KILKENNY - New Hampshire Fish and Game officers searched overnight for a 44-year-old Nashua man who was behind schedule in returning Friday from hiking in the White Mountains' Kilkenny Range. The hiker, however, walked out of the woods safely on his own at 4 a.m. Saturday.
Thomas Rogers "lost the trail and was forced to turn back" and trace his track to find his way out while the effort was mounted to find him, Fish and Game officials said Saturday in a news release.
Fish and Game officers began the search after they received a call from Rogers' concerned girlfriend who told them Rogers was several hours behind schedule to complete his hike.
Rogers was in an area without a cell phone signal and couldn't notify his girlfriend that he was late, said officials, who credited him with being fully equipped and accompanied by his dog.
"Rogers was intending to hike an approximate 11-mile loop which included the Bunnell Notch Trail, Kilkenny Ridge Trail and Unknown Pond Trail. His plan also included summiting Mt Cabot, The Bulge and The Horn," Fish and Game Sgt. Mark Ober said in the release.
"The trails, which had not been hiked since several inches of fresh snow had fallen recently, were difficult to navigate due to the remote location and lack of blazes that help to guide hikers on the right path. Mr. Rogers had made it just past Unknown Pond when he lost the trail," said Ober, of the Region One office in Lancaster.
When he lost the trail, Rogers tried to get his bearings by hiking an additional half-mile, looking for signs of the trail, Ober wrote. But he kept getting further off-trail instead, and then "did the prudent and right thing by following his track back out the way he came," Ober said.
Because Rogers turned back, his planned 11.4-mile hike "turned into a 16-mile trudge," Obert said.
While two Fish and Game officers spent the night searching, a friend of Rogers' girlfriend also hiked the entire loop Ober said, and met up with him on the Bunnell Notch Trail. The officers were notified that Rogers was safe, and they hiked about 5 miles back out, returning at 7 a.m., Ober wrote."
Because of the time of year, remoteness of the area, and the fact that we didn't know if Mr. Rogers was hurt, a rescue mission was conducted. Mr. Rogers did nothing wrong, was completely prepared, and exercised good judgment by turning back when he couldn't find the trail," Ober concluded.
— Bob Hookway, Union Leader correspondent