Search and rescue 2

Heather Pearson rides “Bat,” Holly Akenson’s 20-year-old, experienced search-and-rescue mule while Akenson leads the the two back to the trailhead.

Some members of the Wallowa County Search and Rescue had an eventful Fourth of July, and once again showed why the county is lucky to have these dedicated individuals to call upon.

Portland resident Heather Pearson was hiking the Hurricane Creek trailhead with her partner, Caloum Johnson, on July 3 when she lost her footing and slid off a wet log. Her ankle snapped, preventing her from walk on it.

The couple were 8 miles up the trail, so getting out was going to be difficult. Johnson made Pearson comfortable and then set off down the trail to summon help. He reached the Hurricane Creek Grange and called 911.

Although the Wallowa County Sheriff Office quickly alerted search and rescue equine coordinator Holly Akenson, it was too late in the evening to get a mounted search and rescue underway. Johnson returned to stay overnight with Pearson.

The following morning, Akenson, and a group of nine rescuers started up the Hurricane Creek trail encountering a number of obstacles along the way.

“There were several big avalanches that we had to cross,“ she said. “And there were places where the snow was pretty deep. We were worried about the safety of horses and mules because you don’t really know what’s under the snow that they are ‘postholing’ through.”

The SAR members carried not only their usual wilderness first-aid supplies, but also a COVID-19 kit that included masks, face shields, gloves and even a protective Tyvek suit.

Eventually, the group reached Pearson, splinted and wrapped her injured ankle and loaded her on a mule for the trip back down the trail.

Overall, this story had a happy ending, and, thankfully, because of the dedication of the Wallowa County Search and Rescue team, most of the time they are activated, there is a positive outcome. That’s because the group works tirelessly — through all kinds of weather and at all times of the day — to help bring people back home to their families.

When they are called on to help, these dedicated individuals have responded quickly, professionally and successfully. Thank you for a job well done.

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