DEC Forest Ranger Lt. Brian Dubay points at a map of the Adirondack Loj region during a search last fall.
The Search for Colin Gillis is the most recent in a string of calls the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation cases this winter.
Since December, Rangers have responded to a total of 10 calls for assistance in Essex and Franklin Counties.
Along with the continuing Gillis search, the incidents include:
• On Monday, Dec. 26, at approximately 11:40 p.m., DEC Central Dispatch received a call reporting an overdue hiker on or near Mt. Colden. Ronnie Cusmano, 55, of Valhalla, was hiking from the Upper Works Trailhead to Mt. Colden. He routinely used his personal locator device to notify his wife upon completion of his hikes. Cusmano’s wife had not heard from him and was concerned. A DEC Forest Ranger responded and began searching on the trails south of Mt. Colden. At approximately 3:30 a.m. the following morning, the Forest Ranger located Cusmano in good health at the Herbert Brook Lean-to along the path up Mount Marshall.
“Always inform someone of your itinerary and stick to it,” David Winchell of the DEC said.
• On Wednesday, Dec. 28, at approximately 8:52 p.m., DEC Dispatch in Ray Brook received a call reporting an overdue hiker on Hurricane Mountain. Clifford Reiter, 54, had started up Hurricane Mountain looking for his two adult sons who were overdue from hiking the mountain. Not aware that his sons had already exited the trail and signed out on the trail register, Reiter proceeded to search for them. Reiter’s wife became concerned due to the extreme cold temperatures and called for assistance. Meanwhile, the two sons went back up the trail to search for their father. A DEC Forest Ranger responded and located all three men in good conditions at 9:30 p.m.
“Call DEC Forest Rangers at 891-0235 when you believe someone may be lost or injured in the backcountry,” Winchell said.
• On Friday, Jan. 6, at approximately 3:40 p.m., DEC Dispatch in Ray Brook received a call from Franklin County 911 reporting two skiers lost on the trails at the Paul Smith’s College Visitor Interpretive Center (VIC). James Mort, 61, and Patricia Mort, 57, both of Red Hook, had skied off the main trail system and were at a gazebo on the far side of a secondary trail system. They declined the option of following their tracks back to the main trail or out to the road and back to the VIC, due to exhaustion and lack of lights. One DEC Forest Ranger responded and located the couple. They were escorted out to the road and transported back to the VIC.
“Know your route, the terrain and your physical capabilities,” Winchell said. “Always carry a light, a map and a compass.”
• On Saturday, Jan. 14, at approximately 4 p.m., while on routine state land patrol, a DEC Forest Ranger came upon an injured skier on the Newcomb Lake Road. Barbara Taylor, 58, of Long Lake, had fallen and injured her shoulder and ankle. She was exhausted and needed assistance getting out. The Forest Ranger splinted her injured ankle and evacuated Taylor by rescue toboggan. At 5:30 p.m. Taylor was returned to the trailhead parking areas where she indicated she would seek further medical treatment on her own.
“Accidents can happen,” Winchell said. “Always carry a first aid kit and contact the DEC Forest Rangers in backcountry emergencies.”
• On Saturday, Jan. 21, at approximately 1:36 p.m., DEC Dispatch in Ray Brook received a call reporting an injured hiker. Ruby Sulley, 58, of Keeseville, was hiking between Hopkins and Giant Mountains, when she fell and suffered a leg injury near the Giant Mountain lean-to at noon. Her hiking companions contacted Ray Brook Dispatch and two DEC Forest Rangers responded. Upon reaching Sulley, they assisted her as she continued to hike out. They reached the trailhead at 5:30 p.m. where Sulley indicated she would seek further medical attention on her own.
• On Saturday, Jan. 21, at approximately 2:18 p.m., DEC Dispatch in Ray Brook received a call reporting an injured hiker. Kevin Cox, 61, of Troy, was snowshoeing with a group of eight when he twisted his knee near the summit of Lower Wolfjaw. State Police Aviation was unavailable due to potential for blowing snow; and snowmobiles were unable to be used due to lack of snow. Temperatures hovered near zero and below during the rescue. Members of the hiking party had been assisting Cox by "sliding" him down when he was unable to walk. Seven DEC Forest Rangers responded from the Garden Trailhead in Keene Valley with a rescue sled and met the group at 6:50 p.m., approximately 1/4 mile above the Wolfjaw lean-to. Cox was brought to the Garden parking area at approximately 11:10 p.m. and the group indicated they would transport him and obtain further medical attention.
