Adel mother tells harrowing story of son’s mountain rescue

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A book launch for "Two Trail's: A Hiker's Story of Survival and His Mother's Story of Hope," will be held Thursday, Sept. 29 at 7 p.m. at the New Hope Church at 25712 U.S. Highway 6 in Adel.

The thrilling story of the rescue of Eric Desplinter, formerly of Perry, who spent five days stranded with his female coworker in the rugged San Bernardino Mountains east of Los Angeles in 2019, is told in a new book by Karen Ziebarth of Adel, Desplinter’s mother.

The book, entitled “Two Trail’s: A Hiker’s Story of Survival and His Mother’s Story of Hope,” will be launched Thursday, Sept. 29 at 7 p.m. at the New Hope Church at 25712 U.S. Highway 6 in Adel.

“Getting the message that my son had not returned from a planned hike in the San Bernardino Mountains and that he was missing was the most paralyzing call I’ve ever received,” said Ziebarth. “Were they alive? Were they hurt? Why hadn’t Eric found his way to us? These were all questions I asked myself repeatedly as my family waited for answers.”

Ziebarth was on a plane to Southern California within three hours of learning Eric was missing. His sister, Nicki Deardorff of Perry, was not long behind her.

“I learned very quickly how a rescue operation is put together as we watched skilled professionals and countless volunteers search day after day for any sight of Eric and his coworker, Gabrielle Wallace,” said Ziebarth.

“As grueling as not being of any help to the rescue teams was for my family, the selflessness and kindness of each volunteer and professional are what kept us going,” she said.

Desplinter and Wallace spent five days trying to make it out of a canyon, with each day presenting new obstacles. Their food, water and clothing were limited, and they had no equipment to safely navigate a canyon. This, coupled with enduring the bitter weather, required mental toughness if they were to survive.

Ziebarth grew up in Pipestone, Minnesota. After several moves to various states over the years, she moved to central Iowa in 1991 and settled in Adel, where she runs a small business, enjoys time with her children and grandchildren and tries to escape to enjoy the outdoors as much as possible. Karen visits national parks yearly with her sons and has a goal of visiting all 63.

Inspired by his own rescue, Desplinter has gone on to become a search-and-rescue responder and emergency canyoneer in his own right. He lives in Chino Hills, California, and continues to explore the environs of Mt. Baldy.

Thursday’s book launch with begin with an introductory video, followed by a brief presentation by Ziebarth and a Zoom call with Desplinter. A video tribute to the selfless search-and-rescue volunteers who inspired Ziebarth’s authroship will conclude the launch. Autographed copies of “Two Trails” will be available for purchase at the event.

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