Nightly News   |  August 16, 2013

Horseback riders who found Hannah retrace their steps

Amid the rugged terrain in Northern Idaho, horseback riders came across an odd sight: a man with a cat. It was one of several clues that helped police find kidnap victim Hannah Anderson. NBC’s Kevin Tibbles reports.

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>>> we're back tonight with the first public appearance of hannah anderson since the california teenager was rescued in the mountains of idaho last weekend. and an exclusive first look at where she was found. hannah attended a fund-raiser for her family last night in san diego . friends saying she is grateful for the support. we know that the big break in the case came from a group of horse back riders who came across anderson and her abductor by chance in the wilderness. nbc's kevin tibbles made his way into that area and has our report.

>> reporter: the craggy mountain trails and high pines of northern idaho are majestic and treacherous, which is why when these four seasoned riders came upon a man and a young girl 20 miles from the nearest paved road , something didn't seem right of the after all a, one is a former sheriff and the other a backcountry guide.

>> thwe definitely knew something was drastically wrong.

>> reporter: one thing in particular stood out.

>> cradling the cat and just stroking it. kind of odd.

>> reporter: it was only after they returned home and saw the amber alert for 16-year-old han ana anderson that they became a alarmed and called police.

>> the horse back riders who saw dimaggio and hannah , that was tip number 200. and it turned out to be the one.

>> reporter: for the past two days, mark and christa john and mike and mary young took nbc news along as they retraced their tracks.

>> when they come into the lake and seen this beautiful lake, they thought they were alone.

>> reporter: this backcountry is so remote it's even called the river of no return wilderness area . and the four riders say they rarely encounter anyone up here. nothing but rock and ridge for mile after mile has left them in awe that the young hostage in tennis shoes and sweats even made it this far.

>> they call us heroes, but she's more than likely the hero.

>> reporter: if this chance encounter far from civilization hadn't taken place, these four riders shudder to think what might have happened.

>> i don't know if we saved her life. i know we set the stage for somebody else to save her life.

>> reporter: a chance encounter on a remote trail that likely saved a life. a search of james dimaggio's burned-out home found guns, incendiary devices and after spending two days in the woods with these riders, it's very apparent that this remote place and this chance finding were remarkable. lester?

>> kevin tibbles tonight. thank you.