Richard Shaffer and his son Daniel hoped to enjoy fishing and the great outdoors when they planned their vacation in the Rocky Mountain National Forest.
Instead, the two found themselves in a fight for survival when heavy rains began to flood their cabin.
“We got downstairs and there was 4 inches of water in the kitchen area. It was coming through the house,” said Richard Shaffer of west Columbus.
Shaffer said the Big Thompson River had grown from a 4-feet-wide shallow body of water to a 70- to 100-feet-wide raging river.
“It looked like the Niagara rapids going down there,” said Shaffer.
He said he and his son had only one choice -- head to higher ground.
That meant scaling an 8,000-foot mountain.
“We started up over the mountain about 10:30,” Shaffer said.
For two hours, the 68 year old, along with his 41-year-old son, climbed the mountain hauling their suitcases in hand.
But dehydration took its toll.
“I was gently breaking off leaves, wiping my lips and drinking whatever few drops I could get to get some water,” Shaffer said.
He said he collapsed at one point before making it to the top of the ridge.
Adding to the ordeal, his son needed his medication for Crohn’s disease, and Shaffer needed his medication to help with his panic disorder.
“I was without my medication for five days, so my nerves were pretty much shot,” he said.
Shaffer’s wife, who hadn't heard from her family in days, said she feared her husband and son were dead.
“It was just sheer panic not knowing anything,” said Antonia Shaffer.
After days of not knowing and watching endless news reports, Antonia said she finally got the call she waited for.
“I just screamed, ‘It’s you!’” she said.
The Shaffers ended up finding other people stranded in the flood, and the fire department set up a zip line to get them across the flooded river to safety.
As for their next vacation, Shaffer and son say they're heading to the beaches of Florida.
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