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Man With Bad Heart, Good Instincts Survives Ordeal in Wilds

January 16, 1987|Special to The Times

SAN FRANCISCO — A Bay Area man with a heart condition was resting in a hospital here Thursday with frostbitten feet but otherwise in "remarkably good condition" after surviving two weeks of snow and subfreezing temperatures while stranded in the Mendocino mountains.

Douglas Dixon, 52, of Fremont disappeared Dec. 30 while on a solo hunting trip near Clear Lake. He ran out of food Sunday, drank water from streams and took his heart medicine every day. On Wednesday afternoon, he hiked out of the mountains about 30 miles north of Willits in Mendocino County. There, he encountered two fisherman on the middle fork of the Eel River who helped him.

"He's a little weak, but he's alive," said Douglas Dixon Jr. "I was beginning to get some doubts, it being so long."

But the son said, "I know my pop's a pretty tough guy. It takes a lot for him to give up."

"He's in good spirits and remarkably good condition," said Barbara Mountrey, spokeswoman for Letterman Army Medical Center in San Francisco, where Dixon was hospitalized. "He's a lot thinner now."

She said Dixon, a father of 10, told her he survived by "holding on to thoughts of his family."

Mountrey said it would be another week to 10 days before doctors could say how many toes, if any, Dixon might lose to frostbite.

Dixon, who has taught survival techniques and won the Silver Star for gallantry during the Korean War, was stranded on the first day of a wild boar hunting trip after his truck was disabled in a ravine. He spent the next 12 days by his truck, eating canned food, lighting fires to keep warm and shooting his rifle into the air in an effort to attract help.

A three-day air and ground search by sheriff's personnel at the beginning of this month failed to locate the missing man.

Out of food and ammunition, Dixon left the truck Sunday morning and started "walking downhill," wearing only a flannel shirt, jeans, boots and a military jacket with liner, according to the Sheriff's Department.

Dixon, who underwent heart bypass surgery in 1982, told doctors that he took his heart medicine every day of the ordeal.

After being initially treated for second-degree frostbite at a clinic near where he was found, Dixon was driven by his family to the San Francisco Army hospital.

"He's a pretty tough guy," said a colleague Thursday at the Santa Rita Rehabilitation Center in Pleasanton, where Dixon works part time as a registered nurse. "He's a mountain man with a lot of stories to tell."

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