Czech mushroom picker recounts 4-day journey through N.W.T wilderness
Marie Neumann hiked 30 kilometres finding her way back to camp
Marie Neumann walked into her mushroom picking camp around 10 p.m. Friday. It was as if she'd just come back from a hike in the woods. She was tired, a little hungry, covered in mosquito bites, but otherwise fine.
But Neumann wasn't coming back from an afternoon hike.
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It began last Monday. She split with fellow picker Kristyna Hajkova on her way back to camp. After first leaving the trail she went north, back the way she'd came. Then she turned around.
"I made the mistake of changing direction," Neumann said on Sunday, still camping in the forest where she'd lost her way. "I stood on a rock and saw the way south was more inviting, comfortable, it was ground you could walk in.
"I thought we were very close to Yellowknife. On the way up we saw campers, I thought I could just walk the other way, hit some roads, and maybe hitchhike back to the camp."
Turning south, Neumann went the wrong way. It was one of a few mistakes Neumann believes she made along the way. The others involved underestimating the terrain and not understanding how far in the wilderness she actually was.
She turned away away from her camp near Reid Lake and walked into the maze of bush and lakes that make up the landscape of the subarctic boreal forest.
"I was worried all the time," Neumann said."I knew I was taking too long. I was worried for the people here and thinking I'd be reported missing."
She'd been reported missing shortly after losing contact with her fellow mushroom pickers Monday evening. RCMP, Yellowknife Search and Rescue and volunteers were all involved.
The effort included a helicopter, which Neumann spotted on her third day out. She used her blue mushroom-bucket to signal it, but it was no use.
Neumann retraced her steps over the next two days, using her compass as a guide. Even though she didn't have anything to eat, she wasn't hungry, only focusing on making it back.
"The hardest part was the emotion," Neumann said. "You were embarrassed that this happened, you were worried for the other people.
"I was feeling good. l wasn't stressed, I wasn't afraid, but I thought maybe the other people think I'm dead and are freaking out. I didn't want to cause that to anybody."
Neumann rested Saturday, debriefing with RCMP and making sure she was all right. Then, she returned to the mushroom camp where she's staying.
"I didn't suffer in the woods, I kind of liked it," she said. "I felt good when I was out there. I wasn't terrified. I was worried for the other people, not for myself."
Her story finished, Neumann put on her gear, met up with the other pickers and went back out into the bush.
With files from Loren McGinnis and Alyssa Mosher