The walk Marty Dyer decided to take around Henthorne Lake late last month began like many others the 67-year-old former political appointee had taken during his dozen or so previous visits to the remote Trinity County encampment owned by a friend.
He set out along the mile-long path around the lake after a July 30 dinner with a friend from his time in Republican Gov. Pete Wilson's administration.
But about three-quarters of the way around the lake, it started to get dark and he stopped recognizing familiar landmarks along the way. He said he began to feel as though the path was disappearing.
Unable to find his way back to the lake trail, Dyer decided to stay put. He could hear his friend, Richard Wilson, calling for him, but yelled back "tomorrow" with hopes he could find his way back to the lake once it was light again. His friend heard Dyer's call and stopped searching that night.
But the next morning's efforts to "recall and retrace a familiar path" just got him "into more trouble," Dyer said. He had made his way to a river that flows into the lake, but the steep river canyon and slippery rocks inhibited his ability to get around.
"I stayed pretty much in place for two days, hoping they would find me," he said.
Dyer was found less than a half-mile from the lake on Saturday – two weeks after he vanished into the woods. The retiree, now recovering at his friend's home, recounted his two weeks in the wilderness in an interview with The Bee on Tuesday.
During those first two days, an extensive search effort had been launched by local law enforcement agencies. Dyer said he believed he could hear the helicopters looking for him from above and even saw one close enough "that they could have found me, should have found me."
Dyer spent much of the following days sleeping on the warm sand along the riverbank, exhausted from a lack of food and sleepless nights.
"I shivered wide awake all night, every night because it was too cold to sleep," he said.
Besides the clothes on his back, all he carried was a watch and several cigarette butts he did not want to discard in the woods. A lighter he had brought on his walk was lost when he crossed the river. After a few days of wandering up and down the river when awake, "thinking that I would run into somebody," Dyer said he felt he "no longer (had) the energy to go on" and decided to stay put.
He tried to focus his thoughts on friends and better times – a tip he remembered from novels and nonfiction books – but started to lose hope that he would emerge from the wilderness alive. He said his recollections of past conversations morphed into hallucinations, an experience he attributed to subsisting on only two unripe raspberries and water from the river. While he thought 67 was "early to die," he said he began "accepting the fact that nothing was going to happen."
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