When This Dad Called Out For His Kid On A Hike, He Heard A Strange And Unfamiliar Voice Answer Back

When This Dad Called Out For His Kid On A Hike, He Heard A Strange And Unfamiliar Voice Answer Back

When John Utsey and his kids went for a hike in the summer of 2020, he experienced what must be among a parent’s worst nightmares: becoming separated from one of his children in the vast and unforgiving wilderness. Then when the dad called out to his lost daughter, trying to locate her amid the towering trees, he was answered by a mysterious voice – one that didn’t sound at all as though it belonged to a young girl. Something had to be wrong.

Hiking along the Winsor Trail

Utsey never could’ve guessed what that sound would ultimately lead him to, either. He and his children had been enjoying a stroll on the picturesque Winsor Trail – a lengthy path within New Mexico’s Santa Fe National Forest. Naturally, the mountainous region is a popular spot for explorers in the area.

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The Utsey clan

So, the Utsey clan followed in the footsteps of these many hikers as they took in their majestic surroundings on the trail. The dad and his family all like to camp and enjoy biking and geocaching, too. Yep, something tells us that they love the great outdoors!

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Something lurking in the dark woods

But an appreciation for nature couldn’t prepare Utsey for what happened in the summer of 2020. Something was waiting for him and his family in the dark recesses of the New Mexico woods – something that the father could not ignore. And as soon as he heard the mysterious cry, Utsey and his kids’ relaxing hike morphed into an unforgettable experience.

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John Utsey’s survival skills

Utsey was 47 when he took to the trail that day, while his two kids were 12 and ten. And while the great outdoors can sometimes be unforgiving, the father probably had better survival skills than most. For starters, he’s a former member of the U.S. Marine Corps.

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The National Center for Genome Resources

Then, after leaving service, Utsey took a position at the National Center for Genome Resources in Santa Fe. The veteran worked there as one of the facility’s data center managers, staying in his role for a decade and a half. That’s a lengthy stint!

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Switching careers

Utsey ultimately switched careers, though, and moved into a field you probably wouldn’t associate with former Marines. Back in 2013, the dad of two scored a job at Santa Fe Prep. Yes, he’s now working at a school, where he’s currently the director of technology.

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A lengthy 22 miles

With that broad range of experiences under his belt, then, you’d think that Utsey would have no problems navigating the Winsor Trail with his kids. The path itself is just over 22 miles in length and stretches across some beautiful terrain. The forest, in particular, makes for a truly stunning backdrop while walking.

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Cliffs galore

But if you don’t like heights, we’d advise against tackling this trail in New Mexico. At its highest point, the winding path hits a peak of more than 11,000 feet. No, that’s not a typo! Even the less lofty areas are still pretty hair-raising, as they drop no lower than 7,000 feet above sea level.

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Deemed an intermediate-level hike

Yet it seems that the vast majority of folks who take on this trail wouldn’t consider it to be a particularly tough journey. On the Hiking Project website, three-quarters of walkers deemed the path suitable for people with only intermediate-level experience. The rest saw the trail as “difficult.” And that’s not even taking into consideration the strange sound that turned Utsey’s day upside down.

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Boasting some dangers

Suffice to say, then, that the Winsor Trail isn’t a cakewalk for everyone. But what about the forest itself? Is it worth visiting? We think so! If you love alpine trees, you’ll probably adore wandering around the area. But this idyllic spot does still harbor some dangers.

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Token Adams’ vanishing

One tragic story emerged back in the fall of 2013. Not long before, a firefighter named Token Adams had journeyed into Santa Fe National Forest to see if a blaze had broken out there. Adams – a member of the United States Forest Service – had hopped aboard an all-terrain vehicle and taken off in search of the flames.

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An unsuccessful search

After driving into the forest at the end of August, though, Adams failed to come back out. And while a 200-strong search party was formed to find him, unfortunately none of the intrepid rescuers could locate the fireman over the nailbiting days that followed.

