By Jamie Leary
WALDEN, Colo. (CBS4) – A Colorado couple is praising rescuers and advocating for GPS devices after getting stuck while hunting outside of Walden. Kelly Shutika and her boyfriend, Daniel Welch, were hunting near Independence Mountain when snowy weather moved in.
The pair, both military veterans and experienced outdoors enthusiasts, left their camp and supplies and decided to drive to town.
“We didn’t even think to really take anything with us. We had a couple snacks. We had our cups of coffee,” said Kelly.
The snow was accumulating fast and their truck ending up sliding into a ditch.
“We dug our way out twice, and then it just slid right back into the ditch.”
They decided to spend the night. It was three days into their trip, and they had no idea they would be in the same position seven days later.
The next morning, they decided to hike the 10 miles back to their camp where they had more food and supplies. They left a note about their situation.
“That was just exhausting. So exhausting, with no food. It was pretty rough. We were both hurting pretty bad.”
Kelly documented everything on her cell phone. They worked to keep each others spirits up and hoped someone would come looking for them.
“Friday came and we’re like, ‘Weekend hunters. They got to be coming up. The game warden’s got to come, he came out and checked our licenses…'”
But, no one came, and the bad weather continued.
Kelly and Daniel hiked to find cell phone service but had no luck.
“You have to have cell phone service for the emergency SOS to work. I tried sending a text to my mom like ‘Got the truck stuck. This is the area we’re at. Call these people. Let them know,’ but nothing sent.”
The couple hiked back to the car where the note they left sat untouched. Fortunately the car battery still worked. They spent another night with the heat blasting.
Kelly thought about her daughter. Her mother was babysitting and due to fly back home to Pennsylvania the next day, Sunday. Kelly knew her mom would be calling for help.
Sunday came and went with no sign of help. Kelly and Daniel set out for one final push. Despite hiking through thigh high snow drifts, she says she never thought it was the end. She credits her experience in the military.
“If I’m going to die, it’s not going to be on the side of a mountain in the snow. No. I’m not going down that easily.”
Kelly said whenever she left her daughter for any period of time, she always promised she was coming home and this time was no exception.
Kelly said she repeatedly told herself, “Just put one foot in front of the other, you’ll get where you’re going.”
It was the day after Veterans Day. The couple had made it over the backside of a nearby peak when their cell phones began to ring.
“We heard our phones start going off and called 911, and we got a text from the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office saying we were reported missing and I was like ‘Ahhhhhh! Thank you mom! Thank you so much!'”
They were connected with a local rescue group, the Colorado 4×4 Rescue and Recovery group. With help from the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office, the group mobilized.
It wasn’t long before Kelly and Daniel were found.
About 10 different people escorted the couple to Walden where they enjoyed a burger, a beer and a shot of whiskey. The rescue group refused to take money for efforts and even declined when Kelly and Daniel offered to pay for dinner.
Kelly was overcome with emotion at the support. Not only from the rescue group but from friends near and far who were ready to come help search.
“We have been so unbelievably touched by the people who have helped,” Kelly said. “We knew we had great friends, but we didn’t know it would span as far as it did.”
Kelly says not only will she be investing in a GPS device, but she says she will always be letting multiple know exactly where she goes when she plans her next hunting trip.
Jamie Leary joined the CBS4 team in 2015 and currently works as a reporter for CBS4 News at 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. She couldn’t imagine a better place to live and work and will stop at nothing to find the next great story. Jamie loves learning about and hearing from her fellow community members, so connect with her on Facebook or Twitter @JamieALeary.