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Lost mushroom hunter walks 9 miles to safety

By Barney Lerten
Published On: May 28 2013 01:23:40 PM CDT
Deschutes sheriff's SAR logo image

La PINE, Ore. -

A mushroom hunter who became lost in the Round Mountain area west of La Pine on Monday afternoon -- with no food, water or cellphone -- walked about nine miles before making it back to his partner’s RV early Tuesday, 13 hours later, Deschutes County sheriff’s deputies said.

It was the second search for a lost mushroom hunter in the area in less than a week.

Sheriff’s 911 dispatchers got a report around 10:50 p.m. Monday of a lost mushroom hunter who had been missing for about six hours, said Deputy Jim Whitcomb, assistant Search and Rescue coordinator.

The caller, Verlyn Denk, 72, of Bend, said she and her friend, Rudy Herman, 67, also of Bend, had begun hunting for mushrooms around 3:30 p.m. in an area off Forest Service roads 7243 and 870, on the west side of Round Mountain, Whitcomb said.

The pair planned to hunt for about an hour, then meet again at their beginning location. Denk said she lost sight of Herman shortly after he began walking toward the southeast, Whitcomb said.

Denk said she waited until about 6 p.m., then began searching for Herman, without success. She said she did not have cell phone reception to call for help in the area, so she drove to West South Twin Campground, where she contacted the camp host.

A sheriff’s deputy brought Denk back to the area where Herman last was seen and began a search of area roads with a second deputy, Whitcomb said.

Denk told searchers she and Herman had been camping in an RV on the west side of Wickiup Reservoir before they went mushroom-hunting.

Ten SAR volunteers responded to the area and began a more thorough search, including use of ATVs, Whitcomb said.

Herman was reported to not have food, water or a cellphone with him, in an area where temperatures had dropped to the low 40s and a light rain was falling, the deputy said.

After tracks that appeared to be Herman’s were found, a Bend police K-9 team was dispatched to join the search.

But just before that united arrived, a deputy had taken Denk back to her car at the campground, then followed her to their RV, where they found Herman waiting shortly after 6 a.m. He had arrived about a half-hour earlier.

Herman said he was familiar with the area, and had been mushroom-hunting there before. However, this time he became lost and turned around, so he decided to walk to the RV. Whitcomb said it was determined he’d walked about nine miles to get there.

Herman also said he’d fallen in the Deschutes River while getting a drink of water. Whitcomb said he was found in good condition, though tired, wet and cold.

The rescue prompted the sheriff’s office to remind those venturing into the woods to bring key supplies, including a map of the area and/or a GPS, extra warm and water-proof clothing, a form of illumination, first aid supplies, a way to start a fire, food and water, an emergency shelter and a cellphone with a charged battery.

“It is easier to get turned around while in the woods when the focus is toward the ground,” Whitcomb said in a news release.

He also urged those engaged in outdoor recreation to make sure there is an agreed-upon plan for when someone fails to return or show up at a designated time.

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