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Unearthing a body

It didn’t look good, and those fears were confirmed on the eighth day of the search when Adams’ body was discovered in the woods. The New Mexico State Police told reporters that the firefighter looked to have been killed in an ATV accident. The U.S. Forest Service worker had been just 41 at the time of his death.

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The disappearance of Audrey Richman Kaplan

And sadly Adams isn’t the only person to have lost their life in this attractive part of New Mexico. In the summer of 2014, a senior hiker named Audrey Richman Kaplan similarly disappeared. She had been on the Winsor Trail with her husband before the pair had lost sight of each other.

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Hunting for fungi

Kaplan and her other half, Norman, had been looking for mushrooms that grow in the forest. Then, after she had disappeared, a large group naturally came together to find her. One of the people in the search team was a woman named Judy Allison, who’d been a pal of Kaplan’s for many years.

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Locating Audrey

And Allison reflected on the effort to locate Kaplan while speaking to Texas radio station KERA in 2014. She said, “We searched every conceivable place. It was over 300, maybe 350 people came out to volunteer to help and were all over those mountains looking for her.” By any right, then, they should have found the missing woman.

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A tragic passing

When Kaplan was located, though, it was clear that she had tragically passed away. Judging by the position of her remains, the 75-year-old had seemingly traveled over a mile from her last known position on the Winsor Trail. It was naturally devastating news for Allison, who had long been fearful for her friend’s safety.

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Dress for success

And Kaplan’s loved one believed that her untimely passing served as a warning to those who took traveling on the trail lightly. Allison explained, “The fact is that Audrey had been told many, many times by me and others that she dressed inappropriately and didn’t carry the appropriate gear for hiking in the mountains. So [her death] wasn’t a surprise.”

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Utsey’s lost daughter

You clearly need to be careful, then, while navigating the Winsor Trail. And given what happened to Kaplan, we don’t blame Utsey for showing some concern when his daughter left his line of sight in August 2020. But the veteran definitely got more than he bargained for after shouting out to her.

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Calling her name

So what actually transpired on that fateful day? Well, we’ll let the dad himself set the scene. When speaking to Alberquerque station KRQE in August 2020, he explained that his oldest child had first run ahead on the path – and away from his field of view. “I called her name, and she didn’t call back to me,” Utsey recalled. “So, I called her name really loud.”

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An unfamiliar voice

“And then I heard [my daughter] yell back to me from way up around the corner,” Utsey continued. “I couldn’t see her, but she had gone the right way. Then I heard somebody else answer from way off the trail.” That led to a bizarre 20 minutes, as the tech whiz engaged in a loud conversation with the mysterious stranger.

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A 600-yard detour

Utsey was trying to pinpoint where that voice was coming from, and in the end he and his kids took an unexpected detour. According to the KRQE report, the trio traveled 600 yards away from the path and up a large slope. Then, finally, the Utseys found the source of the noise.

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Two brutal weeks

The strange voice had come from a hiker in a really tough spot. He had been stuck in the Santa Fe National Forest for two whole weeks and, at the time of his discovery, seemed to be barely clinging to life. That was evident from the description Utsey gave of the man to KRQE.

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Desperate to survive

“[The hiker] was lying beside a creek. He couldn’t stand, he couldn’t move; he was delirious. So he wasn’t making much sense,” Utsey recalled. “His lips were all chapped to the point they were bleeding. His tongue was swollen; he was super gaunt and skinny. I was like, ‘This guy really needs help.’”

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As It Happens

Utsey offered up more information on this dire situation in another interview. In August 2020 the dad of two appeared on CBC’s As It Happens radio show, where he described the man’s condition. Then he shed some light on what may have happened to the hiker to land him in such a perilous state.

