Lost hiker kept himself and dog warm by building fire with hand sanitizer and lighter


More than 75 people were involved in the search and rescue of a hiker who went missing with his dog, crews said.

Elkland Search and Rescue

A lost hiker got creative to keep himself and his dog warm on a frigid Pennsylvania night, rescuers said.

The Elkland Search and Rescue team said the hiker went missing Saturday, Nov. 18, while walking his dog near the Laurel Mill Trail in Elk County.

Crews searched throughout the night for the hiker and dog, but the search was scaled back at 3 a.m. as temperatures had plummeted to 20 degrees, according to the search and rescuers.

Sunday, on the second day of bear hunting season, a hunter came upon the missing hiker. Rescue crews caught up to him, and he was evaluated by first responders and released to his family.

“The hiker was cold, sore and hungry, but otherwise OK,” rescuers said. “When interviewing the hiker, he told us that after he didn’t hear the helicopter or drone any longer, he used hand sanitizer and a lighter to build a small fire to try to keep warm throughout the night.”

The wife of the hiker said in a Facebook comment that their dog “bounced back so fast” and did not seem affected by the incident after getting a long rest.

More than 75 people were involved in the search, dedicating a combined 1,020 hours to help find the missing hiker.

“As are most searches, this was a true group effort to bring this individual home,” the team said.

Elkland is in north-central Pennsylvania near the state’s border with New York.

What to do if you got lost while hiking

If you think you’re getting lost, experts say it’s best to stop where you are and not panic. You should go over how you got to that point and if you’re able to see any landmarks around.

“Do not move at all until you have a specific reason to take a step,” officials with the U.S. Forest Service said.

You should come up with a plan but stay put unless you are “very, very confident in the route.”

There are steps hikers can take to avoid getting lost and be better prepared for the unexpected:

  • Have more than enough food and water with you.

  • Take a compass that you know how to use, or have a GPS device on hand.

  • Don’t rely solely on your cell phone. It probably won’t work because of a lack of signal or a depleted battery.

  • Study the terrain and your route, and you should know how you’ll return.

  • Have the right clothing. Sturdy hiking boots and layers can help you be prepared for rapidly changing weather.

  • Pack a blanket, flashlight and matches.

  • Check with a local ranger for special warnings. They can tell you about “fires in the area, bear sightings, flooding, trail or road closures.”

Mike Stunson covers real-time news for McClatchy. He is a 2011 Western Kentucky University graduate who has previously worked at the Paducah Sun and Madisonville Messenger as a sports reporter and the Lexington Herald-Leader as a breaking news reporter.
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