Ladysmith hikers are safe after spending the night in the woods

A father and his four-year-old daughter spent Sunday night in the woods around Heart Lake after getting disoriented in the dark.

A father and his four-year-old daughter are home safe after spending Sunday night lost in the woods around Heart Lake.

The Ladysmith RCMP received a report of missing hikers on Sunday evening (Sept. 16).

A Ladysmith family was hiking to Heart Lake after dinner. During the hike, the mother and one eight-year-old child returned home, while the father and a four-year-old child continued to Heart Lake, according to a press release from Ladysmith RCMP Detachment commander Staff Sgt. Larry Chomyn.

“With the ensuing darkness, the father became disoriented and could not find the trail back to Ladysmith,” said Chomyn. “The father and his four-year-old daughter spent the night in the woods as a result.”

When the father and child did not return home, the mother called the Ladysmith RCMP, who activated the Ladysmith Search and Rescue Team.

Volunteers attended and searched the trails and woods throughout the night. Members from the Ladysmith RCMP Detachment assisted in the search, with help from the police service dog from Duncan.

Tim Chadwick of the Ladysmith Search and Rescue Team says they received a call around 9:15 p.m. after the husband didn’t return around 8 p.m. as expected.

“We were told they were up toward Heart Lake,” he said. “We checked the trails around Heart Lake. We found the child’s shoe up around the lake in the middle of the trail, and we continued to check the trails throughout the night.”

The police-based Victim Service worker provided support to the family throughout the night.

At about 7:15 a.m. Monday, the Ladysmith Search and Rescue Team received assistance from the Cowichan Search and Rescue Team based out of Duncan, and they started to get back on the trails in the daylight, according to Chadwick.

With the daylight, the father was able to locate the trail and began walking out, noted Chomyn.

A search team located the father and his daughter on the trail and returned them to town.

“Both the father and daughter were in good health and suffered no lasting effects from the experience,” stated Chomyn.

Approximately 10 Ladysmith Search and Rescue volunteers looked for the hikers through the night, and about eight Cowichan volunteers assisted in the morning, according to Chadwick.

Chadwick says it is difficult to search up around Heart Lake in the dark because searchers have to be careful they don’t get off the trail because there are rock bluffs.

“You stick mostly to the trails in night because it’s too dangerous off the trails,” he said. “You’re calling, whistling, trying to get their attention. [Monday] morning in daylight hours is where we’d be able to expand off the trails into the bush where you could see better.”

Chadwick says this incident is a reminder that hikers need to be aware of how much daylight they have.

“It does get darker faster in the bush,” he noted. “They weren’t prepared for anything overnight; they were wearing shorts and shirts. It was lucky it was still fairly warm.”