Hundreds of thousands of people venture into Washington's great outdoors each year to recreate at all times of the year. A little preparedness can go a long way, and make the difference between a positive outdoor experience and one that is memorable for all of the wrong reasons.
In January, Fish and Wildlife Officer James Sympson assisted the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office and Randle Fire Department in rescuing six missing motorists from the Morton area. The group of friends had gone out the night before for some four-wheeling fun and hadn't returned. The Lewis County Sheriff's Office had very little information to work with, and didn't even know whether the missing group was in Lewis or Skamania County. But with several feet of snow on the ground and more storms coming in, they knew it was critical to find these folks before they had to spend a second night in the wilderness, without protection from the elements. They contacted Officer Sympson in the Randle area and asked him to search around Oar Creek and Walupt Lake. Officer Sympson was more than willing to help out, even though there was no active Search and Rescue Mission due to the lack of information.
With limited information, Officer Sympson was able to locate all six of the missing people, and bring them out safely with the assistance of some snowmobilers. The group had found themselves stuck in the snow during their four-wheeling adventure and spent the night and the next day stranded near Walupt Lake before Officer Sympson found them north of Orr Creek. Hungry, cold, and down to an eighth of a tank of fuel with no other heat source available, the frightened group panicked and left their vehicles on foot. The group trudged through deep snow in twenty degree weather. They were extremely cold with wet socks when they were rescued shortly before dark. Some kind snowmobilers gave them a bowl of soup at the Orr Creek Sno-Park and let them warm up by the fire. They then assisted Officer Sympson with transporting the group to the Randle Fire Department to be reunited with family and friends.
|Map of the area where the missing motorists were found|
In this instance, a disaster was narrowly averted. Without the help of Officer Sympson, his positive attitude and knowledge of the remote East Lewis County area, these folks may not have been found.
Many thanks to the snowmobilers who provided food, heat, and transportation to these folks! Your assistance was greatly appreciated by the rescued individuals, Officer Sympson, and the WDFW Police.
With this story in mind, here's a list of safety tips that will come in handy when you're planning a trip into Washington's wild and often unpredictable outdoors:
- Let someone know what your travel plans are and how long you plan to be gone;
- Bring enough provisions (food and water) to last a night or two -- granola or power bars are a great emergency food after the fried chicken and potato salad are gone.
- Bring clothing for all climates - we all know how fast the weather can turn in the Northwest! An emergency blanket is also recommended.
- Make sure you do some homework on the services for the area…… "last chance for gas" should mean topping off your tank before you go any further.
- Consider buying a handheld GPS. A simple to use, no frills unit is fairly inexpensive and can provide directions back to camp, vehicles, or trailheads.
- Keep a small survival kit in your vehicle that includes flares, waterproof fire starters, flashlight, and first aid materials. For more information on how to build a vehicle safety and survival kit, visit the WMD Emergency Management Division's "Vehicle Safety and Preparedness Tips" webpage.