Sunday, August 14, 2011

The Search for Jared Ropelato Written by Scott Ropelato

Larry & Dawn                                                                                                 Aug. 14 2011
Jerry & Darinda

After spending the night with your son’s, and Kevin being one of them, I believe we were the benefactors of some “Tender Mercies” by our Father in Heaven in the search for Jared. While our actions had no impact on Jared and his ability to save himself and find help, I do believe they speak of the greatness of your sons, things learned & situations to be cherished. I hope to be as accurate as possible and am writing this while my thoughts are fresh. 

As I was driving around the south side of Pine view Reservoir around 1:00 pm Friday on my way to take the kids to Dad’s for an overnighter since Erin & I were staying another night up on Monte Cristo because she was in charge of our Stake 11 year olds overnight camp. I had a distinct thought of my kids and Jared, and one of them being hurt and loss of a life. The thought was out of the norm and very unsettling but I knew I had my kids in the back seat and they were fine and I had earlier warned them not to ride dad’s four-wheeler so I didn’t think much could happen to them, but I had no idea Jared was with the scouts but thought perhaps he will come over to dads and play with my kids when I drop them off. Tears came to my eyes for a brief moment-a first while driving-this is more of something that would happen to a women. As I arrived home to hurry and bath the kids before dropping them off to dad he called to inform me of Jared’s situation. I left the kids with mom and hurried back to Monte Cristo to help Erin. The more I thought about it the more I thought I should go then and help rather than waiting until morning because most people that are lost are found either that day or the next morning and after that the odds fall off greatly.

After getting an ok from Erin, I knew where to find cell reception on Monte from my snowmobiling days and I got the correct info of where Jared was from Justin’s Mother-in-law.  A little to Kevin and dads surprise I caught up to them along with Dave, Jeff & Wayne on the dirt road to Spirit lake.  The guy in the Command Center truck was telling Dave of a trail we could search all though it would take us all night and he didn’t seem to care, usually they want you back shortly after dark (maybe he thought me & Dave were expendable). After heading up the trail that quickly disappeared we kind of separated into teams Dave & I, Marc & Kevin, Wayne & his family and Jeff. I quickly recognized that look in Dave that said we were going to the end of the trail at Spirit Lake regardless of what it would take, we would hope to make it by morning.

We had conversations of all sorts of things while walking, I mentioned to Dave my thought earlier in the day at Pine view and that I didn’t have a good feeling about the outcome of the situation, it wasn’t made to be discouraging but more of a confirmation of the seriousness that we both felt of the situation to do all that we can do.
Today (Sunday) I thought of why perhaps some would have thoughts of a different outcome than what actually happened, while others perhaps had thoughts all along that he would be found. One might question their testimony in that scenario; it only strengthens my testimony.   I believe some things that take place in life are predetermined and some thing are not, just as if a family has a plan to do something particular and the kids plea with the parents to do some thing else and the parents change and go with the kids idea. Is our father in heaven so different? Is he also able to hear ones plea and the many prayers & testimonies and answer those? -Most certainly. Was my thought more of what could happen rather than what would happen? -I believe so.

As it had gotten dark Dave and I had followed the trail that turned and headed straight South while Marc & Kevin that were north of us stayed on   a westerly route. As we went periodically we would communicate briefly by radio, as we got farther apart we lost communication except for a word once and a while but as we would try back it was very garbled. Some time after 10:00 o’clock we were moving continually up hill on the trail that seemed for ever, and through the densest forest I have every seen, there was dead fall every where and the trees were extremely close together, some how Marc contacted us on the radio and we could clearly here him say they wanted to catch & join us.  We tried to discourage this because we thought they would have turned and went back to the road because they were headed in a totally different direction than us hours ago and we are a long ways apart and we could make it to Spirit lake ok without them and we could not image the mental strain that Kevin had been going through since first hearing of the problem some 10 hours ago. They also would have to continue to go cross-country to catch us because they were not even close to our trail. They estimated to be about 1.5 miles away which we thought would take them a couple hours at least not to mention we did not think it would be physically possible for them to cross all the dead fall to reach us. As we tried to discourage them a second time we both had a change of heart & felt like we should now allow them to join us even though it meant we would have to wait for them which is hard to do when you want to continue searching forward.  We told them we would build a fire and wait for them.               

