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Western Maryland Native Recounts Hiking Ordeal In Montana Wilderness

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RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Jason Hiser says he learned a lot about himself while he and a friend were stranded for days in harsh, wintry conditions in Montana’s Glacier National Park.

“It’s amazing to find out what you can do when you don’t have any other option” Hiser told The Richmond-Times Dispatch.

Hiser, an associate veterinarian at a veterinary hospital in Richmond, and Neal Peckens of Herndon, a veterinary cardiologist, camped for four days and built an SOS message out of logs after they lost the trail while hiking on a snowy mountain. The men, originally from western Maryland, were rescued Oct.15 by a park employee who saw colored flagging that led him to their tent.

They tried twice without success to find a pass through the mountain that would allow them to return to where they started hiking. After that, they decided to stay put on a plateau in a burned-out pine forest and wait for rescuers.

They rationed food and water and kept a fire burning until rain began Oct. 13. The constant rain kept them in their tent for a lot of the time.

“It’s really strange how it’s almost like your body knows that you’re in a survival situation,” Hiser said. “We weren’t starving, we weren’t dying. It’s almost like our bodies had gotten used to it.”

A helicopter flew overhead twice but the searchers did not see them.

Since coming home, Hiser has spent a lot of time with his wife, Jane, who is eight months pregnant. He said he has been eating well.

Hiser said the national media attention that his experience attracted surprised him. He also was struck by the support he and his family received.

“It just blew me away because I honestly never really realized that I had that many people in my life that cared about me,” he said. “You realize how important that is. I don’t know that I could possibly even thank those people for what they’ve done.”

He said he and Peckens are donating more than $30,000 that was raised for the search and rescue effort to the rescue groups that were involved in it.

(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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