October 4, 1980
We had a glorious fall day for our outing. We left Eugene at 8:15, arrived at Salt Creek Falls Campground at 9:30 and set out on the trail at 10. We picked huckleberries and viewed Fall Creek Falls on the way, arriving at Vivian Lake at noon. We had a relaxing two hours there. One of the party swam, several sunbathed, some walked around the lake, and one tried fishing. Three persons left ahead of the main party, one to check out the mushrooms seen lower down, and two to pick huckleberries. After a brief stop at Fall Creek Falls, the main party went on. The leader counted these, added three, and deduced that three of the party were behind him. This was in error, as two of the three had been passed on the trail. When four hikers appeared, the leader joined them without rechecking his figuring! The last of the party arrived at the trailhead at 3 p.m. A few minutes later, after some of the cars had left, we realized that Ted Stern was missing!
When Ted had not arrived by 3:30, five of us started back up the trail. We blew whistles and shouted all the way back to within sight of the lake, but heard no answer. We quickly searched in the huckleberry bushes near the trail and then descended as the light was fading. There was still no sign of Ted when returned to the trailhead. Those of the party waiting at the trailhead had already gotten word to the deputy sheriff in charge of the district. He came a few minutes later and took down all the information. He advised us that a search would be conducted the next day. We stayed at the trailhead by a fire until well after dark, then returned to Eugene with a stop at the Oakridge Police Station.
Arriving back in Eugene at about 10:45 the leader telephoned Mrs. Stern, the Sheriff’s office, and several Obsidians. These telephoned other Obsidians. One important result was that Bert Ewing telephoned Lt. Howard Kershner, who is in charge of Lane County Search and Rescue. The information had not yet passed through the Sheriff’s office to Lt. Kershner. Once he had the information, things began to happen! Bert arranged for eight of us, seven Obsidians and a friend, to join the search.
At daybreak, search parties entered the area from several points. The regular search units were eight members of the mounted Posse and fifteen Explorer Scouts. First the Obsidians joined the search line of scouts in the higher area where Ted had last been seen. Later we were assigned a search area lower down, and we came upon Ted sitting at a trail junction blowing his whistle. He had taken a wrong turn at a point where the trail is poorly marked. He had been far enough away that we did not hear each other the evening before. He had been well prepared to bivouac for the night. In the early morning, two groups had passed the junction before he came there from his campsite. Needless to say, all were very happy to see him safe and sound!
We were very impressed at how quickly the Lane County Search and Rescue had a party in the field, and we commend the professional conduct of the officers and the volunteers. You can have confidence in them, but it is well to be persistent in checking that the information reaches their director.
Lessons learned and relearned — The leader should keep an accurate account of the party, and be sure that all members of the party are instructed about doubtful trail junctions. Hikers should be as prepared as Ted was.
Those on the regular hike were Elaine Barnes, Joella Ewing, Jan Fisher, Helen Folsom, Maggie Gontrum, Joan Hedgpeth, Bill Holser, Mary Ann Holser, Elizabeth McMullen, Ken Miller, L. Pruitt, Karen Seidel, Byron Skaug, Ted Stern, Millard Thomas, Merle Traudt, and Joel McClure, leader. Those going on the quick search were B. Holser, Miller, Skaug, Traudt and McClure. Those joining the search on Sunday were Bert Ewing, Bill Holser, Frank Moore, Marriner Orum, Arran Riddle, Parker Riddle, Merle Traudt and Joel McClure.