ROCKLAND LAKE — Two college students were rescued this evening after they went hiking off trail and got lost in a tough stretch of wooded terrain surrounded by sheer drop-offs.
Alexis Callan and Alexa Schrader, both 19 and from Congers, went hiking on the Rockland Lake side of Hook Mountain about 3:30 p.m. today, said Kristin Callan, Alexis Callan’s mother.
About 40 minutes later, Kristin Callan got a call from her daughter, who said she and Schrader had gone off the path and gotten lost.
“She called me to say that they were stuck and couldn’t find their way back to the path. They could see that they were high up. They were near a cliff and I just told them not to move,” Kristin Callan said. “I said, ‘Stay put, call 911 and I’m on my way.’”
Firefighters from the Rockland Lake and Nyack fire departments arrived on scene along with state park police, Clarkstown police and medics from the Congers-Valley Cottage Volunteer Ambulance Corps.
Nyack Fire Chief James Petriello said 44-Control, Rockland’s central fire dispatch center, was able to get a good location on the hikers’ whereabouts by pinging one of their cell phones. Within about 15 minutes, firefighters had physically located the girls.
Robert Runge, a Rockland Lake firefighter, was the first to make contact.
“They were sitting in the grass, part way down the mountain, and then I walked up behind them and said, ‘Stay exactly where you are, don’t move,’” Runge said.
Runge said the women were about 10 feet from one another on a complicated stretch of terrain featuring steep inclines and several sheer drops. The hikers were nervous, Runge said, until he deemed the situation safe enough to allow one of the girls to scoot over to her friend.
“I said, ‘Listen, you can slide down. I’ll stay right in front of you and if you fall, I’ll catch you.’ Once they got together, they were fine,” Runge said.
Runge was joined a short time later by Nyack firefighters equipped with helmets, harnesses and other gear the Rockland Lake department was lacking.
About 6 p.m., the girls were walked out of the woods flanked by the volunteer firefighters. Alexis Callan had suffered a minor cut to her ankle that was treated by medics at the scene, but the girls were otherwise uninjured. The fire companies also reported no major injuries.
Schrader, who had just finished her freshman year at the University of Alabama, said she and Alexis Callan, a student at Berkeley College in Paramus, N.J., were on their way down the mountain when they realized they were on a different path from the one that had taken them to the top.
Though initially nervous, she said both girls were relieved once they knew help was on the way.