Hiker recovering after tumbling 200 feet off trail

Posted: Tuesday, August 11, 2009

SANTA CRUZ, Calif. - For 20 years, Live Oak, Calif. resident James Nee was determined to hike the entire 2,650 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail that stretches from Mexico to Canada through three western states.

All it took was a single gift, a book on the Pacific Crest Trail and everything a hiker needs to know to tackle it. For months, the retired wildlife biologist for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, gathered knowledge and gear to prepare for the journey.

After nearly completing the trail this past week by tackling it in segments, the 73-year-old man lost his footing and fell about 200 feet down a steep cliff before a clump of trees broke his fall Tuesday morning. Three of his vertebrae and his right tibia are broken and he has a serious gash on the back of his head, Nee said.

He is recovering in a Seattle hospital after being rescued by a fellow hiker on the trail in Washington state.

"On a scale of one to 10, physically I feel like a four," Nee said.

"Emotionally though I feel like a nine-and-a-half."

Nee was just north of the Snoqualmie Pass on Tuesday after arriving in Northern California on Monday. Since the beginning of his retirement, Nee hiked the trail in segments.

He was stuck for 10 hours before Matthew Thyer, an avid runner from Yakima, Wash., heard his screams for help.

"At first I thought it was a marmot chirping an echo off one of the headwalls above me, but it made me pause for a moment," Thyer wrote Wednesday in a blog about the trip.

"I stopped, looking around as I jogged in place, and eventually my eyes came to rest upon the figure of a man about 200 feet below me lying on his back near a small collection of trees."

Thyer made contact with search and rescue via his cell phone and established their location with his GPS.



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