Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Rangers Find Boy Missing Overnight Near Schroon Lake

Forest Rangers found a 10-year-old Sunday morning in good health after he went missing overnight in the Pharaoh Lake Wilderness.

Forest Ranger James Waters said he found the boy (who forest rangers wouldn’t identify because of his age) about a mile off the Short Swing Trail.

Waters had been on the way to meet up with another forest ranger near Gooseneck Pond when he took a break atop a boulder field. While taking a break, Waters yelled out, hoping the boy would hear him, which is standard during search-and-rescue missions.

“I was yelling and sitting there still and … I heard what I thought was a crow answering me,” Waters said.  “It was just a slight, sharp noise. I did that three or four times, and I said to myself, “Boy that’s crazy that that bird just keeps answering me.’”

Waters then walked in the direction of the noise and soon saw the 10-year-old boy on the edge of a swamp. “I could barely hear him,” Waters said. “(His voice) was just so soft.”

Waters said the boy was in good shape when he was found at 8:50 a.m. He was dressed in jeans, T-shirt, and sneakers but didn’t have any food or water on him. The temperatures had been in the 60s that night, so there was little chance of hypothermia. He slept on the forest floor with his arms inside his shirt to protect him from bugs.

The boy had become lost while hiking with his family the previous evening. During the trip, he apparently wandered off onto an unmaintained trail and got lost. The family of 10 had been split into two groups along the trail, and the boy had been traveling between them when he went off trail, forest rangers said.

Captain John Streiff said state police notified the state Department of Environmental Conservation dispatch office in Ray Brook about the missing boy at about 7:15 p.m. Saturday, and forest rangers began searching soon afterward.

Twenty-three Forest Rangers, the State Police’s Special Operations Response Team, K-9 units, a State Police helicopter, and Essex County Sheriff’s deputies participated in the search.

The search team caught a break at about 4 a.m. when it found the boy’s water bottle in the vicinity of the unmaintained trail. After that, crews began focusing in that area. The boy was located within a half-mile of the location of the water bottle.

Streiff said it was important that the boy was found so quickly because stormy weather came through the area hours after the search.  “We not only were concerned about having a 10-year-old boy in the woods, but we were concerned about these fronts were coming in Sunday night: these heavy rains and winds and thunderstorms,” he said. “Regardless, we did not want to leave him out in the night. We didn’t want to leave a 10-year-old boy in the storms that night.”

Photo and map courtesy of DEC: The 10-year-old boy is reunited with his family. The map is of the search area.

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Mike Lynch is a staff writer and photographer for the nonprofit Adirondack Explorer, the regional bimonthly news magazine with a focus on outdoor recreation and environmental issues. Mike’s favorite outdoor activities include paddling, hiking, fishing and backcountry skiing. In 2011, he paddled the 740-mile Northern Forest Canoe Trail from Old Forge to Fort Kent, Maine. From 2007 until 2014, Mike worked as an outdoors writer and photographer for the Adirondack Daily Enterprise in Saranac Lake. Mike welcomes story ideas and can be reached at

15 Responses

  1. Justin Farrell says:

    Wow, poor little guy!
    Happy it ended with good news, kudos to the Rangers once again!
    Just curious what a “bounder field” is?

  2. Walt Linck says:

    So how about a discussion about the “unmaintained trail”? This has happened before, and it’s just ONE of the associated problems.

    • Mike says:

      I’m not sure what you are getting at with that comment.

      There’s literally tons of unmaintained trails, herd paths, old roads, railroads and bushwacks in the Adirondacks.

      What would you like to discuss?

    • Justin Farrell says:

      I’ve been on this unmaintained trail, which is actually part of an old roadway along the north side above Rock Pond Brook, and it approaches the base of the cliffs on Potter Mountain. Not sure if rock climbers use the path or not, but it is super easy to miss the turn where the state trail turns sharply south off the old roadbed to cross Rock Pond Brook.

  3. Ron Konowitz says:

    Another Great Save by the NYS Forest Rangers, NYS Police, and the Essex County Sheriffs Department !
    Job Well Done !!

  4. Paul says:

    Glad they found him. Is that person in the photo wearing flip flops?

    • Mike Lynch says:

      Yes, but that reunion was near the trailhead, and the person had come from the parking lot, not the woods.

      • Paul says:

        Oh good. I thought that maybe these folks were the other hikers from the family that maybe were helping with the search?

  5. Charlie S says:

    Nice ending but once again the first thing that came to my mind was children, and adults, while in the woods should be taught that if you are suddenly in a position where you are without a clue as to your whereabouts….stay put! This is very important.
    Also….whistles. They don’t take up that much space. Evidently nobody ever expects to be, or have someone in their party, lost. We all know the stories with the unhappy endings, the one’s where hikers were lost decades ago and still not found.

    I’m just saying. I’m not mister perfect myself and I need to be reminded like I just was with this story. Every thing happens for a reason…for us to learn.

    • Geogymn says:

      Yes, whistles! This needs to be highlighted. We should campaign the need for everyone to carry a whistle. This has to be the most important item one should carry if they lack rudimentary survival skills. They might not be able to make a fire, even with a fire starter, they might not be able to use a compass, but everyone knows how to blow a whistle. Its cheap and easy to carry. Make it a habit and carry a whistle around your neck.

      I once had a wooden whistle that wooden whistle,
      So I bought a steel whistle and steel couldn’t whistle,
      So I bought a tin whistle, now I tin whistle.

  6. Ruzanne Behrens says:

    Great Job Jim! Miss those high peak days!

  7. Vicki Vallie says:

    Awesome job!! Our community and professionals do jump into action!! Thank you for all that these groups efforts and SUCCESS of this rescue!! As I read this post my heart went out to this boy and his family.. Very happy to hear great end of story! Thankfully!!
    I am not sure enough praise and thanks are given to these men and women and what they do everyday in their jobs! The emergency response of pulling this many different kinds of help in this area is impressive!
    Helicopter, K9 search dogs and Handlers, 23 Forest Rangers, State Police, County Police and if it was needed the Rescue Squad, Emt emergency personnel and firemen would have been right there too! There are opportunities to Thank all these people who are doing their “jobs” but do go above and beyond ” The Job”! THANK YOU !!

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