“Dress properly with layers of wool and fleece (not cotton) clothing: a wool or fleece hat, gloves or mittens, wind/rain resistant outer wear, and winter boots,” Winchell said.
• On Saturday, Feb. 25, at approximately 4:50 p.m., DEC Dispatch in Ray Brook received a cell phone call from Mike Jones, 42, of Andover, Conn., that was transferred from Essex County 911. Mr. Jones reported that he had attempted to hike to the top of Algonquin Mountain on Friday afternoon when he was forced off the trail by high winds and snow. He had bushwhacked down a drainage area and spent the night in a hole in the snow. In the morning he continued downhill until he encountered a trail marker and was able to obtain cell phone service. He had no idea where he was and stated he was wet and very cold. Jones also indicated that he was visiting the area by himself and had not told anyone of his plans to climb Algonquin Mountain, therefore nobody had, or could have, reported him missing.
It was determined that he was on the Indian Pass Trail southwest of Rocky Falls approximately 2.5 miles from the trailhead at Adirondack Loj. Three Forest Rangers responded, snowmobiling part of the way down the trail and then skiing the remainder of the way. Deep fresh snow required the Forest Rangers to break trail while on skis. They reached Mr. Jones at 6:42 p.m. He appeared to be suffering from hypothermia and frostbite to his hands and feet. After feeding, clothing and warming him, the Forest Rangers helped walk him back to the snowmobile and then transported him by snowmobile to the South Meadow Road. He was transferred to the Lake Placid Rescue Squad at 8:37 p.m. and transported to Adirondack Medical Center in Lake Placid for further medical evaluation and treatment.
“Never travel alone and always inform someone of your intended route and return time,” Winchell said. “Check weather before entering the woods and if the weather is poor, postpone your trip. If the weather worsens, head out of the woods. Be prepared to spend an unexpected night in the woods pack plenty of food and water, extra clothing, flashlight/headlamp, ensolite pads, stove and extra fuel, and bivy sack or space blanket.
• On Saturday, Feb. 25, at approximately 7:30 p.m., DEC Dispatch in Ray Brook received a call from the wife of Brian Sullivan, 62, of Brooklyn, reporting him overdue. Mr. Sullivan had left from The Garden trailhead at 10:30 a.m. and planned to ski to the Mt. VanHovenburg Ski Center at the Olympic Sports Complex via Johns Brook, the Klondike Notch Trail and the Mr. Van Trail.Staff from the ski center patrolled the nearby portions of the Mr. Van Trail but had not seen Mr. Sullivan.
Seven DEC Forest Rangers responded and began searching from the two ends of Mr. Sullivan’s planned route. A Forest Ranger on a snowmobile on the South Meadow Road heard shouting shortly before 9 p.m. He stopped, turned off the snowmobile and took off his helmet allowing him to clearly hear Sullivan’s shouts from the other side of South Meadow Brook. The Ranger directed Sullivan across the brook, met up with him and found that he was in good condition. He was transported by snowmobile to the Adirondack Loj and reunited with his family at 9:30 p.m.
“Know your route, the terrain and your physical capabilities,” Winchell said. “Remember it takes more time and energy to travel through snow than it does on bare ground.”
• On Saturday, Feb. 25, at approximately 11:38 p.m., DEC Central Dispatch received a call from the girlfriend of Matthew Bradley, 36, of Lee, Mass., reporting him overdue. He had left from the Garden Trailhead on Saturday, planning to snowshoe to the summit of Mt. Marcy via Johns Brook and either the Phelps Trail or the Hopkins Trail. He then planned to continue to Adirondack Loj Trailhead via the VanHovenberg Trail.
Eleven Forest Rangers, including three Forest Rangers who had participated in the previous two searches, responded and searched through the night. DEC Central Dispatch had very limited and sporadic cell phone contact with Bradley because his cell phone battery was dying. Dispatchers were unable to get location information from him or obtain the coordinates of his cell phone. At 5 a.m., Bradley was able to place a quick call from his cell phone and provide the coordinates from his GPS. Forest Rangers determined that he was off trail in a drainage area on the southwestern slopes of Table Top Mountain.
Forest Rangers reached Mr. Bradley at approximately 9:20 a.m. He had moderate hypothermia and possible frostbite. Forest Rangers provided him food and then escorted him to an open area for retrieval. Bradley was hoisted into a State Police Aviation Unit helicopter with a Forest Ranger operating the hoist and transported to the Adirondack Medical Center in Saranac Lake for further medical evaluation and treatment.