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An injured solo hiker in New Mexico spent two weeks stuck in the forest by himself after being robbed of his gear, authorities said this week.
In a Facebook post, the Santa Fe Fire Department wrote that its firefighters had built a fire to help raise the man’s “dangerously low” body temperature, fed him, and gave him water before evacuating him in a 9-hour operation alongside three local search and rescue teams. (Disclosure: The author is a former member of one of the teams involved, Atalaya Search and Rescue.)
“The man suffered from chronic back pain and again injured his back while hiking and could not stand or walk. His gear was stolen at which point he got lost and disoriented,” the department wrote.
Hiker John Utsey first discovered the man 600 yards off the trail on Saturday while on a family trip to Santa Fe Baldy, a popular day-hiking destination. Local news station KRQE reports that when firefighters were unable to locate the man after an eight-hour search, Utsey headed back himself on Sunday morning and led two different emergency teams to the stricken hiker.
“Never had we found somebody who had been out for that long,” Santa Fe Fire Department Captain Nathan Garcia told the station. “It’s hard to say. The human body can do some amazing things sometimes but I don’t think he had very much left in him. He seemed kind of at the end when we did actually encounter him.”
The hiker is recovering at a local hospital.