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Hungry and wet, hiker is found after two weeks in forest

September 15, 1997

GRANTS PASS, Ore. (AP) _ During his two weeks lost in the Siskiyou National Forest, 50-year-old mathematician David Vetterlein had plenty of time to think about how he might have done things differently.

He should have taken the CB radio his father offered. He should have packed a lighter or fresh matches that wouldn’t fizzle out. He should have brought a better map and food that wouldn’t spoil.

Soaked from a night of rain, hungry and without the strength to even lift his hiking stick, Vetterlein just kept walking, eventually finding a logging road.

On Sunday afternoon, he spied the pickup truck of Dan Speelman, who was a little uncertain of where he was himself after a morning of bow hunting for deer with his 10-year-old son.

``He was walking along the road and saw my vehicle and started waving his arms,″ Speelman said Monday. ``He’s a real tall slender guy and he looked pretty bedraggled. When I stopped, he just said, `Oh, thank God, thank God.‴

``He gave me sandwiches and hot coffee, exactly what I needed,″ Vetterlein said. ``I was suffering hypothermia at that point.″

Speelman drove Vetterlein to a ranger station, where he ate a big bowl of soup, called his parents, and was checked out by emergency medical technicians, who pronounced him fit.

Vetterlein said he lost the trail on the second day of what was supposed to be a three-day hike and depended solely on his compass until he found a logging road. His way was blocked by deep gorges, steep slopes and impenetrable brush.

Beans that he had stored in plastic bags spoiled. He ate huckleberries and some other food that he had brought along.

``The things that saved me were those dozen cornmeal muffins I made before the trip and my father buying me some salmon jerky,″ Vetterlein said. ``It was too salty to eat at the beginning but saved me at the end.″

About five days into his ordeal, a helicopter flew over at treetop level to pick up a searcher who had been injured, but Vetterlein couldn’t get the pilot’s attention through the trees. He tied his red shirt to his walking stick and waved it at three planes that flew overhead, but no one seemed to notice.

During his ordeal, he thought of how he would never be able to tell his professor he had solved the problem he had been working on, and how he would go to church every Sunday if he ever got home.

``Towards the end there, it was just pray, pray, pray,″ Vetterlein said.

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