Mushroom pickers found safe: 'They're all happy to be alive'

Mushroom pickers found safe: 'They're all happy to be alive'

LANE COUNTY, Ore. - A day trip to pick mushrooms this weekend turned into more than four men bargained for.

"They're all happy to be alive," said Lane County Search and Rescue deputy sheriff Paul Vitus.

Two men in their 30s headed to the Walton area west of Eugene.

Another, also in his 30s, was at Sutton Lake.

And a third man in his 50s was at Siltcoos Trail.

They all got lost searching for mushrooms.

"They get out in the woods and they're like chickens, they're pecking at the ground, looking for mushrooms," said Vitus. "They're wandering around looking, then they stand up and they go, 'Where am I?' "

After a search, Vitus said all four men were found cold and wet but alive on Sunday.

"They were extremely embarrassed because they said we should have known better, we should have been equipped and they had everything in their car, they just didn't take it with them."

The sheriff's office suggests even if you're heading out for a day hike, bringing things like a backpack with matches, warm clothes, a whistle, water and food can help save your life.

"Cell phones, even though they don't work in the area they might be in, they can still probably dial 911 or do texting," he said. "Sometimes they work that way."

He said as the rain sets in and the temperatures take a dip, it provides ideal conditions for mushrooms to grow. And more mushrooms means more people searching for them, especially in Lane County.

"Mushrooms are at $7 a pound right now so you have a lot of people, more so, out looking for mushrooms for money than you normally do."

Vitus said missing mushroom pickers account for between half a dozen and a dozen search and rescue operations in Lane County every year and the end result isn't always a good one.
    
In October 2010, a 54-year-old Springfield woman died from exposure after getting lost picking mushrooms and spending three days in the Willamette National Forest.

In February of this year, three mushroom pickers got lost in the rugged forest near Gold Beach for six nights before being found alive. They huddled in a hollow log and considered sacrificing their dog for food.

These stories, Vitus said, serve as a reminder to people heading out to mushroom pick or hike.

"We want people to have a good time and be safe, but we want them to be equipped also, take care of themselves."