Missing family of 4 found safe in La Plata County wildnerness

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LA PLATA COUNTY, Colo -- A father and his three young children who had been missing since Saturday after setting out on a hike have been found safe, the La Plata County Sheriff's Office said Tuesday.

Dustin Beaver, 33, took his 6-year-old son and his 8-year-old twin son and daughter on what was supposed to be a hike to Dollar Lake at 12,000 feet on Saturday in the Weminuche Wilderness Area of southwest Colorado.

Beaver, from Bayfield, told sheriff's deputies that bad directions from a Texas hiker caused him to go in the wrong direction. After wandering for two days, Beaver came across a family from Australia and asked for help.

The Australian family guided Beaver and his children down the mountain, and escorted them to Pine River Trail, the sheriff's office said. They reached the trailhead northeast of Vallecito between 8 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. Monday.

A member of La Plata County Search and Rescue took the four to Granite Peaks Ranch, where they were examined by Upper Pine Fire Rescue crews.

"They were found to be in good condition," the sheriff's office said in a news release. "Beaver said they had food, water and a tent during the ordeal and were able to start a campfire each night. Their only complaint were the many bug bits over three days."

The family was reported missing after Beaver's wife found his car parked at the Cave Basin trailhead on Middle Mountain, northeast of Durango.

The sheriff's office said there are several game and livestock trails in the area that can be confusion.

At least 30 people from multiple agencies helped in the 15-square-mile search for the family. Two or three military helicopters from the U.S. Air Force and the Colorado National Guard were preparing to join in the search before the family made it to the trailhead.

The names and hometown of the Australian family who helped rescue the Beaver family were not available.