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Cold night brings a warm reception

Don Frazier -
Don Frazier
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By Dennis Box-The Courier-Herald

Some Friday mornings are better than others. For former Bonney Lake Police Chief Don Frazier May 18 was about as special as a Friday can get.

After spending a night lost in the woods near Longmire in Mount Rainier National Park, Frazier, 66, and his hiking companion Josef Schaller, 67, found their way out of the forest and into the arms of a large group of relieved loved ones and friends.

“My wife and family and friends were there,” Frazier said. “It seemed like the whole world was there. I still get kind of emotional about it. It was really gratifying. I had a lot of friends out there looking for us.”

Frazier said the two had decided to go on a day hike beginning at Longmire Park May 17.

Longmire is located about seven miles east of the Nisqually entrance in the southwest portion of the park on state Route 706.

Frazier said he was dressed in a T-shirt and shorts and Schaller was dressed in similar fashion.

The two hikers had packed food and water and, Frazier said, “Fortunately I threw a sweatshirt into the pack.”

They were following a trail that took them toward the Nisqually River. The trail had been damaged in the winter storms and the two men could not find the intersection with the road.

“The trail had been washed out and we got into some really rough areas, climbing over and under logs,” Frazier said.

Eventually the hikers realized they were losing light and would have to find shelter for the night.

“We got away from the river and wind and got some shelter by some downed trees,” Frazier said. “We had enough food and water, but I would have given a $1,000 for a sleeping bag. I'll tell you, the daylight did not come soon enough for me. The worst part was not being able to get hold of my wife (Donna).”

Frazier said because of their location his cell phone didn't work.

In the morning, the hikers found their way to the road and hooked up with a Forest Service ranger.

“She asked us if we were the two that were lost,” Frazier said. “Then she took us to Longmire where my car was parked and everyone was there.”

Frazier said he had started hiking and trying to become less sedentary in an attempt to lose weight.

The former chief said he lost about five pounds during his sleepover.

Frazier moved to Bonney Lake in 1945 and joined the police force in 1971 after a hitch in the U.S. Army.

“I was green as grass when I started,” Frazier said. “I'd never been around a revolver and I couldn't find out where the safety was. I'd only seen service pistols and the revolvers didn't have a safety. I figured it out.”

Frazier took over as chief in 1978 and retired in March 2001. He currently works part-time in the properties room in the police department and as an officer for the municipal court.

Dennis Box can be reached at dbox@courierherald.com.

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