Lost Yosemite National Park hiker was found, aided, by Santa Rosa family
In glorious Yosemite National Park with their kids for spring break, Don and Cheryl Green — both Santa Rosa physicians — might have hiked right past a badly injured college student who languished atop a heap of moss-coated boulders.
But a movement of some sort caught Don Green’s peripheral vision shortly before 11 a.m. on Monday, his family’s first full day in the park. He left the trail and stepped toward whatever it was that he’d seen move.
There, partially concealed by a tree limb, sat a banged-up and severely weakened young man. In a moment, all four of the Greens were at his side.
“He was completely camouflaged,” said Cheryl Green, a 44-year-old Kaiser Permanente family-medicine doctor who prefers the nickname Cherie.
“All of his clothes just blended in with the environment because he was so dirty,” she said by cellphone from Yosemite.
She estimates the tall, thin fellow was only about 20 feet off the trail that leads to below Lower Yosemite Fall, less than a half-mile to the west.
Said Don Green, who’s 47 and practices physical medicine and rehabilitation at Kaiser, “I don’t think I would have seen him if he hadn’t moved.” Only the injured man knows if he’d motioned to try to attract the Greens’ attention, or if he didn’t even know the family was passing by.
As Don Green stepped closer to him, he saw that his legs and feet were down between two boulders, but it wasn’t clear if they were trapped.
Green and his wife and fellow doctor took notice that the man was faint and bruised about his face and neck. There was a wound to his scalp.
The Greens figured the previous night’s thunderstorm had contributed to him being coated in muck.
“He was conscious but not moving a whole lot,” said Cherie Green.
“He didn’t have a much of a pulse, but he was able to answer questions. He was only one day off the date.”
Asked his name, the young fellow told the Greens he was Michael Dahl.
That name was already familiar to them.
The Santa Rosans had arrived at the park on Sunday and learned from posted fliers, announcements in the dining hall at Yosemite Lodge at the Falls and a flurry of activity that a search was on for the 20-year-old UC Santa Barbara student, a resident of Southern California.
About 50 search-and-rescue crew members had converged on Yosemite Valley after Dahl’s three companions reported last seeing him Saturday morning near the Lower Yosemite Fall footbridge. The students’ friends told rangers they were “scrambling” on boulders just below the fall when they realized he was gone.
As physicians, Cherie and Don Green knew not to risk worsening Dahl’s injuries by trying to move him off the boulders. They kept his spine as straight as possible and reassured him that he would be getting out of there very soon.
The Greens saw that Dahl wore long pants and a sweatshirt and, on his feet, only socks. David Green, who’s 13 and on spring break from Santa Rosa Middle School, and sister Sophia, a 10-year-old Matanzas Elementary School student, retrieved Dahl’s shoes from about 10 feet up the bouldered slope.
As Don and Sophia tended to and comforted Dahl, Cherie and David hastened back to the Yosemite Valley Loop Trail to summon the search-and-rescue team they had seen earlier near the base of the fall a short walk away.
“We covered him up with one of our jackets because he was shivering,” Don Green said. He also gave the injured man a bit of water to drink and told him help was on its way.
A ranger arrived and radioed Dahl’s location. Soon, a corps of rangers and search-team members converged on the boulder field.
Rescuers removed Dahl from the boulders and placed him in a ground ambulance. Authorities at Yosemite have said only that Dahl “sustained multiple injuries” and suffered hypothermia. He was taken to a nearby hospital.
“We just hope he’s all right,” Cherie Green said.
Her family, which savors the outdoors, was back to hiking on Tuesday. Don Green said the kids were doing fine following their discovery of the lost man.
“We’ve been talking about it,” he said. “Talking about the wilderness and what to do when bad things happen.”
All of the Greens are grateful they hadn’t walked right past Dahl as he suffered silently on the boulders.
Cherie Green said, “Thank God that kid moved.”
Chris Smith is at 521-5211 or email@example.com. On Twitter @CJSPD.