GREAT FALLS — On August 17, a search and rescue effort ended successfully when U.S. Forest Service law enforcement officer Shawn Tripp found Gloria Albright.
The search effort included dozens of agencies and people, several dogs, and two helicopers.
Chiara Cipriano, spokeswoman for Helena-Lewis & Clark National Forest, said in a news release that Albright had been missing since August 13 when she became disoriented in the Little Belt Mountains on the Judith-Musselshell Ranger District. She was found about three miles from where she had initially become disoriented.
“It took a village to have this successful ending,” said Tripp. “So many folks assisted in this search and rescue operation and our hope in sharing this story is to help folks understand what to do if they find themselves lost in the forest.”
Wheatland County Sheriff Everett Misner talked with Albright once she was rescued and shared the following details:
The short version is that Gloria, not wanting to continue north on the rough trail leading towards the notch, exited the side-by-side that she and her husband were traveling in. She walked south on the Jeep Trail until she came to the open meadow at the bottom of the mountain side. Gloria then made a wrong turn in the opposite direction of Jellison Campground, where they had camped earlier, and traveled southwest until the trail fizzled out. Upon leaving the trail Gloria eventually fell injuring her knee. She continued downhill as best she could in hopes of getting out of the timber before dark. Gloria spent the next two days deprived of sleep as well as water and became delusional. She began gravitating towards things that simply were not there such as a house, their camp trailer, and even trails with markers that simply did not exist when she approached the areas she believed she had visualized them. By this time Gloria had been scooting along the trails on her bottom as she was unable to walk at times.
Misner said that Albright's advice is: “Don’t make bad decisions, don’t get off of the trail, know the country you are in, and understand directions by the sun and the moon."
The U.S. Forest Service says that even if you are going out for just a few hours, pack enough essentials so that you can stay hydrated, fueled, and prepared for any type of weather. Your essentials should include at least:
- More than enough food and water for the activity you plan.
- A compass that you know how to use. You may want a GPS device, but those sometimes do not receive a signal or the battery fails. Cell phones also likely will not work because of a lack of signal.
- Appropriate maps. Study the terrain and your planned route. Know where you are going and how you will return.
- Sturdy hiking boots, clothes that you can layer depending on the weather conditions and additional socks in case the ones you are wearing get wet.
- A blanket, flashlight, matches kept in a water-resistant container, and other items that will help you survive overnight if necessary.
- Check with the local ranger district or forest office for special warnings, such as fires in the area, bear sightings, flooding, trail or road closures, etc.
It’s also important that once you have planned your outing, tell someone. Give them exact details of where you are going, the trail you plan to follow, when you will return, the vehicle you are driving (and where you plan to park) and how many people will go with you – do not go alone.
The search effort involved many agencies and volunteers: Dave Kauffman, coordinator for Elkhorn SAR, True North Search Dogs with K9 Ridge; Jill Oie and Matt Horne with Elkhorn SAR, Mike Bailly with True North Search Dogs and K9s Yukon and Capone, Wheatland County Sheriff Everett Misner; Jim Rosenberg; Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks warden Nick Taylor; Judith-Musselshell Ranger District’s three-person fire crew and law enforcement officer Zack Norris, Wheatland County, Wheatland EMS; Two Bear Air helicopter and crew from Kalispell; the Harlowton Fire Department; 1-189 Aviation Regiment Army National Guard with H60 Helicopter and four-person crew; along with Albright’s family and other community members.