Rita Chretien to return to Baker City

By Jayson Jacoby September 10, 2012 10:14 am

By Jayson Jacoby

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The Canadian woman who survived alone for 49 days in the Nevada backcountry in 2011 is coming to Baker City.

More precisely, Rita Chretien is coming back to Baker City.

Although Chretien’s ordeal happened in Nevada, her story, which made headlines worldwide during the spring of 2011, in effect began in Baker City.

Chretien, then 56, and her husband, Albert, 59, were driving from their home in Penticton, British Columbia, to attend a convention in Las Vegas.

The couple stopped on March 19 in Baker City to buy gas and food.

The Chretiens’ children reported them missing on March 31, after they failed to return from the convention.

After a security camera video from the Jackson’s Food Mart on Campbell Street in Baker City confirmed that the Chretiens had been there on March 19, the search for the couple initially focused on Baker County.

Searchers found no sign of the couple.

They weren’t here.

The Chretiens were, in fact, stranded in the northern Nevada mountains where their minivan got stuck along a muddy, remote road on March 22, three days after they left Baker City.

Albert Chretien, 59, started walking, hoping to find help.

He hasn’t been seen since, and has been officially declared dead, said Hannah Hyland, a friend of Rita Chretien’s.

The story, though, turned from depressingly familiar to extraordinary more than a month later.

On May 6, 2011, hunters found Rita, malnourished but relatively healthy, inside the minivan.

This month Rita is returning to the West to meet and, she hopes, to thank some of the people who searched for her, and who helped care for her after she was rescued, said Hyland, one of four friends who will accompany Rita on the trip.

“I can testify, firsthand, what a sweet, amazing inspiring lady she is!” Hyland wrote in an email to the Baker City Herald. “And we can all gain something from her experiences.”

Before revisiting Baker City, Rita plans to go to Nevada and to Twin Falls, Idaho, where she was treated in a hospital after she was rescued, Hyland said.

Rita plans to spend the night of Sept. 22 at the Best Western Sunridge Inn in Baker City.

She invites the public to attend a gathering at 7 p.m. that day at the Sunridge, 1 Sunridge Lane.

“If I were a citizen of your town, had heard about their story and been sad or curious, I would want to meet her and  also welcome her back,” Hyland wrote in the email.