Monday, November 07, 2005

Search and Rescue

Despite its deceptively placid scenic beauty, The Gorge is a rugged place. A French tourist has gone missing at Eagle Creek near Cascade Locks. She has not been seen since 3:30 p.m. yesterday afternoon. Last night rain pelted this area and high winds ripped through, bending the trees and singing a song of the power of nature. Not a night to spend in the wilderness. Alone. In a strange country.

Not dressed in a lightweight yellow parka and tennis shoes. Not if you are unfamiliar with the steep inclines and twisting trails of the parts of The Gorge that border the Interstate. One minute you are in a flat friendly parking lot and the next you are surrounded by hundreds of trees that all look alike and faint trails that meet and branch off. It is not all that hard to lose your way.

In my previous incarnation here in Oregon, I taught Wilderness Survival classes. Our resort was a training ground for Eugene Mountain Rescue, and often we were first responders when someone went missing on the mountain. That was thirty years ago and yet the safety message has still not gotten through. People still head off late in the day dressed in inappropriate clothing and flimsy shoes, without food or water or any safety equipment (matches, whistle, pocketknife, mirror for signaling).

Then…in the dark of night in the worst of weather, stalwart rescuers set off to try to find them. They bring communication devices, battery powered lights, collapsible stretchers, blankets, medical supplies, food, water. A heavy load to carry for the sake of a stranger. But each time a report comes in, they go out. Without hesitation. The Sheriff’s rescue team, EMTs, experienced hikers, local residents who know this country, Mountain Rescue personnel, dogs, horses. Sometimes divers from DART are added to the mix if the Columbia or Sandy River might be involved.

Nearby Mt. Hood has had its share of lost souls stranded there and up that high snow and freezing cold enter into the mix. Hypothermia and frostbite are always lurking.

The lesson here: Use good sense when setting out to enjoy the beauty of the wilderness. When the outdoors beckons, take a minute to pick up your little fanny pack with supplies that you would be grateful to have should you stray from the path. Wear layers, have raingear and a hat. Sturdy shoes or hiking boots even on the hottest days. Need I say NO flip-flops. A map is often a good thing. A flashlight. Don’t count on your cell phone which will probably not work.

Do not make Search and Rescue come for you.


Post a Comment

<< Home