Two local hikers are praising Coquitlam Search and Rescue (SAR) volunteers for their professionalism, courtesy and quick response after the pair spent a cold night on a cliff northeast of Buntzen Lake.
David Secunda, a retired School District 43 drama teacher, and actor Jonathan Bell, were rescued by the volunteer rescue team early Thursday after a day hike that became dangerous once night fell.
"We were worried we were going to get chewed out but the people were nice and helpful. They were just happy we were alive," a jubilant Bell said after the 21-hour ordeal.
The day started out pleasant enough when Secunda suggested a hike up the Halvor Lunden Trail from Buntzen Lake in an attempt to recreate his part in a current production of Shakespeare's A Winter's Tale where he plays Antigonus, who is chased by a bear.
The two are moderately experienced hikers and know the area but the outing took a turn when it it got dark and they couldn't find the trail to get down.
They started following Swan Falls creek using trees to help them descend but eventually became trapped on the edge of cliff.
"We weren't lost, we were in a precarious position," said Secunda.
Both admit they should have had more food and warm clothes, and possibly a mirror to flash in case they needed helicopter rescue.
"They did the right thing by staying put," said Coquitlam SAR spokesperson Michael Coyle, who said the Swan Falls trail can be difficult to find.
(He also said plans are in the works to install trail markers on the main trails around Eagle Mountain and Mount Beautiful because of several cases of hikers getting lost in the area.)
At 3:30 a.m., a rescue worker hailed the pair and they were helped off the cliff with ropes and harnesses, although they still had to walk another three hours to get to gravel road where the SAR van was waiting to drive them the rest of the way.
"I'm really glad we got rescued. If we got down [on our own], we would still have had to drag ourselves all rest of the way," said Bell, who admitted the long hike and the rescue from the woods were exhausting and said he was pleased when volunteer Steve Chapman handed him a sandwich and some energy bars.
Secunda's wife, Linda Arkelian, praised Coyle for being so thorough in getting information from her after she made the 911 call. He also helped her keep calm through the experience.
"I grew a few more grey hairs," she said, "it was frightening."
Local hikers wanting to get into the woods this summer are encouraged to purchase a new Coquitlam Port Moody Hiking/Biking Topographical Trail map. Coquitlam SAR volunteer Steve Chapman spent a year creating the detailed map, which is available now for $20 plus shipping at www.tricitiesmap.com and is a fundraiser for Coquitlam SAR.
It contains detailed local information about the trails, as well as handy advice for safe hiking.