A 50-year-old named Jiji Oh spent three nights lost in the harsh Colorado wilderness before locating fishermen and being rescued.
Oh traveled from her home in Houston, Texas to Steamboat Springs earlier this month to take a self-care trip.
“I’m from South Korea and I have also lived in New Zealand and Australia. I had never been to Colorado before at all, but I was really wanting to see the leaves and I was missing crisp mountain air,” she told OutThere Colorado.
She made plans to hike the Devil’s Causeway trail, where she made her first big mistake. Oh didn’t tell anyone where she was going or how long she would be gone.
Devil’s Causeway is considered a challenging trail located deep in the Flat Tops Wilderness Area.
She met a pair of hikers at the trailhead at about 5:30 AM. Then, she walked with them for roughly three and a half miles. That’s when one of them started to complain about their hip hurting. Then, two other hikers decided to turn back, too. This left Oh to continue on alone.
After traveling an estimated two miles alone, the trail started getting tougher. Oh made the decision to turn back, as well.
“The path was very slippery and muddy, because of melting snow. On the side of the trail I saw a sign that said #1119. I assumed that it was another trail that would get me back to the car. That is where I went wrong,” said Oh.
Oh had actually turned onto East Fork Trail #1119, which goes 15.7 miles along the north side of Stillwater Reservoir. According to the U.S. Forest Service, this trail is considered moderate to challenging.
Around 7:00 p.m., it started getting dark, Oh recalled.
“I remember thinking, ‘this is for real.’ I called out for help, but everything was so big and wide open that I didn’t even hear myself echo back.”
Hiker Recalls Spending the Night in the Colorado Wilderness
She fell asleep against a hill in a hole she dug and barely slept. The next morning, she woke up sore, hungry, and still in a rough situation.
“I knew that I couldn’t just wait here for something to happen. I had to get up and move.”
She spent the whole next day trying to make it back to the trail. That task seemed more impossible by the hour.
“I didn’t want to think about how hungry I was. I was a lot more worried about staying hydrated,” she said.
Even though she had no equipment to properly filter it, Oh began drinking handfuls of water from the creek every now and then. Unfortunately, she was still lost by night.
She spent that night and another night in the wilderness. However, on Thursday, her lucky break came. She spotted two men fishing in a nearby creek around 1:00 p.m.
“I screamed for help and waved my arms at them. Still, it took me 10-15 minutes to reach them. I was crying when I finally got to them. They seemed confused, at first.”
“They offered me food and water. It was such a relief. I finally knew that I was going to be alright. Empathy does not always come naturally to people, but these two men kept asking me if I was okay. They were just so kind.”
After it was all said and done, Oh was safely taken back to where she was staying. She visited an urgent care, suffering minor frostbite on her feet.