Missing Hiker Finds His Way Out of Woods

A hiker who separated from his group on the Windmill Hill Pinnacle Association trails July 21 was found almost three days later, police said.

Police said Elliot Wilkes, 29, was spotted walking on Main Street in Putney around 2 a.m. Monday after a woman called police. Two police officers confirmed it was Wilkes.

“He was dehydrated and had a lot of bug bites,” said Vermont State Police Sgt. Christopher Buckley.

Wilkes was transported to Brattleboro Memorial Hospital. Police expected he’d be released Monday.

Wilkes was reported missing in the area of the Ridgeline and Headwaters trails between Brookline and Westminster around 6 p.m. July 21. It’s unclear how he got separated from the group.

“He said he got off the trail,” said Buckley. “He didn’t elaborate.”

Multiple police and rescue agencies, including members of Rescue Inc., Westminster, Putney and Newbrook fire departments, Vermont State Police troopers, members of the Vermont State Police Search and Rescue Team, and Vermont Fish and Game wardens spent 24 hours looking for Wilkes, covering most of the trails in the Putney Mountain Association, which comprises 394 acres.

Wilkes, who was being treated at the emergency room on Monday afternoon, said he drifted from his group of about five people to go to the bathroom.

“All of a sudden the trees shifted,” he said.

Wilkes said he had been on the trails numerous times in the past year or so.

“I knew the trails like the back of my hand,” he said. 

Wilkes of California, has lived in Vermont the past year.

Before he was found, Vermont State Police Lt. Roger Farmer said Wilkes guided hikes in that area. Farmer said Wilkes was an avid hiker and in good physical shape.

“All of us are in the same belief that he will emerge from the woods when he’s ready to emerge from the woods,” said Farmer hours before Wilkes was located.

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