As we had gathered wood and were ready to start a fire Dave pulled out his matches and the first match didn’t light off of a rock as planned-we laughed, the second match didn’t light-not as much laughter, now we tried lighting it off a zipper-no luck & no laughter. We tried every thing & not even a spark; old matches are not good. We tried rubbing sticks together etc-no luck; we did smell burnt wood once, and now the laughter returned because we knew we were not going to have a fire afterall. As we waited it got a bit cold and we covered ourselves in pine bows to keep us warm, perhaps warm enough to take a nap as we waited but it was just a bit to cold for that. I was thinking of what Jared must be going through since the only report I had gotten on him was the one I pulled off the Internet while driving (FYI -it is hard to get info while going real fast on a windy two lane road in route to the Uintahs) the report said he had on only a T-shirt. We were also trying to remember when we were 12 and what we knew at that time and how we would act-that was not a reassuring thought, we hoped Jared was smarter & different than us.

Eventually Kevin and Marc joined us, they were tired, as they should have been, we continued uphill on the trail. We were resting periodically and Marc was getting light headed and dizzy but we were all determined to continue on to help in the search. Marc is extremely tuff both mentally & physically and he was doing a good job of hiding what he was feeling. He eventually said he was getting cold and that seemed a bit odd at first because it was ok for Dave & I and Kevin seemed ok also, although he did joke that he wished he hadn’t ripped his pants open, I thought he was just making a fashion statement.  We took his backpack and Kevin let him wear his jacket and Kevin put on a thin poncho that could not of been very warm. We had him eat a bunch of candy bars etc for energy and we continued and things seemed to get worse. We realized the toll the cross-country walking they had done had taken, not only the mass amounts of energy they used up in a short time, but also that there clothing was damp from sweating earlier. We continued on slowly trying to burn just enough energy to keep him warm but not make him sweat. We all joked we were a little out of shape, Randi must be a good cook. We rested frequently and even though you could tell he needed more rest he would pull him self up and continue on after each time we stopped. Exhausted and cold Marc laid down & curled up as soon as we stopped one time. We asked how bad was it and he said with a serious voice  “I’m real cold”. Since we all needed a rest and we could see the severity of Marc’s coldness Dave and I laid up against marc to share some warmth (Marc was ok with this-so you now know the severity of the issue) Kevin also took a rest. After a few minutes me & Dave were now frightened for Marc because we could now hear his breathing was not normal and not only was he shivering but it was a shivering that you could tell was not normal, he just wasn’t right and it was getting worse real quick. Were probably about six miles in at this point and know we are it as far as help goes. Dave had Kevin move over by marc (Kevin was probably not very warm either) and he gathered up some pine bows and covered marc as he rolled over on his back, he laid his legs flat and I put my legs over his big “running back” thighs and I could just feel his body pulling the warmth out of my legs, after awhile you could tell it really helped and we got up and kept moving. We emptied the one pack into the other and let Marc wear the empty pack to help keep him warm, and he and Kevin traded the jacket and thin poncho back and forth to keep each other from getting to cold.

Eventually we made it to the top of a leveled off large area called “Wayman Park” with scattered trees and grass. We now lost the trail because it was no longer there due to the late season thaw and the tall grass. It was breezy and colder on top but we now had Marcs GPS that had the trail downloaded on it so we could take a shortcut to the trees across the opening and actually find the trail again. A “Personal thought”: what if we hadn’t changed our minds and let Marc & Kevin join up, would Marc and Kevin still of ran into issues because they were still exhausted and damp before they got out to the trucks? -Possibly so. Would Dave and I been able to continue on once we hit that plateau and lost the trail-defiantly not. I know we were blessed in being able to help Marc and being able to continue on and finish something that we all wanted so desperately to do.  As we continued we lost the trail many times and would have to find it again which was time consuming. As we now started down into the drainage of where we thought Jared was last seen it was extremely steep and hard walking. We now all felt our old sports injuries in our legs and ankles as we descended down.  I now took the lead for David and quickly realized the extra mental strain Dave had endured the past 4 or 5 hours of trying to follow the trail, it was hard on your eyes constantly trying to figure every few steps if you were on the trail or if it was to your left or to your right. It didn’t take very long before I got us off the trail and we had to find it again with the GPS. Even though we were on a trail it was exhausting because every step was on a rock that you could not see in the dark and your ankles were twisting and we were stumbling constantly. We had flashlights but we used them sparingly because we did not know if we would need them later and it was easier a lot of times to see the faint shadows of the trail from the moonlight than from a flashlight that brightened the ground to much-I know it seems strange but this was the case, the draw back was constantly stumbling over the rocks. 

