HAT POINT LOOKOUT — A 45-year-old Portland man was rescued Saturday, July 25, after being missing more than 72 hours during a hike that took him down to the Snake River, said Mike Hansen, incident commander for Wallowa County Search and Rescue.
The man, who Hansen declined to name, had no trauma, such as broken bones. He only had some scratches, bumps and bruises, Hansen said.
“He was very, very tired, hungry and had sore feet,” he said.
When Hansen interviewed him the next day, the man — who was hiking alone — said he intended to spend one night on the bench below Hat Point on Wednesday, July 22. However, while traveling south and looking for a way back to the top, he missed the trail and ended up where Sluice Creek empties into the Snake River.
Hansen said the man decided to go on down to the Snake in hopes of finding help. There, he found some commercial rafters, who took him downstream until they came upon a jet boat operated by Hells Canyon Adventures out of Oxbow. The jet boat took him about 15 miles upstream to Hells Canyon Dam where there is a boat launch and road access.
“He got lucky,” Hansen said.
Hansen said Hells Canyon Adventures has helped with several rescues in recent years.
“This isn’t the first time they’ve helped,” Hansen said. “They’ve been very, very helpful.”
He said six or seven members of the search and rescue team were involved, including a German shepherd tracking dog. To obtain a “scent item,” Hansen said, Wallowa County Sheriff Steve Rogers broke into the man’s vehicle parked at the Hat Point Lookout. The vehicle break-in also was conducted to investigate for any clues to where the lost man might have gone or what his intent was. Hansen said all the man’s belongings retrieved from the vehicle were returned to him.
In addition to the search and rescue team, Hansen said personnel from the sheriff’s office, Oregon State Police and the U.S. Forest Service were involved. He said the Oregon National Guard also sent a Blackhawk helicopter to help with the search, but the man was found before it arrived so it was sent back to base in Salem.
Hansen said sometimes people who are rescued are concerned they might be billed for the services.
“A lot of people ask us this,” he said. “Ultimately, it is paid for through taxes but it doesn’t come down to the lost person.”
The search and rescue unit is a nonprofit funded by the county hotel/motel tax and staffed by volunteers.
“Our services at search and rescue are free,” Hansen said. “We don’t charge people.”