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Cyclist Alicia Jakomait shares story of getting lost, knocking herself unconscious, night in the woods

Editor's note: Special thanks to Alicia for permission to reprint her story. She hopes that telling it will help others avoid a similar experience. This account first appeared on her Facebook page.

It was a beautiful day on Sunday around 1 p.m. when I found myself uncertain of where I would ride due to both storm damage and accumulated fatigue.

I've been fortunate to ride on new trails often this summer and I felt confident that I would successfully link the Emerald Pipeline trail back to the road which I planned to ride down to get home (South of Old Stage/Gold Camp).

This area was unexpectedly difficult to navigate as it was in a steep valley with faint/lightly used trails and downed trees and various rivers flowing down from all the storm damage.

As night fell in the valley I passed by the ever important reservoir where I had planned to re-join Old Stage Road. I became lost when hiking the bike through some meadows and marshland areas, and I mistook the marsh as being the reservoir. I walked around that area a great deal looking for the main road without success and in that process lost track of where I came from, so backtracking was no longer possible. It was in the marshy areas where I lost the faintly worn-in trails and was not sure how I got to what direction was what.

Once I realized I had lost the trail, I scrambled up steep, rocky terrain to reach high points. Armed with a headlamp, a very light jacket, a map, bike tools and about 400 calories, I began bushwhacking in what I thought was the right direction as the terrain became increasingly steep and rocky.

It must have been between 8 or 9 p.m. (sun) when I somehow fell off a boulder, knocked myself out and woke up face down on the ground. I don’t remember falling just waking up, and the head injury impaired my sense of direction greatly.

I felt the confusing effects of a concussion as I could no longer make any sense of the map as I continued to hike the bike off the marked trails in circles all night. Determined to get home, I kept moving on Sunday night to about 3 a.m. to a high point so I could see and survey the area in the morning and to save my energy for getting to the right place the next day as I decided to wait till dawn so I could keep the city to my east and make sure to go north and keep going north to join Old Stage Road. I found a good tree, used my map to wrap up my legs, pine needles and branches to try to be warm until dawn.

At 7 a.m. when the sun was up I was unable to see any landmarks or roads and decided to try to go north to the road, but found myself in very unfriendly class 2-3 terrain with downed trees and debris all over. I believe that going around so many obstacles contributed to remaining lost.

The battery in my phone was getting less and less so I turned off my phone several times and probably tried to call 911 about 50 times without success.

Hiking through the forested area with the rocks everywhere was very difficult and slow going. I’d catch my bike or my legs on big sticks or the branches would get tension then release and whack me over and over again. As Monday afternoon approached I was trying to find the reservoir and much to my despair, I ended up in the same place as the night before.

I could see a rock formation I knew was close to Old Stage/Gold Camp and decided to use this visual tool to go north to the road. I carefully studied the map and the mountains and elevation and would pull up the limited Strava GPS map view to see I kept going in circles again. My phone battery died shortly after my last effort to point myself in the right direction.

The sun kept moving West and I began to doubt if I was really going north as it seemed like I should have run into the road after going that way for several hours. I began to yell “help” every so often hoping maybe a horse or hiker would hear me, and it was a good thing because that is how I was found.

It was around 6 p.m. when I heard someone yell my name, and I yelled back. Apparently someone heard me yell “help”. I felt both very happy that I was no longer “lost” yet very embarrassed for being so lost and unable to get myself out of the jam I was in. My leg was getting very swollen, the concussion headache seemed impacted by the lack of nutrition, mild hypothermia, nausea, and soreness, my body was slowing down so I was extremely happy to have the assistance.

The two men who found me told me that I was .5 mile from the road I was trying to get to and that my husband was looking for me all night and found my tire tracks and was able give a better idea of where I was, which was between Emerald Valley and Old Stage road in a valley. Jesse was amazingly accurate that I would keep moving towards the road, and it’s wonderful that he knew me well enough to help pinpoint my location. I feel so very fortunate.

The amazing Search and Rescue people were prepared with  warm clothes and a sleeping bag and because of how swollen my tib/fib was and the concussion a bunch more people came and they wheeled me out of the trail to an ambulance and to Penrose Hospital. I almost had to stay the night to have my kidneys flushed, luckily after a bag of fluid in the ambulance and two more at the hospital, my labs improved and I was able to go home with a new appreciation and zest for living and enjoying life.

That is perhaps the most positive aspect of this unwanted adventure, is a fresh perspective about what matters and what does not matter. I also learned a lot of lessons about making solid plans, sharing those locations with someone and not just going for random rides. I thought about the potential of crashing and being really hurt and it took only one night cold with no clothes to stay warm to learn that it is really unsafe to go out alone and not tell anyone where I am going. I also learned that it’s worth it to carry a few tools with me as things can always happen.

It was not a good experience, however, I feel like a better person from drawing positive learning experiences from this ordeal. I never wish to be lost with no supplies again and needing the assistance of a rescue crew. It was very irresponsible of me and I deeply regret having made the poor choice to adventure alone without telling anyone where I was going. Fortunately, the rescue crew was incredibly helpful and professional and got me out of the woods. I can’t thank everyone enough for their efforts to help me avoid another night out there. I feel very grateful to all people who took time to look for me. Thanks again to everyone, I promise to never do this again!
--Alicia H. Jakomait, 10/1/13

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everyone is relieved shes ok...everyone has learned a lot from this one experience

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