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Huckleberry festivals mark ripening of Idaho state fruit

WILD EDIBLES — The huckleberry harvest season is underway at lower elevations and the pleasure is working its way up the region’s mountainsides as the berries ripen. People and communities have taken note:

The berries are ripening at higher elevations this week, but the peak rage of ripe berries occurs in August. With my family in tow, I have to add hours to the hiking time into a Cabinet or Bitterroot mountains backpacking destination. It's hard to walk past a booming patch of hucks.

High areas in the Selkirk Mountains, such as Roman Nose, provide good picking into September.

Air Force helicopter rescues Marble Creek rafter

WATERSPORTS — The benefits of living near an Air Force Base with skilled rescue helicopter pilots have paid off for recreationists, most recently in a one-weekend blitz to help a Pacific Crest Trail hiker as well as a Spokane Valley rafter on a tributary to the St. Joe River.

Airmen from the 36th Rescue Flight answered the call to save not only one, but two lives in one weekend. We're just getting the details.

On June 13 at 5:30 p.m., the crew received a call that a kayaker was stranded 70 miles southeast of Fairchild Air Force Base, according to a report by Airman 1st Class Janelle Patiño of the 92nd Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs.

Within a few hours, the crew launched the UH-1N Huey and was enroute to the man's location.

Bart Rayniak, a retired Spokesman-Review photograher, had been kayaking near where Marble Creek flows into the St. Joe's River when his cataraft flipped, ejecting him into the cold water.

“There were some challenges that occurred during the rescue due to the weather, but the crew of Rescue 48 never gave up,” said Maj. Jennings Marshall, the 36th RQF commander. “At 8:30 p.m., Capt. Nate Jolls, a 36th RQF pilot, with the survivor on board, began an approach back toward the ambulance where Maj. Montsho Corppetts, a 336th Training Support Squadron medic, was waiting.”

“I was never able to truly thank my rescuers,” Rayniak told the base reporter. “They were so wonderful! They put their lives on the line to save mine. They were amazing flyers and crew. They were professional and caring. Damn good at what they do. I will always be grateful.”

A logging operation this year apparently has caused logs to slide into the river and increase the hazard for floaters during high water, the only time Marble Creek is navigable for rafts and kayaks.

  • Rayniak has not been available for further comment to the S-R.

Friends recovered his cataraft the next day. The video in the post below indicates the velocity of the water and the hazards in the Marble Creek posed by a logging operation. A look at this brief video explains why Rayniak couldn't just swim to safety even though he was fully decked out with dry suit and life vest.

Two days later, on June 15, the crew received a call at approximately 11:30 a.m. that there was an injured hiker along the Pacific Crest Trail in Northern Washington needing quick extraction.

“He had been walking along a steep and snowy section of the trail when he slipped and tumbled down the mountainside, hitting a tree and breaking several ribs,” Marshall said. “Fortunately, his hiking buddy was able to call for help.”

Capt. Erik Greendyke, the 36th RQF operations supervisor, worked with Marshall to assemble a crew. The crew then launched at 1 p.m. and followed the Methow River past Mazama, Wash., to the hiker's location.

“Other hikers prepared a bright orange tent along the ridgeline that helped us immediately identify the area with minimal searching,” Marshall said. “As soon as we rescued the injured hiker and his hiker buddy, the survivor was then loaded onto an ambulance with the help of Capt. Josiah Hart, the 36th RQF standardization and evaluation liaison officer, and Staff Sgt. Nicholas Poe, a 36th RQF special missions aviator, and departed for the hospital.”

Helicopter rescue operations can be dangerous, but the 36th RQF crews constantly train to maintain proficiency in rescue operations as part of the mission to support the Air Force's only Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape school.

“We take great effort to ensure rescues are executed safely and with as little risk as possible,” Marshall said. “Our normal training missions take place at Fairchild and in the Colville National Forest and we have been tasked to perform civilian rescues throughout the Pacific Northwest in Washington, Idaho, Oregon and Montana.”
  

PCT hikers wasn’t lost, ‘just stuck’ in storm

UPDATED at 5:10 p.m.

IKING — A 23-year-old woman reported missing for six days while hiking the Pacific Crest Trail in southwest Washington was found safe this weekend.

Alejandra Wilson was located Saturday afternoon, authorities told the Associated Press. She was cold and tired but otherwise OK.

 

A search team spotted the Oregon woman walking in the Crest trail area as she started hiking out. She was reported missing after becoming overdue for a trail check Sept. 30.

Sgt. George Town of the Yakima County sheriff’s office said Wilson reported that she got stranded by a snow storm about a week ago and waited until conditions improved before walking out.

“She said the snow was almost waist deep and she was pretty well stuck. She wasn’t lost, she was just stuck,” Town said in an interview Sunday.

Wilson told authorities she hunkered down and set up camp under some trees to wait out the storm, he said. From there, she said she spotted the Coast Guard helicopters that went up in search of her. The helicopters flew overhead but she wasn’t able to flag them down in time, Town said.

“The Coast Guard guys were right on track. They did a good job. She wasn’t able to make herself visible,” but their presence “gave her real confidence,” Town said.

He noted that she still had food when she was located Saturday. She was reunited with her dad, grandparents and friends Saturday.

