PORT ANGELES — After spending a day and most of two nights lost, 18-year-old Nicholas James Gaylord walked out of the woods Tuesday morning and onto a road southeast of Port Angeles, where he was spotted by a motorist.
“They contacted him and said, ‘Are you lost?’ and he said yes,” Clallam County Sheriff’s Sgt. John Keegan said.
Gaylord had spent 32 hours dressed in pajamas, a T-shirt and shoes in temperatures that had dipped to 46 degrees.
“He was cold, he was wet, he was tired,” Keegan said.
“All he did say was, he just went out for a walk.
“He appeared happy to be found.
“He seemed very relieved to be reunited with his family.”
The motorist, who recognized Gaylord from social media alerts, saw him leaving the woods near the intersection of New Bridge Lane and Alder Lane, south of the U.S. Highway 101 Morse Creek curve and west of Deer Park Road.
The motorist gave Gaylord food and water and called 9-1-1.
Keegan said Gaylord had apparently walked 1.5-2 miles north of his home in the 500 block of Henry Boyd Road, likely following Morse Creek until he exited the trees.
His arms were scratched but he otherwise appeared fine, Keegan said.
He was dropped off at his parents’ home and was expected to be taken to the hospital to be treated for dehydration other consequences of the ordeal, Keegan said.
His parents could not be reached Tuesday for comment.
Gaylord, who has schizophrenia, might have been confused over his whereabouts, his father told authorities.
Gaylord was reported missing after deputies responded to a prowler complaint near his residence around midnight Sunday.
A male matching his description was reported knocking on a neighbor’s door and trying to enter another neighbor’s residence through the back door before being chased off, Keegan said.
Search parties from the U.S. Border Patrol, the Clallam Bay Corrections Center Inmate Recovery Team and the Sheriff’s Office were getting ready to continue searching Tuesday morning for Gaylord when he was found.
“We were staging the area, literally on our way to the very south area of South Alder,” he said.
For someone who is lost in a wooded area, “that would be the path of least resistance,” Keegan added.
Numerous personnel were needed “because of the large area he could be in and all the outbuildings in that area,” Keegan said.
Searchers had no information about Gaylord’s intentions when he went missing, Keegan said.
“We just have to go off of the environment,” he said.
Searchers figured Gaylord would follow Morse Creek, which is near his home.
“Most people follow the path of least resistance when they’re lost, and it led him right into a neighborhood.”
Keegan said ideally a person should remain in place when lost.
“He would have probably heard us in the area and been able to call back if he continued to stay stationary,” he said.
Keegan said in a press release that he appreciated the help of the Border Patrol and state Department of Corrections, offering “a special thanks to the observant citizen who recognized Nicholas and contacted the Sheriff’s Office.”
Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at [email protected].