Hiker recovers after tumbling off trail

Posted: Wednesday, August 12, 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. He was stuck for 10 hours before Matthew Thyer, an avid runner from Yakima, Wash., heard his screams for help.

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