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Backpacker Magazine – June 2002

Trapped! The Mike Turner Story

Deep in Wyoming's Wind River Range, an accident with a sliding boulder makes a hiker confront his life, his fate, and his faith in God.

by: Jeff Rennicke


Mike
Photo by Mike Turner


Danny Holgate, search commander for Tip Top Search and Rescue, pressed his hand against the cold plexiglass window of the Bell 206B3 Jet Ranger helicopter to blunt the vibration and stared out at the jumbled landscape of rock and ice passing below. His eyes peeled back every shadow, untangled every knot of fallen trees, searching for any movement or flash of color that might be a hiker in trouble.

According to the "Wander in Wonder" itinerary, Turner was to complete his hike in 9 days and meet his family and friends at the Big Sandy trailhead on Saturday, August 8. When he didn't show up at noon as planned, Diane at first felt little worry. "Honestly, I just felt irritated," she says. "I figured he was out there taking pictures, leaving the rest of us to carry the gear to the first lake, our 'plan B' if we didn't meet up at the trailhead."

As Saturday afternoon dragged on and the party set up camp at Dad's Lake to wait, questions began to creep into Diane's mind. What was slowing him down? Was it the knee he had injured skiing 4 years ago, or a dog with sore paws? "Before Mike left," Diane says, "Katie, our youngest, had asked him what we should do if he didn't show up. We laughed, then thought it would be a good idea to set a deadline." If he didn't arrive by Sunday at 4 p.m., they would seek help. But as that second deadline neared, Diane found herself re-reading the words printed on her map: "You will be charged for the rescue costs (i.e., helicopter time or horse rental)."

"I knew Mike wouldn't want us to make a big deal over nothing," Diane says. And so they waited.

By the time the moon rose that Sunday night, casting the peaks in an eerily beautiful silvery light, Diane knew something had gone very wrong. Her husband was missing. They would go for help in the morning.

The call came in to the Sublette County Sheriff's Office in Pinedale at 10:06 a.m., August 10, and the dispatcher notified Danny Holgate. A strong, compact man with a cop's direct gaze, 42-year-old Holgate has been working search and rescue for 18 years, the last 6 as search commander. He's helped build Tip Top Search and Rescue from a "jeep and beer operation" ("jump in a jeep, drive to a remote spot, and drink beer until the guy walks out") into one of the best all-volunteer units in the country. Yet every instinct told him this one was not going to be easy. The search area was immense: two national forests, two sides of the Continental Divide, two counties, three designated wilderness areas, and the Wind River Indian Reservation. As one volunteer claimed, "You could have every volunteer in Wyoming link arms and never cover a quarter of it."

As the helicopter banked for another pass, Holgate strained to make out new footprints on Gannett Glacier and thought, "Hell of a place to get lost."



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READERS COMMENTS

Star Star Star Star Star
D. Harris
Nov 18, 2013

Thank you to Jeff for writing this story. It was refreshing to see a mainstream media magazine publish a story that respected a person of deep Christian faith. Kudos to Backpacker for featuring it.

Star Star Star Star Star
Mike Jackson
Jan 15, 2013

Regina P: "Somehow, female children are raised to think of everyone else before themselves..."

Sure they are. That's why they overwhelmingly
believe they have the right to kill a baby inside her, or even partially born, if he or she interferes in her lifestyle.

Star Star Star Star Star
green
Jan 15, 2013

heartbreaking

Roy Mandel
Nov 28, 2012

Wd did a hike my 9yr son and wife and me in that area but on trails in 1980 and I recall seeing island lake on map. Greart story.

Roy Mandel
Nov 28, 2012

Wd did a hike my 9yr son and wife and me in that area but on trails in 1980 and I recall seeing island lake on map. Greart story.

