It wasn’t looking good for 55-year-old Fina Kiefer earlier this month.
While hiking on the popular 13-mile Pioneer Ridge Trail near Butte, Alaska, the last contact she had with anyone was a frantic text to her husband begging him to send help.
Just minutes prior to sending that message, Kiefer had been charged by a pair of bears. In an effort to protect herself, she discharged a can of bear spray and escaped into the forest.
Then she got lost for well over 24 hours. Her phone fell silent too, with no subsequent calls or texts coming after her scary bear encounter.
After failing to get in contact with his wife, Kiefer’s husband alerted the Alaska State Troopers about the incident and a search team complete with dogs and helicopters was soon deployed.
The story has a happy ending though.
A search-and-rescue volunteer found her emerging from the forest about a mile from the trailhead, a full day and a half after she first went missing. The experience has left her incredibly grateful to be alive.
According to Senior Master Sgt. Evan Budd, superintendent of the Alaska Rescue Coordination Center, her preparedness is what kept her alive:
“She was chased off the trail by bears and couldn’t find it again. She had waterproof matches and was able to start a fire.
Being prepared for the unexpected is critical in the Alaskan outdoors. What you plan as a day hike can quickly turn into a multi-day ordeal.
Mrs. Kiefer also carried with her an amazing amount of grit and determination to return to her family. We were so relieved to learn that she was safe.”