68-Year-Old Texas Man Wanders Snake River after Abandoning Homestead

A 68-year-old Texas man made it to the Choggiung Limited Native Corporation Lodge on Tuesday after trekking for hours and being the subject of a search in the Snake Lake area, troopers report.

At just before 5 am on Tuesday, the Alaska Rescue Coordination Center picked up a signal from a portable locator beacon and immediately notified the Alaska State Troopers, who set up and executed a search along with local volunteers.

Searchers took to the mountain road to Nunavaugaluk (Snake) Lake that troopers described as a “summer only” road that is un-maintained, initially using snow machines, then ultimately a patrol vehicle. According to the report, the road was covered in fresh snow and ice and the weather was reported to be below flight standards.

At 11 am, troopers received a report that the man, identified as 68-year-old Mike Branson, had walked in to the Corporation Lodge 20 miles northwest of Dillingham. Troopers arrived at the lodge just after 2 pm and spoke with Branson.According to the trooper report, Branson related to troopers that he had abandoned his unfinished homestead, near the mouth of Snake River, and had attempted to walk to Dillingham. He told troopers that he wandered through the freezing conditions for approximately 12 hours, periodically firing his handgun to attract attention. After eventually running out of ammo for his sidearm, Branson elected to set off his locator beacon.

Branson was transported by troopers to the Kanakanak Hospital to receive treatment for injuries related to a fall on the ice and cold weather exposure.