The Worst Thursday, Part 2

06.7.2018 | 9:16 am

A note from Fatty: Part 1 is here. If you haven’t read it yet, read it before reading today’s post.

Lisa’s dad, Dee, was gone. And now, by running around off-trail in the thick mountain scrub oak, Lisa was lost, too.

Lisa didn’t have her phone with her, either. She had left that, along with everything else, with Kylie when she took off running, looking for her father.

And it was starting to rain.

Lisa was now truly terrified. Cold, lost, and no closer to understanding where her father could be. And no way to call Kylie to tell her to call 911. To tell Kylie that she wasn’t sure where she was.

One Good Thing
And then Lisa’s watch rang. Because her watch is also a phone. Which, in her panic, she had forgotten.

It was Kylie. She had called 911. The police were on their way.

So now Lisa just needed to find the trail, stay warm, and hopefully find her dad.

And then Lisa’s watch died. Strava, it turns out, is not kind to the Apple Watch’s battery.

Going Up
Blake (Lisa’s son), Scott (Lisa’s brother), and I got to the trailhead at the same time, maybe 4:30pm or so, by which time Dee had been missing for an hour (or more? My memory of the timeline is fuzzy and for sure inaccurate). By now, though, nobody thought this was a wacky misunderstanding and that he’d turn up any minute.

Kerry (Lisa’s other brother) was already there. Scott and Blake had thought to pick up several coats at someone’s house (Dee’s, I think?), along the way. I was glad to take one; Lisa had told me it was cold and raining up on the mountain.

Kerry stayed at the trailhead parking lot handling logistics — police and concerned family communications — while Scott, Blake and I headed up the trail.

Before too long, a policeman on a police dirt bike came down the trail toward us, lights on. We stopped him, explained who we were, and Austin — the cop’s name is Austin — told us he’d been to the end of the trail but hadn’t found anyone.

We called Lisa — who had found her way back to the trail and was now reunited with Kylie, and she explained to him he needed to take a left at a fork early in the trail and then continue up the trail “that has a lot of bridges.”

Austin’s eyes widened. “You have an 86-year-old and 89-year-0ld at the top of that trail?” he said.

“These aren’t ordinary old men,” I said. “They’re more physically fit than most men half their age.”

And then I told him why I stressed the “physically” in “physically fit.”

Last October
Until last October, Dee had lived on his own. He had lost his wife during the summer, but he had his family close by and was still perfectly capable of taking care of himself.

Then one morning his sons came by to find Dee’s house trashed and Dee about to leave the house in his socks, making no sense at all. They called Lisa, who told them to call an ambulance immediately; Dee had almost certainly had a stroke.

Which was correct.

Dee recovered well in many ways. His mobility is unaffected and his personality is intact. But he’s more easily confused, he doesn’t reason as well, and his vision is severely affected.

And that, more than anything else, was why Lisa was panicked. It was so easy to picture him as having had another stroke. Or having fallen. Or just not being able to see what was in front of him and wandered off.

And since he has never been able to make heads or tails of the smart phone Kerry gave him for his birthday last year, and the cochlear implant has never really worked great, yelling and calling for him weren’t going to do much good either.

Austin went up on his motorcycle. Blake and I followed, hiking. Scott turned around and went back down; he was going to drive around and approach the mountain from Squaw Peak, looking for his father from a different direction.

Hope, Briefly
Blake and I and hiked up the increasingly steep singletrack, which I had never been up before. “Those old men really hiked this?” I asked Blake. “That’s insane.”

“Now you know where my mom gets it,” Blake said, although he knew I already knew.

We trudged up, my feet already hurting — having come directly from the office, I was not wearing shoes (or any other clothes) made for this kind of hike.

And then we saw a young woman, hiking down toward us with an old man. An old man who looked a lot like…Dee.

But it was Dee’s brother, Keith. Walking down the mountain in the company of a nice hiker who had volunteered to get him down off the mountain and out of the rain.

“I hope you find him safe and sound,” Keith told us. “But I suspect foul play.”

Up the Trail
Blake and I marched up the four miles of the trail, mostly keeping conversation light. I don’t know what was in Blake’s head, but I was trying to avoid thinking about the central thought: If Dee wasn’t on the one and only trail going up and down this mountain, he was off that trail, and there was no way that was going to end well.

I kept thinking about how I’d told Lisa, more than once, “Your dad is going to die while hiking.” Any time I had said it, I had meant it in a positive way. That he was such a strong old guy that he was going to be one of the lucky few people who died doing what he loved best. I’d go on to say I’ve always looked up to how tough he is, and have hoped that I’ll be able to keep that kind of fitness, so I can maybe die doing what I like doing.

I had a feeling that Lisa was revisiting my words and not finding any comfort in them at all. (Later, once this was over, Lisa told me I was right.)

We got to a steep, rocky section and. found Austin’s parked motorcycle — he wouldn’t be able to take it any further. Half a mile later, we found his bulletproof vest. didn’t need that, either.

Eventually, we got to a meadow and caught up with Austin, and called Lisa to find out how close we were. “I can hear you in real life, not just on the phone,” she answered, so we were close.

A moment later we were together: Kylie, Blake, Austin, Lisa, and me. Lisa hardly noticed Blake or me. I’ve never seen her so distressed, and hope to never see her that way again.

It was about 6pm. Maybe two hours of daylight left.

“I’m going to get the Life Flight helicopter out here to look for him and activate Search and Rescue,” Austin said.

And that’s where we’ll pick up next time.


  1. Comment by Boston Carlos | 06.7.2018 | 9:32 am

    Did Keith ever elaborate on why he suspected foul play? Also – what was his mood like at this time? Is he in a similar mental state as his brother – mostly there, but trouble reasoning – or is he more mentally fit? Was he panicked, or relatively calm?

    Keith was a lawyer and I think may suspect foul play in a lot of things. This moment cracked me up. It was the only funny moment of the day. He seemed very calm, way more calm than I felt. – FC

  2. Comment by Nic Grillo | 06.7.2018 | 10:50 am

    Really glad that you told us everything ended well up front!

  3. Comment by L'Hippo | 06.7.2018 | 4:39 pm

    You’ve got me hooked like its a BBC mystery!

  4. Comment by leroy | 06.7.2018 | 5:09 pm

    I’m glad this has a happy ending, but very sorry for all who lived this.

    The shift to taking care of our parents after they took care of us is fraught even in the best of circumstances.

    I hope the going forward part after the happy ending part still includes hikes.

    Thanks Leroy, and yes there are still hikes. Just with some new rules and clothing. More on that at the end of the story. – FC

  5. Comment by KB | 06.9.2018 | 11:46 am

    I’m so glad that you told us that this turns out well. It is truly frightening. I am imagining Dee being my 84 year old Dad, and I understand how upset Lisa was. In fact, my husband “disappeared” during a mountain bike ride last year, and I was over the edge with fear and panic. When he turned up hours later, I couldn’t stop shaking and crying.

    I almost never commented before your blogging break. I’m glad to have you back. I have always enjoyed your posts.


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