Some of the volunteer searchers included hiking companions who had been on the trail with her earlier in her trip, Town said Sunday. 

The Oregonian caught up to Wilson for a first-hand account and the “chilling” details. Click “continue reading” to read the account from the AP Wire.

Author revives art of naturally finding your way

NAVIGATION — Long before GPS, Google Earth, and global transit, humans traveled vast distances using only environmental clues and simple instruments.

John Huth, Harvard physics professor and author of The Lost Art of Finding Our Way, says we can still do it.

Anyone who ventures outdoors should at least check out this book and ponder the consequences of allowing modern technology to substitute for our innate capacity to find our way. 

  • The Vikings navigated using the sunstone to detect polarization of sunlight.
  • Arab traders learned to read the wind for direction.
  • Pacific Islanders used underwater lightning and “read” waves to guide their explorations. 

 Even today, careful observation of the sun and moon, tides and ocean currents, moss on trees, weather and atmospheric effects can be all we need to find our way.

Getting Lost Costs Taxpayers

Item: Getting lost can cost – and taxpayers get hit: Shoshone County has had a recent rash of searches/Becky Kramer, SR.

More Info: The first call came from snowmobilers near the old mining town of Murray, Idaho. Dusk had set in, and the caller was worried about a man who had gotten separated from his group. Shortly afterward, the Shoshone County Sheriff’s Department got another call about a lost snowmobiler. This one had failed to meet a friend near Wallace. Emergency calls from winter recreationists are common at the Shoshone County sheriff’s department, but the past two Saturdays were particularly busy. Deputies launched five search and rescue efforts to help a hurt snowmobiler and find skiers and snowmobilers who got lost or failed to return on time.

Question: Should individuals who get lost be required to pay some of the bill for their rescue?

Dog rescuers went the extra mile

WINTER SPORTS — Today's story about students rescuing a snowshoer's bluetick coonhound lost in the Kettle Range for two nights offers a life lesson to all of us.

Helping other people can be remarkably easy and productive if we just make the effort to try.

Think about what we could accomplish if everyone looked for a way to contribute every day rather than leaving it to somebody else.

See post-rescue photos here.

Hikers leave map home, separate from party, spend cold night out

HIKING — A couple of seasoned hikers made three classic mistakes that left them out on the slopes of Mount Rainier for a cold night in the woods Tuesday.

In a nutshell:

  • They separated from their party (and the party didn't wait for them at a critical trail junction!);
  • They didn't bring a map for the area to make an educated decision at the trail junction,
  • They didn't have matches that would light a warming fire when they realized they had to spend the night out in temps that ranged to about 40 degrees.

But they did a few things right

  • They stayed put, stayed calm, made shelter and cuddled to conserve body heat.

“I can tell you this for sure, his butt is warmer than mine,” said one of the hikers, both of whom are older than 75. 

“Yeah, how do you know?” the reporter asked.

“Because I was right up against it. And that’s a pretty strange feeling, I can tell you.”

Read on for the story by Scott Sandsberry of the Yakima Herald-Republic

Record number of rescues logged in Tetons

MOUNTAINEERING —  Major searches and rescues at Grand Teton National Park hit a single-year record last week.

The Casper Star-Tribune reports that park officials aren’t sure yet why there were so many rescues this year.

The record was eclipsed Aug. 20 when climber Lauren McLean of Lake Oswego, Ore., became the 31st major rescue since the park’s fiscal year began Oct. 1. McLean fell 20 to 30 feet because her belay system failed.

The busy year started right away for the Jenny Lake Climbing Rangers. Twelve major rescues were performed during the winter and early spring months.

Full-time ranger Chris Harder told the newspaper rangers normally perform three to four major rescues during the winter.

Rescued hiker not feeling the love from Glacier Park officials

BACKPACKING — Glacier National Park officials breathed a sigh of relief this week after an aerial search fairly quickly turned up an overdue backpacker who'd set out on an overambitious spring itinerary.

But after returning the Helena man safely to civilization, ark officials issued a press release making it clear they are not impressed with people who set out on solo adventures that have a high probability of putting rescuers in harm's way.

Read on for the details.

Tetons search and rescue costs soar

NATIONAL PARKS — Search and rescue operations are costing Grand Teton National Park millions of dollars topped by last month's $115,000 search for missing backcountry skiers.

In 2009, the last year figures were available, the National Park Service spent about $5 million performing search and rescue operations. The recent search for Walker Kuhl of Utah and Gregory Seftick of Montana, who went missing on a backcountry ski trip, cost the park $115,000, nearly double of any previous search and rescue operation.

The debate over who should pay for such operations increases along with the costs, according to this story on Wyofile.com.


  

Rescuers sued in skier death

The heirs of a skier from New York who became lost outside the boundaries of Grand Targhee ski area in January and died of hypothermia are suing the Teton County Sheriff’s Department, Teton County, Idaho Search and Rescue, and others for $5 million in a wrongful death claim. The 46-year-old man called 911 on a dying cell phone and spoke with dispatchers twice that evening, prompting a search, but he wasn’t found until morning, when he was unconscious and later died. Click below for a full report from the Teton Valley News, via the Associated Press.