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A disastrous fall

“[The hiker’s] face was so gaunt. Like, his cheeks were hollow,” Utsey said. “He looked like he had severe [sun] exposure and had not eaten in a long time. I asked him, you know, ‘What’s wrong?’ And he said, ‘My legs don’t work.’ And I said, you know, ‘What happened?’ And he said, ‘I think I fell.’”

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Low on energy

Anyway, as much as Utsey wanted to help this poor guy, he came to a quick realization. As the veteran had already clocked up around 12 miles of walking at the time he had first heard the voice, he didn’t believe he had the strength to take the hiker to safety and help his children out of the forest.

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Contacting emergency services

What did Utsey do, then? Well, ahead of returning to the path, he and his children handed the hiker their food and drink. Then the trio headed for the trailhead, which by itself was another three miles away. And, finally, the former Marine was able to get in touch with the emergency services.

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60 long minutes later

Some 60 minutes later, a local fire crew arrived at the trail. To help find the hiker, Utsey also handed over his GPS coordinates, as these pinpointed the spot where the man had been stranded. You’d think that’d be the end of things, right? After all, the group just needed to follow the directions.

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A bizarre disappearance

But there was another twist in this tale. The firefighters failed to locate the injured man, despite having his coordinates. They spent roughly eight hours looking for him before coming to a stop. And the department’s captain attempted to justify this decision when speaking to KRQE.

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Calling off the search

Nathan Garcia admitted, “It was a little bit difficult to have to call off the search and rescue efforts.” This may not have satisfied Utsey, who was left scratching his head at the predicament. “I thought it was strange,” he told As It Happens. “Like, I figured if [the firefighters] were standing there and [the hiker] wasn’t, then something must have happened. It was so surreal.”

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Intense feelings of guilt

But beyond the feelings of bafflement, Utsey was also dealing with a little bit of guilt. The dad told KRQE, “So, I’m laying there, like, this guy is still in the mountains. So, at nine o’clock Sunday morning, I get in and put my hiking boots back on and hike back. And he was exactly where I left him.”

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By the hiker’s side

We can sense your relief from here! According to Utsey, the hiker struggled to recall if he’d overheard the fire crew. It’s possible, in fact, that he’d been passed out as the rescuers walked by. What happened next? Well, after getting in touch with the authorities for a second time, Utsey didn’t leave the path. Instead, he stayed there for about four hours.

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A successful rescue

Thankfully, the emergency services did finally reach the pair. And not long after, there was happy news to share. Roughly 24 hours later, the Santa Fe Fire Department’s Facebook page posted a statement about the incident that read, “Station 1 A shift crew did a nine-hour trail rescue to save a man that was lost in the Santa Fe forest for 14 days.”

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Providing warmth

“[The crew] built a fire to bring up the man’s body temperature which was dangerously low, fed him and gave him water,” the message continued. “The man suffered from chronic back pain and again injured his back while hiking, [meaning he] could not stand or walk. His gear was stolen, at which point he got lost and disoriented.”

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A viral Facebook post

The Facebook message also hailed Utsey’s efforts in saving the hiker. Well deserved, we say! And once the post was published, it quickly gained traction on social media. The fire department’s words earned hundreds of likes and numerous shares along with plenty of positive comments.

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The incredible will to survive

Garcia also made a poignant statement about the hiker to KRQE. “Never had we found somebody who had been out for that long,” the fire department captain noted. “It’s hard to say. The human body can do some amazing things sometimes, but I don’t think he had very much left in him.”

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Surviving on stream water

“[The hiker] seemed kind of at the end when we did actually encounter him,” Garcia added. “He would wiggle his way to the stream. He would drink water from the stream and then wiggle his way away from the stream at nightfall because of the colder temperatures that the stream brought. He had the will to survive, for sure.”

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The mysterious man’s recovery

What happened to the hiker? Well, following the ordeal, he was left to recuperate at a nearby medical facility. Utsey still hadn’t learned his name at that point, but at least the man was finally safe. And thank goodness that Utsey’s daughter had run down the trail in the first place, as it ultimately saved a life.

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