COLUMBIA RIVER GORGE, Ore. – A hiker without a flashlight got lost on a trail on Horsetail Falls Thursday night, according to the Multnomah County Sheriff's Office. He was found cold but safe at about 1:40 a.m. Friday.
The hiker, 43-year-old Scott Morrison from Beaverton, was able to call 911 at about 6:30 p.m. and searchers deployed to the area at about 8:30 p.m.
Search and rescue personnel said a rain/snow mix was falling at the time Morrison was found and he was not prepared to be out overnight in the cold conditions. They said he had some water but no food with him and was wearing jeans, a light shirt, light jacket, hat and a backpack.
Morrison used a lighter to burn his backpack and it's contents as well as his hat to stay warm while waiting for rescuers, search team members said.
Rescuers said they found Morrison in good spirits and he was "very happy to be found" but was cold and "shaken up by the experience." They said Morrison told them he did the same hike seven years ago but did not recall it being so long.
"I just want to thank the Multnomah County Sheriff;s Department and the search and rescue guys that came and got me, they were just awesome," an emotional Morrison said Friday morning. "From beginning to end, I just can't tell ya how grateful I am to them."
Search and rescue team member Jonas Benoit said he was excited to participate when he got the call to search for Morrison. "I love doing this," he said. About the weather, Benoit said "it was actually really nice until we got up on top, then a little bit of hail, but other than that the weather was great." He also said that many search and rescue members are teenagers in high school.
Deputies said they had intermittent phone contact with Morrison during the search. They said he got lost because he could no longer see the trails when it got dark and got turned around.
Rescuers said once Morrison made contact by phone, he stayed in one place which made it easier for them to locate him quickly.
Morrison was at about 3,000 feet in elevation and temperatures were in the low 30s overnight in the area.
He was expecting to only be on a day hike. Horsetail Falls is just east of Multnomah Falls.
Deputies said after Morrison made his way back to the trailhead with rescuers at about 6 a.m., he rested a bit and then drove himself home to Beaverton.
The Multnomah County Sheriff's Office urges all hikers to be prepared:
The Multnomah County Sheriff's Office would like to remind anyone contemplating a hike or outing on hiking trails within the Columbia Gorge and other scenic areas to carry the proper equipment when setting out including a map, compass, flashlight, extra food and water, extra clothing, fire starter, knife, first aid kit and signaling device, a GPS device and a cell phone with extra battery.
If you do become lost in the woods, preserve your body heat. Don't lie directly on the ground make a mattress of pine boughs or leaves. Try to find a place out of the rain and wind, but be visible. Staying in place helps searchers locate you as they are searching the area. Carry bright colored clothing you can hang on a tree to attract attention. Let someone know your plan and when you expect to return so someone knows if you are overdue.
As the winter approaches, low temperatures in the higher elevations can bring snow and hail. Be prepared for bad weather.