Lost and Found: How the Missing Man Found His Way from Near Blocksburg to Redcrest
Griffin, a 34-year-old who recently moved here from Fort Worth, Texas, was living in a rural cabin east of Fort Seward when he got separated from his dog and his cabin not long before dark. Griffin said, he’d been working hard and hadn’t been drinking water so he thinks he might have been dehydrated and not thinking clearly. Griffin said he’d followed his dog west into a rugged area before losing him.
When he got to a ridge, he heard his cellphone beep and realized he had service so he called a friend, Tony Perez telling him that he was lost. “I told Tony I got separated from the cabin and I’m having trouble finding my way,” explained Griffin.
Perez, who was alone with his small child, arranged for another friend to travel to the area and see if he could find Griffin. The friend drove the roads honking, hoping the sound would bring Griffin to safety but, though Griffin could sometimes hear the horn and see the headlights, he had difficulty pinning down exactly how to get to the vehicle. “I knew this must be him [but] the sound moved back and forth through the ridges,” he said.
Eventually, Griffin says he discovered a fenceline that he was pretty sure would get him to the road. At that moment a man drove an all terrain vehicle about a football field length away from him. Griffin says the man gave him “the impression I was going to get shot….He turned his lights on and his ATV on and shined his flashlight on me and then on his rifle giving me the impression that I’d better not go any closer.”
Griffin decided that he needed to go in the opposite direction from the man with the firearm. “I turned around and tried to go back the way I came. I was dehydrated when I started….With everything together, it became difficult to navigate. It was [almost] dark. I had no flashlight or anything–just a pair of shorts, a t-shirt, torn up boots and a utility knife.Soon after that, Griffin says he fell. “My boots were really slick and had holes in them. I was standing on 4 inch thick floor of leaves. I started sliding down the hill. I lost control. I went through some thorns.”
Griffin said that he must have hit hard. He doesn’t remember very well. “[B]ut when I got back up, everything did not look the same….I tried crawling out of there.” He thinks this is when he got badly turned around. “I tried navigating my way…to Alderpoint….I looked around [and] thought I knew the right direction. [But] I think all the directions after that were wrong.
Not long after that, Griffin says he “stumbled across a pig.” It was pretty dark by this time so he doesn’t actually know but the animal “made some noises and snorted….It didn’t sound like a small one. It sounded like a monster.” Griffin found a tree and climbed it quickly. After a time, the animal left and he climbed down.
“I walked a little further,” he said but, “it was so dark I could not see my hand.” He realized that he needed to stop wandering. Against the skyline he “found a tree with a big wide branch covered in moss. I slept on it.” Later, shivering with cold, he climbed down to the foot of the tree and covered himself with moss.
At the first light he was up and on the move again. “I kept trying to find my way back to the cabin and the right spot,” he said. “I knew the Van Duzen was just going to be over the next hill. But the problem was I was going the wrong direction. I wasn’t familiar with the Van Duzen or the Eel.”
Thursday and Friday, Griffin says he tried several ways to attract attention. At one point he tried to start a tire on fire with some glasses he found in some rubbish and some dry tinder . “There were many tires in addition to a lot of trash back in that beautiful area,” he explained. The tire started smoking but didn’t appear to give off enough to bring help. He also tried to catch a helicopter pilot’s attention with some reflective material.
But eventually he decided he would need to hike out. He had found some berries and water that had helped him think more clearly. So he headed out “in a non-panicked and famished state of mind.”
In the course of hike out, Griffin said he found a lot of water and some berries. He even found some dirt roads and abandoned structures but no one responded when he yelled for help. “I walked by a few houses and screamed out that I was lost but you could see that there was nobody there.” He was afraid to go up the dirt roads and away from water. He also said that after his experience with the man with the gun, he was afraid that people there might hurt him.
Several times he heard people hammering or otherwise working and talking. “I hollared out, ‘Hello, Hello! I’m lost!’ Then I heard no more speaking or hammering.” Griffin said he just continued on then. “I didn’t look to the right or left after that. They were obviously more concerned with hiding then helping.”
About mid-morning on Saturday, Griffin said he saw “a truck crossing a bridge. I waved it down.”
He says he told the man, “I don’t know where I am. I’m dehydrated.” The man, he said, didn’t give him directions or help. “He said keep walking [and] kicked the truck in reverse and drove on.”
Griffin says that he thinks the man thought he was “a tweeker.”
“I was cut up. I was dirty. I had a black trash bag over my back [holding items he’d found to help him survive.] There is no telling what I looked like.”
At some point, Griffin said, he had wrapped his cellphone, his wallet, his passport and his money in a ziplock bag he’d found in the trash and tied them all to a belt loop so that when he had to swim across waterways, they would stay dry.
Eventually, on Saturday, Griffin said he saw a paved road in the distance and started heading towards that. “When I saw a paved road, I knew there were folks that would listen to me,” he said. “I hiked across a river and climbed up a fairly steep bank full of poison ivy [probably poison oak] and sticks and roots.”
Eventually, he came across someone who pointed him towards the little town of Redcrest. He saw a woman in a yard and started telling her his story. “A hunter from out of town heard me [and said,] ‘I find this hard to believe.'” He wanted to hear the details so he drove Griffin a short distance to the Eternal Tree House Cafe in Redcrest. “When I walked in the door, the cashier…the cook, she said you are on the internet. Call the sheriff.”
Eventually, Griffin was able to get hold of the sheriff and his friend. The hunter and the folks in the cafe, he said gratefully, were helpful.
“That place there was real nice,” he said.
When the sheriff deputy showed up to check on him, Griffin told him that he didn’t need medical help. He had however hurt his left leg favoring it because of the blisters he had gotten. “I kinda wore that leg out.” He also said his “knee was swollen.” All in all though, Griffin says, he was “in pretty good shape.”
Today, he’s watching his friend’s kid paint and keeping her from chasing the neighbor’s cat. Life is a lot less exciting than it was the last few days. He sounds like he likes it like that.