Wandering subject found in San Juan Mountains

On the night of August 7th, Taos Search and Rescue was called out for a missing male with Alzheimer’s who had wandered away from his group at a private ranch in the San Juan mountains. During a meditation retreat, the group the subject was with had closed their eyes to meditate. Subject said they would walk back to the retreat lodge on their own, and went missing. No one was sure which direction the subject had left the point he was last seen, as the entire group had closed their eyes to meditate.

TSAR members Roy Dunlap and Nate Berkopec arrived in the middle of the night and were deployed as Team One. The subject had gone missing at the mouth of a very narrow canyon. The canyon was about a mile northwest of the retreat lodge. The retreat lodge had been extensively searched by the retreat staff. Team One was tasked with searching to the northwest, into the canyon. After traveling two miles through the canyon, Team One decided that the hike was probably beyond the physical ability of someone with Alzheimer’s who was apparently wearing sandals, and returned to base.

About an hour after TSAR returned to base, an incoming search team from another organization located the subject.

Anyone with memory issues and the ability to walk is at risk for wandering behavior. The Alzheimer’s Association has produced a helpful checklist for caregivers of those who may be at risk for wandering.

This mission report was prepared by Nate Berkopec. Map data for TSAR teams is available here. The Incident Commander for this mission was Robert Valdez.