November 8, 2009 in News

Hiker spends cold night in the woods

By The Spokesman-Review
 

After spending a cold, restless night huddled against a tree in a North Idaho forest, Alisa Franck walked out early Sunday morning, greeted by two members of a search and rescue team.

Throughout the night, Franck said, she knew enough to stay focused. “I was not going to let hypothermia get me,” said Franck, a 27-year-old Central Valley High School graduate and Navy veteran.

Franck had been out since early Saturday afternoon in the Coeur d’Alene National Forest near Chilco Mountain, east of Athol. She had joined her boyfriend, David Dodd, of Spirit Lake, who was out hunting. She decided to go along for a hike, carrying her .22 caliber rifle for target practice, she said.

They took off in different directions but stayed in touch by phone. As darkness began to fall, Franck began calling Dodd to locate him.

Before long she realized her phone battery was about to die, due to the cold weather on the mountain.

During her last call to Dodd before the phone died, he told her he would stay there until he found her.

Franck walked downhill from the summit of Chilco, heading in the direction of the trailhead where she and Dodd had left their vehicle. She came to a wooden trail sign that read “Chilco Saddle,” and she stopped. “I knew from walking that trail before that that trail led back uphill and not down,” said Franck.

She scrambled over brush and fallen trees and found a streambed. She decided to follow that stream, convinced it would take her to safety.

When it grew too dark to continue, she had to stop. A snowstorm had come over, and Franck said she huddled up among some trees to stay out of the wind.

After Dodd called authorities, Kootenai County sheriff’s deputies called out a search and rescue team. Dodd and a couple family members helped throughout the night. As the team fanned out, looking for Franck, she sat still, assessing her condition. She had a down vest, a camouflage shirt and a hooded sweatshirt. But she was wearing steel-toe work boots that weren’t waterproof. Despite wearing two pairs of socks, her feet were cold and wet from slogging along the stream.

Her hands were also cold since she only taken along a pair of fingerless gloves.

“I was scared. But I knew that my boyfriend was out there. That gave me all the strength I needed.”

Around 1 a.m., she heard a helicopter fly over her. She jumped up and waved but the pilot never saw her, said Franck.

The copter had been dispatched by Fairchild Air Force Base; it searched for about four hours, from 1 a.m. to 5 a.m., according to authorities.

“I didn’t really sleep at all, or maybe just two hours,” said Franck.

Around 6 a.m. it became light enough to start moving. She found a logging road and followed it for an hour, and it took her near the Bunco snowmobile parking lot. Using her rifle, Franck fired three shots, hoping someone was nearby.

Before long, by about 8 a.m., she saw two searchers downhill from her, looking up at her. One of the men yelled out, “Are you Alisa Franck?”

“Yes I am,” she said.

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