A 28-year-old hiker escaped the wilds of Oregon unscathed, thanks in no small part to the forces of luck. Erik Larson, a resident of Bend, Oregon, disappeared into Oregon’s famed Three Sisters Wilderness, one of the more scenic parts of the 2,663 mile Pacific Crest Trail, on September 30. Larson, like many hikers, wasn’t content with the trails outdoorsmen typically take, and chose instead to take the proverbial road less traveled. That, as the famous Robert Frost poem goes, certainly did make all the difference.
Changes in climate, the lack of a map, and spotty cellphone service left Larson without any means of escape, as he slowly realized that he was in out of his depth. Luckily, as the hiker pushed on to find a way out of the woods, he found a spot with cell reception, enabling him to put a call in to the Lane County Sherriff’s Search and Rescue Team. The team triangulated the signal from Larson’s cellphone, launching an immediate rescue operation by foot and horseback. The search ended when Larson stumbled across his car later that night.
Larson’s Case is Not Unique
According to The Oregonian, Larson’s experience in the wilderness of Oregon was not unique. Hundreds of hikers go missing in Three Sisters Wilderness and other parts of the state every year. The only difference in Larson’s case is that, unlike many of the hikers who get lost, he actually managed to find his way back to civilization. Since 1997, more than 200 people missed out on the same stroke of luck.
Men between the ages of 25 and 40 are at particular risk of getting lost, as hubris often leads to leaving essential navigation tools — maps, GPS, and satellite phones — at home, as Backpacker details in a profile of the average lost hiker. Many assume that a cellphone and an innate understanding of the woods will be enough, when, in reality, satellite phones, with their ability to be connected to regional phone lines and networked to mainland systems, are far easier to trace and get a call out on than the average smartphone. No doubt this is something Larson will think about as he makes ready for his next jaunt into Oregon’s endless woodland.