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Westford hiker survives night in White Mountain National Forest

The Kancamagus Highway passes through the White Mountain National Forest, where Robie Gould survived an unplanned night in the elements. Jim Cole/Associated Press

A Westford man survived a night in the elements in White Mountain National Forest this week by using layers of dry clothes and a trash bag to shield himself from the cold, according to rescuers with the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department.

Authorities began searching for Robie Gould, 58, on Monday morning after he did not emerge from a solo hike in the Pemigewasset Wilderness near Lincoln, N.H. He had gone into the woods early Sunday and was supposed to meet a friend at 6 p.m.

Gould texted the friend Sunday afternoon to say he would be late, and that he would find another ride. However, the friend called for help Monday morning after Gould still had not been heard from.


New Hampshire conservation officers found Gould hiking in the rain toward civilization on the Zealand trail at about 2 p.m. Monday. Fish and Game Lieutenant Brad Morse said the weather overnight had been below freezing and windy — making for a difficult night for Gould.

“He said it was so windy that he had to put paper in his ears,” Morse said in an interview with the Globe. “He couldn’t rest because it was so windy that it was hurting him.”

Fish and Game officials said Gould was an experienced hiker who had “carried all the essential equipment for staying overnight in a winter environment.” He put on extra clothes, along with a poncho and a large trash bag. He had no cellphone access where he was.

Morse said he was heartened when his team began the search to learn from Gould’s friends that he was in good physical shape and had spent a lot of time climbing mountains. He had climbed all of New Hampshire’s 4,000-footers, Bond said.

The department urged outdoor enthusiasts to visit hikesafe.com for information about how to prepare. Fish and Wildlife was involved in about 245 search and rescue operations in the year that ended last June, and more than half of those involved hikers or climbers.


Gould, who could not be reached for comment, had been making slower time than expected in part because of the amount of snow in the area.

Morse believes Gould made the right decision when he stopped for the night, to make sure he did not get lost in the dark. He said he was grateful that Gould had a safety plan and carried it out.

“A lot of times we do this and they’re not OK,” Morse said. “If we can’t contact them, we assume the worst and hope for the best.”

Andy Rosen can be reached at andrew.rosen@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter at @andyrosen.