We were all gathered now — Lisa, Blake, Kylie, me, and Austin (the cop), at the last place Lisa had seen her dad. But two hours had gone by since he had been here, and — obviously — Dee was somewhere other than where we all were.
Lisa’s brother Scott joined us, having hiked over from Squaw Peak — since it was a mountain Dee knew well, it seemed possible he would have headed in that direction. A good idea, but no luck.
Blake and Scott trudged off in one direction together. Lisa and Kylie stayed close to where they had seen their dad most recently. I stood near Austin, looking down the face of the mountain into Utah Valley. Austin he talked on the radio, asking for the Life Flight helicopter to come over and to get search and rescue in motion. I was just hoping I’d hear anything useful that came over his radio.
The helicopter appeared and landed in a field in the valley. It couldn’t fly until a couple of paragliders got out of the area. Once they landed, the helicopter took off and started flying back and forth, scanning the mountain.
“You’d be amazed at how much they can see,” Austin said, somehow anticipating my question: “Is there any way they’ll be able to see a man wearing a neutral-colored hat and muted colors for both his shirt and pants?” (In case you’ve forgotten, Dee’s the one on the right in this photo — not exactly day-glo clothing.)
None of us knew what to do, and none of us wanted to acknowledge that it was getting dark, nor what that implied.
But the truth was: we weren’t dressed for how cold it was getting. I wasn’t dressed for being outside at all.
Finally, it was Austin who told us: “You’d better head down, guys. We have a team up here and we’ll find him.”
So we started heading down the trail, yelling Lisa’s dad’s name, knowing that he almost certainly wouldn’t hear us; his cochlear implant hadn’t really done much to improve his hearing even before his stroke. Now he hears — or understands — even less.
It got to be fully dark. I got out my phone, which fortunately still had close to a full charge. It makes a not-half-bad flashlight, at least for a while.
We came across the first search and rescue person before we were a mile down. “We are going to search through the night. We’ll find him,” the man assured us. I’ve never been so grateful for positive confident words like that, and I was glad Lisa heard them.
We continued down, Lisa crying most of the time. I was keeping a tight filter on my words, because I didn’t want people to hear what I was thinking: “It’s cold and dark and he has no light or water or a jacket or anything. I worry he won’t survive the night.”
I knew we were going home to the likelihood of just sitting and worrying through the night. Sleep wasn’t a remote possibility. We’d drive back here before it got light to start searching.
But I was terrified of what kind of condition he’d be in when we found him.
And we’ll pick up there in the next (and final, I think?) installment of this story.