A nearly five-hour search for a 74-year-old man and his two grandsons lost on Hawk Mountain in Albany Township ended happily Wednesday when they were found shortly before midnight, the boys' mother confirmed.
Elizabeth Christman of Allentown identified the lost hikers as her father, Robert Durn, 74; and her sons, Garrod, 9; and Griffen, 5. All three were uninjured, she said.
"My prayers have been answered," said Christman, who had waited anxiously at the Hawk Mountain Sanctuary visitors center with her husband, Scott.
Christman said she was overflowing with gratitude for the more than 50 volunteers who had turned out to aid in the search in the extreme heat.
Durn and the boys had left Hawk Mountain Sanctuary at 10:30 a.m. for what was supposed to be a three-hour hike, according to Kempton Fire Chief Matt Brett, incident commander. The hikers had not checked in with anyone all day, and state police were contacted about 6:30 p.m. to assemble volunteers for a search.
Darkness set in as crews from Berks and Lehigh counties embarked on heavily forested trails about 9:30 p.m. Equipped with hiking gear and GPS devices, the crews were prepared to continue the search through the night.
"We're going to stay out there until we find them," Brett vowed earlier in the evening.
A state police helicopter equipped with infrared scanning devices flew over the Hawk Mountain preserve until darkness set in.
Shortly after 10 p.m., personnel from Middle Creek Search & Rescue, Lancaster County, arrived with specially trained bloodhounds. The Berks County sheriff's canine unit also joined the search.
Authorities said the missing man's vehicle was parked near the visitors center, and crews used it to help the dogs pick up his scent.
Trooper John Wenrich of the Hamburg station said the thick canopy of trees made it difficult for the infrared equipment to function properly.
Brett, a paramedic, said the ground crews were the best hope of finding the missing hikers.
It was unclear how the hikers were found.