It was only supposed to be a short walk last Wednesday afternoon – half an hour, half an hour out.
It ended almost two days later with search and rescue (SAR) crews scouring Quadra Island for two lost women, both seniors.
The effort involved SAR crews from across Vancouver Island and even the Lower Mainland using night vision technology, multiple helicopters and search dogs. It was a few locals though that came across the pair, Roberta Robson and Karen Talbot, during the search.
Talbot says Robson, who has a place she rents out on Quadra but now lives in Terrace, was going to show Talbot a lake on Quadra, where Talbot lives. It was not a major hike, only a walk of about hour total, so they did not bring supplies, not even water or matches. They only arrived though about 2:30 p.m. While they made their destination, on their way out Robson took a wrong turn, and the two soon realized they were lost.
“Coming back, she went to far to the left,” Talbot says. “We ended up down on a bluff. We slept there for the night.”
Complicating things, and ultimately exposing them to risk of hypothermia was a nasty change in the weather. While Wednesday had been pleasant during daylight, Thursday brought heavy rain.
“We got pretty wet. We had wool hats on and wool sweaters, and I had rain pants on,” she says. “She had a good raincoat, but my raincoat wasn’t that good and it got wet.”
At first, the two stayed out on the bluff to try to get the attention of any helicopters that might pass over, but once the heavy rain started, they sought the protection of a nearby cedar tree in a ravine.
“There were helicopters on Thursday, but there were lots of them on Friday,” she says. “We kept trying to signal them…. We were in the bush, and there were lots of trees.”
Friday brought better weather and more SAR members. Some Quadra residents though were the ones that came across Robson and Talbot a little after lunch.
“They had a whistle, so they kept whistling,” Talbot says. “We both started calling, and they found us.”
Robson heard the whistle first, and the two were able to get the attention of the searchers, Heather St. John and her son Ben, as well as a friend of theirs named Brad – Talbot says does not know his last name.
SAR members were called in and gave the two women some soup and lifted them out of the area with a helicopter.
“We went for a ride to the community centre on the cable from the helicopter,” she says. “That was really cold.”
Talbot was soon home where she had a hot shower and something more to eat while Robson did the same at a friend’s.
“We don’t know we would’ve made it another night because we’d gotten so wet the day before,” Talbot says. “That Friday morning we were starting to shake.”
Despite the ordeal, Talbot is not dissuaded from going back out for a walk in the woods, but she admits next time she will go out better prepared.
“I have no reservations about going back out, but I’m going to be carrying a pack with me,” she says.