Dog of missing Colorado hiker, 27, is ‘miraculously’ found on highway


Josh Hall, 27, of suburban Denver, Colorado has been missing since February 3 after he was last seen hiking in Boulder County, according to authorities

The dog of a missing Colorado hiker who was last seen on February 3 has been ‘miraculously’ found after surviving the wilderness for eight days before he was located on a highway 13 miles from where the pair started a hike.

Authorities in Boulder County are still searching for Josh Hall, 27, of Arvada, a suburb of Denver.

Hall went missing after he and his dog, Happy, were last seen on the evening of February 3 near Hessie Trailhead, a popular hiking point that leads to the Indian Peaks Wilderness.

Happy was found on Thursday near the Peak to Peak Highway in Boulder County, about 13 miles from the Hessie Trailhead.

‘The pup has been reunited with family and is getting some much needed food and love,’ according to the Boulder County Sheriff’s Office.

Authorities are asking the public to ‘be on the lookout for anything associated with Josh’ including clothing items or a leash.

Nick Vukson, Hall’s stepfather, said Happy lost between 10-to-15 pounds, though there were no signs of frostbite. 

‘How can a domestic dog be up in the Rocky Mountains in some extremely severe conditions and emerge with no frostbite whatsoever,’ Vukson told KMGH-TV

‘We don’t know if maybe he had found some shelter and perhaps Josh was with him. We’re not sure.’ 

Hall’s mother, Laura Vukson, said Happy’s discovery has given her renewed hope that her son is alive. 

Happy, Hall's dog, was found alive on a highway on Thursday some 13 miles from where he and Hall began a hike on the morning of February 3

Happy, Hall’s dog, was found alive on a highway on Thursday some 13 miles from where he and Hall began a hike on the morning of February 3

Hall is seen above with his dog in November 2016

Happy was reunited with his family and 'is getting some much needed food and love,’ the Boulder County Sheriff's Office said

Hall is seen left with his dog in November 2016. Happy (seen right) was reunited with his family and ‘is getting some much needed food and love,’ the Boulder County Sheriff’s Office said

Hall went missing after he and his dog, Happy, were last seen on the evening of February 3 near Hessie Trailhead, a popular hiking point that leads to the Indian Peaks Wilderness. Happy was found on Thursday near the Peak to Peak Highway in Boulder County, about 13 miles from the Hessie Trailhead

Hall went missing after he and his dog, Happy, were last seen on the evening of February 3 near Hessie Trailhead, a popular hiking point that leads to the Indian Peaks Wilderness. Happy was found on Thursday near the Peak to Peak Highway in Boulder County, about 13 miles from the Hessie Trailhead

The BCSO put out a statement indicating that the search for Hall has been hampered by hazardous weather conditions including 'thigh to chest deep snow, white out visibility, avalanche hazards, and winds gusting between 30-40 miles per hour'

The BCSO put out a statement indicating that the search for Hall has been hampered by hazardous weather conditions including ‘thigh to chest deep snow, white out visibility, avalanche hazards, and winds gusting between 30-40 miles per hour’

‘Based on the information I was given, I did not think that there was any chance that they could have survived,’ she said. 

‘And the fact that Happy is here absolutely gives me renewed hope.’

But, she added: ‘I’m terrified that that means that Happy stayed with Josh until he succumbed to the cold.’ 

According to investigators, it is believed that Hall was attempting to hike to Devil’s Thumb Lake.

The Devil’s Thumb Lake trail near Nederland that starts at the Hessie Trailhead is a 12.1-mile long hike that is considered difficult given that anyone who reaches the lake would have to climb an elevation of almost 2,500ft.

According to Hall’s mother, Hall and Happy started hiking the Devil’s Thumb Lake Trail sometime between 10:30am and 10:45am on February 3. 

Hall’s mother said that Happy’s discovery was ‘miraculous.’

She wrote on her Facebook page that her son had planned to hike for a few hours before returning home to Arvada to take a 5pm online class.

That meant he would have had to have completed the hike by 4pm at the latest.

Hall went missing after he and his dog, Happy, were last seen on the evening of February 3 near Hessie Trailhead, a popular hiking point that leads to the Indian Peaks Wilderness

Hall went missing after he and his dog, Happy, were last seen on the evening of February 3 near Hessie Trailhead, a popular hiking point that leads to the Indian Peaks Wilderness

Authorities are asking the public to ‘be on the lookout for anything associated with Josh’ including clothing items or a leash

Authorities are asking the public to ‘be on the lookout for anything associated with Josh’ including clothing items or a leash

Laura Vukson writes that her son’s cell phone pinged at 12:03pm, putting him in the vicinity of Devil’s Thumb Lake Trail.

The nearby Eldora Ski Resort had reported a massive snowstorm with ‘white-out conditions’ and ‘multiple inches of snow in a matter of minutes’ rolled through the area between 12:30 and 1:15pm.

‘We believe that he was, unfortunately, at the furthest point when the really crazy snowstorm came in,’ Laura Vukson told KMGH-TV

Hall’s mother said her son, who is ‘an experienced hiker with a pace between 3 and 3.5mph,’ is ‘believed to have been at Devil’s Thumb Lake or further east at the continental divide when the weather arrived.’

She said Hall was likely located some 6 miles from the trailhead.

When Hall did not return home that night, the authorities were alerted and a team of some 70 searchers braved winter storm conditions to look for him and Happy.

The search team spent four days looking for the pair but were unable to locate them, according to the Boulder County Sheriff’s Office.

The ground search was eventually suspended due to hazardous weather conditions, including ‘thigh to chest deep snow’ and wind gusts of up to 40mph.

Hall’s mother said her son, who is ‘an experienced hiker with a pace between 3 and 3.5mph,’ is ‘believed to have been at Devil’s Thumb Lake or further east at the continental divide when the weather arrived.’

Hall’s mother said her son, who is ‘an experienced hiker with a pace between 3 and 3.5mph,’ is ‘believed to have been at Devil’s Thumb Lake or further east at the continental divide when the weather arrived.’

At the time of his disappearance, Hall, who is 6ft4in and weighs 200lbs, was wearing either a soft shell gray-brown jacket or a dark hard shell jacket, according to his mother

At the time of his disappearance, Hall, who is 6ft4in and weighs 200lbs, was wearing either a soft shell gray-brown jacket or a dark hard shell jacket, according to his mother

Vukson said that the search was called off due to ‘high avalanche conditions.’

At the time of his disappearance, Hall, who is 6ft4in and weighs 200lbs, was wearing either a soft shell gray-brown jacket or a dark hard shell jacket, according to his mother.

Hall also had a gray-black backpack and a long black leash.

Vukson writes that Happy was without a leash when he was found and that Hall allowed him to hike with no leash.

Anyone with information helpful to the search for Hall is asked to contact Boulder County dispatch at 303-441-4444.



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