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Wisconsin couple missing after trip to Yellowstone National Park found safe

A Wisconsin couple reported missing after a visit to Yellowstone National Park was found safe on a closed highway in Wyoming, where their car had been stuck for nearly a week, officials said Monday.

The owner of a guest ranch heard about the missing couple Sunday night and went looking for them Monday morning.

Troy Barnett said he was "kind of worried what he might find" as he drove his pickup up Beartooth Highway in search of Mark and Kristine Wathke of Cornell, Wis., The Billings Gazette reported

He drove as far along the highway as he could in his pickup then unloaded his snowmobile and drove another 3 or 4 miles before spotting the car.

"They were just glad to see me. Excited. Tearful. Happy as hell," Barnett told the newspaper. "I threw them both on my sled and drove back to the truck."

The Wathkes were cold and hungry, but otherwise OK, said Park County sheriff's spokesman Lance Mathess.

Barnett said the couple told him they did not see the "road closed" sign as they followed their GPS up the highway.

Barnett took them back to his ranch, where they called relatives and the sheriff's office.

"We've had ranchers locate people before," Mathess said. "These people are amazing. They selflessly give of their time."

The Wathkes had enough fuel to run their car periodically to keep warm and had plenty of water but limited food, Mathess said. There is no cellphone coverage in the area.

They were last seen leaving the northeast entrance of Yellowstone at 4 p.m. Tuesday. They had hotel reservations in Miles City that night but didn't arrive.

"The crazy thing is I guess they've been searching for them for a while, but the first we heard about it was last night," Barnett said.

The couple is staying in Cody until they can figure out how to retrieve their vehicle and drive back to Wisconsin, Mathess said.

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