James Ludlow
Feb 12, 2012

Thank you for sharing such a wonderful story of faith, love and courage. I too am a pastor and deeply share the solitude of Mike's mountainous spirit. We all will see Jesus soon...it's just like God to bring us home through our favorite places on earth. I'm sure some would say "Mike went to be with Jesus by doing something He loved to do!". In a weird kind of way, that is a blessing. My life has been deeply touched through this story. Thanks for sharing.

Renee' Johns
Nov 10, 2011

Tonight I found the story I read about in 2008 that helped me so much during my chemotherapy for Ovarian Cancer that year. I had had a 20yr walk with God prior. I felt so alone and discouraged and had lost all Hope until I read this article I beleive in the Idaho Statesman that year. I just want to say Thank You Rev. for helping me to LIVE. God Bless your family.

Richard
Sep 02, 2011

Thanks so much for publishing this article. I read it when it appeared in your magazine but misplaced that issue. Too bad ReginaP did not read past page 5 to the end of the article - though I imagine the beauty of the story would still be lost on her.

odanny
Aug 01, 2011

Well written story on Mr. Turner. He had his faith tested on the rock and it endured when his body gave out.

Mike Sechler
Feb 13, 2011

I love this story, because I love hiking, I love the mountains in Wyoming (even I have never hiked in this particular range), but most of all I love God. Thanks for the story, I will be using it in my sermon today. God is still using the life of Mike Turner, even as Mike now enjoys the immediate presence of God.

wilk
Jan 11, 2011

Wow regina, hate men much?

ReginaP
Dec 18, 2010

I don't like to speak ill of the dead, but whenever I read/hear a story like this all I can think about is the selfishness and arrogance of the one who put himself (and it's almost always a man) before his loved ones, never once considering what impact it would have on them to lose him. I can't even read all the way through because I'm on page 5 and it's making me angry. Somehow, female children are raised to think of everyone else before themselves, while male children are raised to get theirs at any cost. I feel bad for the dog, in any case.

Gabriel Hedger
Dec 14, 2010

One of the best articles I have ever read.

Ryan Wolfinger
Dec 11, 2010

What an amazing story. Mike Turner sounds like an incredible man of faith, one of the most inspiring parts of the story to me; "as his final hours approached, Turner's body was shutting down; but it was as though his spirit was opening up. All the questions, all the doubt and anger seemed to dissolve like so much morning mist on that unnamed lake. What remained was the unbreakable bedrock of belief." Despite the tremendous pain that he experienced, it is so comforting to know that Mike will spend an eternity in Paradise.

Anonymous
Nov 03, 2010

Don Heinz, pastor, hiker
Nov 01, 2010

Thank you Jeff for putting the story to paper. Thank you Diane for the courage to share it. Thank you Mike for living it. It being the adventure and your faith. I am in a personal struggle now myself, and these words were an encouragement.

Diane Turner Slobodow
Jul 31, 2010

Just an update on the story. Our dog, Andy, lived an amazing life. He was just over a year old when he went on the hike with Mike into the Winds. He was a wonderful companion to Mike and I know provided comfort from Mike's journal. And what a companion he has been for me and our family. Loyal and loving and adventuresome until the end. His body started failing him this spring. I like to think that Andy and Mike met on the trail and continue their adventure.

Dan Metcalf
Jul 09, 2010

This story deeply touches me. It could so easily be so many of us who love the solitude of wilderness, mountains, lakes. I too love the Lord and have cried out many times on my journey. My wife's 28 year battle with rheumatoid arthritis and the sorrow and pain that goes with it reminds me some of Mike's struggle.
From reading Mike's journal it is easy to see that his family and planet earth suffered much loss when he left us for heaven.
What heart! What a story! Our prayers and best wishes go out to Mike's family.

Paul Clark
Jan 16, 2010

I was hiking out from Island Lake on the same day that Mr Turner and his dog were hiking in. I think I remember a hiker and his black dog. I know I said "Hi" to him as we passed on the trail. It's odd to think that I was one of the last people to see the guy alive.

my strength
Feb 14, 2009

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