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Duluth hikers didn't consider themselves lost, friend says

Overdue hikers Maria Jacenko and Grace Knezevich were so jazzed up after being airlifted off a rugged Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness trail that they talked all the way home Thursday night, said Jacenko's partner, John Siebenand.

The Duluth women rehashed their hiking trip on the remote Kekekabic Trail during the 2½-hour drive, Siebenand said this morning.

"They were in good spirits, wonderful spirits," Siebenand said. "They were all wound up."

The women were spotted by a State Patrol helicopter about 3:15 p.m. on Thursday near Glee Lake, close to the Gunflint Trail, just miles from their destination point. Siebenand said they didn't consider themselves lost, but that they had left the trail a few times and had periodically stopped to rest.

Both women are at the Bendictine Health Center in Duluth today; Knezevich works there as a registered nurse and Jacenko as a physical therapist. Knezevich went in to work her regular shift, while Jacenko, who had the day off, went in to support Knezevich and speak to co-workers and the Benedictine nuns at the St. Scholastica priory in Duluth, many of whom had been praying for the hikers' safety.

Siebenand said the women had lost their maps but were using a compass to move east toward the Gunflint Trail. They had seen a float plane buzz by on Wednesday, and on Thursday they moved up to a ridge where they could be more easily spotted.

They encountered a moose along one part of the trail, Siebenand said, and they had been rationing their food as the planned four-day hiking trip stretched into a nearly weeklong excursion.

"They hadn't really been eating decent food," Siebenand said, though they still had food left when they were picked up. He recalls that, as she was packing for the trip, Jacenko commented that she thought she had an awful lot of trail mix for a four-day hike, but as long as she had room, she might as well pack it.

Jacenko and Knezevich plan to speak about the experience at a press conference this afternoon at the Benedictine Health Center.