Forest Tuesday to a waiting ATV for transport out of the forest.

What started out as a short hike in the woods last Tuesday afternoon soon took a turn for the worse as two hikers and their dog got lost in a thicket off the Lone Star Hiking Trail, west of New Waverly.

The pair had parked at trailhead No. 6 off FM 1375, just west of Lake Conroe, following the hiking trails that lead down to a pair of popular walk-in primitive campsites along the lake. They had passed the first campsite when they ventured off the trail and quickly became disoriented by the thick new growth left over after past prescribed management burns in the forest. Fortunately, they still had cell service and were able to call the Walker County Communications Center where they were connected with dispatcher Misty Golden and assistant communications director Anthony Tryon.

Communications Center staff were able to pinpoint their location via their phone and transmitted their coordinates to responding emergency personnel from the New Waverly Fire Department, Walker County EMS and the Walker County Sheriff’s Office. Firefighters entered the forest on foot and on an ATV, locating the pair approximately 1 1/2 miles away from where they had entered the forest and approximately a 1/4 mile off of the Lone Star Hiking Trail.

The ground level vegetation in the area was very thick and in some areas was swampy and full of thorns. A ground team was able to reach them first by taking a direct line from the trailhead to their GPS coordinates, traveling through thick brush, while the ATV team circled around on the hiking trail. After the hikers and their dog were located, the ground team led them back to the hiking trail where they were carried out of the forest. Once back at the Command Post, WCSO and the Walker County EMS crew evaluated them and provided drinking water for them and their thirsty canine companion. 

Although this rescue operation went fairly smooth, others have not been so lucky. Earlier this summer, a family with two small children hiking in the forest became lost and were in danger of dehydration, facing the prospect of spending the night lost in the forest. Fortunately, that family was rescued just before sundown. Past searches have involved hundreds of searchers and in at least one case, a female was lost and perished in the forest before she could be found.

Tryon pointed out a couple of essential tips to help prevent getting lost and helping rescuers find you in the event you get lost.

“First, make sure you mark your point of departure on your phone or GPS before you begin your hike,” Tryon said. “Carry additional water and supplies and be prepared in case you have to spend the night in the forest.”

Additional tips for a safe hike:

• Carry a GPS device with fresh batteries or at least a compass, don’t always count on using your phone as some parts of the forest have limited cell service.

• Make sure your phone is fully charged before leaving.

• Carry as much water as you can.

• Carry a flashlight and matches in case you get lost overnight.

• Always check the weather forecast before departing.