November 9, 2009 in City

Hiker found after night in forest

Navy veteran huddled among trees as snow fell
By The Spokesman-Review
The Spokesman-Review photo

Alisa Franck, of Spirit Lake, took this photo of herself Saturday while hiking on Chilco Mountain. She spent the night alone after getting lost. Photo courtesy Alisa Franck
(Full-size photo)

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

Throughout the night, she said, she knew enough to stay focused. “I was not going to let hypothermia get me,” said Franck, 27, a 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 because of the cold weather. 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 toward the trailhead where she and Dodd had left their vehicle. She came to a 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, certain 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. A helicopter dispatched by Fairchild Air Force Base searched unsuccessfully from about 1 a.m. to 5 a.m.

As Franck waited, she assessed her condition. She had a down vest, a camouflage shirt and a hooded sweatshirt. But she was wearing steel-toed 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.”

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

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

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

“Yes I am,” she said.

Thoughts and opinions on this story? Click here to comment >>

Get stories like this in a free daily email