I think around 4:30 or 5:00 the moon was now low in the sky and it was getting darker and more difficult to stay on the trail, we were in the bottom of the drainage of where the scouts were and you could defiantly feel it was colder due to the river/creek in the area as the cold air settles in the bottoms. We lost the trail again at this point but decided we would find a place to cross the creek, rest and eat a bit on the other side. I went first and fell in and my right leg was wet midway up to my knee and the left foot was soaked. I now had wet feet like the rest whose shoes were not the best as we had crossed many wet areas previously. The others tried a different spot and had better luck. As we were trying to find the trail we realized we were exhausted and just needed to eat and rest first. After a few minutes I could here Dave snoring and eventually Marc, as for me I wished we would of rested on the other side of the river because for the first time I am now cold from the water of the river and there is no way I can fall asleep. I pondered how cold Jared must be and I doubted at this point that someone in just a t-shirt could make it all night because of how Hypothermia tricks the mind into wanting to just lay there. I was hoping he had something more than a T-shirt on or that he kept moving to stay warm, anything. As we were there for about 20 minutes or so the sun started to come up, I looked over and seen Kevin was a wake also, I don’t think it was the elements that kept him awake, I’m sure he was having troublesome thoughts also, mixed with the many silent prayers we had in our hearts. I’m sure his mind was overloaded with concern. Even though we were exhausted we got moving again because it was now getting light and we wanted to get to the trailhead so they didn’t think we were lost also and use resources to come after us that needed to be used to help Jared. The sun gave us new energy and we thought we were close but actually we were about 5 miles out still. Kevin took the lead at times, you could tell he was drained and wanted to get out, hopefully get some news, anything. Looking back I wish we would of gave him more comfort but I think he was dealing with it in his own way as best possible, I suspect many silent prayers as we all had.   I’m sure it was even harder on him when we would yell out Jared’s name every couple of minutes while walking the past 12 hours, always waiting for a reply but never hearing anything in return.

As we reached the other ridge of the drainage the scouts were in, we now understood how some one could get lost, a bad turn here or there and the up’s and down’s in it, the thick pines, the location of the lake that is not seen as a typical lake in a drainage is seen from a ridge above. Half ways up the ridge there was also a basin or shelve with a meadow that was covered in thick frost-so it was defiantly cold. But since we just crossed this entire area we now felt that he would defiantly still be in there probably just down lower or out the bottom as he ended up doing. Our hopes raised because we felt like we should now be seeing searchers coming up the trail now that the sign said we were 2.5 miles away,  we took that as perhaps they found Jared during the night or something. We yelled and thought we heard a boys voice, it happened again and we were a bit optimistic an then a lady & search dog came up the trail, we asked her if she had yelled from that direction and she said yes and said her voice sounds like a boys, our hopes were extinshued as we now new they had not found him. While walking with Dave slightly ahead of Kevin & Marc I asked Dave how far he thought that lady was away from us when we heard her voice, we guest maybe 100-150 yards, that destroyed our hope, for we had just covered 12-13 miles of area thinking when you yell Jared’s name that it sounds like it carries a long way’s, only to realize we would of actually had to come within in a few yards of him for him to hear us and even closer in the areas that had the noise of creeks/rivers and the area we were currently in was by far the least dense & most open in the trees of all the areas we had been.   We passed many search dog teams that all asked where we had been, after about the third group it got a bit emotional because we realized we had done every thing possible we could do, we were exhausted and spent, and didn’t have much to offer them. And now that we had a better understanding of the area we felt perhaps that we should of started at the bottom of the drainage and came up it.  As we came to a group of guy’s on horses I could not even look up because I knew two of them and I was filled with emotion as all of us were at this point, one was Brad Hodson & the other Matt Brown both friends and neighbors of Larry’s. The emotions were strong for I knew we had done all we could do and it was as if we were reluctantly handing the job of searching for Jared over to them and I couldn’t think of two better guy’s to have go look for him, I knew they would look in the hardest and most rugged area and would not quite.  I knew I had about a mile to get my emotions under control before we got to the bottom. This was the hardest part for me, physically spent and now just realizing I was also mentally spent, still probably just a fraction of what Kevin and other family members had been going through all night. I think we all had the same overwhelming flow of feelings. As we reached the bottom and seen Jerry & Darinda. I lost control for about 2- 3 breaths and appreciated her comfort for I truly realized we had done all we could and the enormous task still at hand, and out of all the people that showed up to search that there were probably only a small few that also realize the difficulty of finding Jared and the difficult night he must of endured, and that Jared is truly in God’s hands.  David, Marc & Kevin are extremely strong men and shouldered the majority of the strength needed to accomplish our hike.  I’m so thankful for them and the fact that Jared is smarter than many of us were at 12 years of age and our father in heaven had blessed us all, especially Jared.              

                        Scott Ropelato