Rescued hiker ate berries and bugs to survive

August 10, 2011

Following a successful rescue on Aug. 2, Pamela Salant, 28, the Portland woman lost for three nights in the wilderness of the Mt. Hood National Forest last week, underwent surgery on Friday, Aug. 5, for injuries she sustained in her ordeal. She was released from the hospital Tuesday.

According to Detective Matt English of the Hood River County Sheriff's Office, Salant became separated from her boyfriend in heavy brush and steep terrain near Bear Lake while looking for a new campsite late in the afternoon of July 30.

Following a night without contact, Salant's boyfriend, Aric Essig, of Portland, reported her missing around 8 a.m. Sunday, July 31. The two had argued just prior to her departure, according to HRCSO Chief Deputy Jerry Brown.

Hood River County Sheriff Joe Wampler coordinated the multi-agency search beginning on Sunday, which involved many aerial fly-overs and ground teams scouring the remote area.

On Tuesday morning, Wampler called in the National Guard search helicopter for another fly-over to an area located below some footprints left on the trail that were thought to be Salant's.

Salant was found in steep terrain within the Lindsay Creek drainage area, according to Wampler, who noted that Salant was finally spotted around 2 p.m., Aug. 2 while lying on a log and signaling to the National Guard helicopter crew.

"We hoped that the many hours of flying in the area would allow her time to get herself into the open," said Wampler. "That's exactly what happened. She heard the helicopter and was able to drag herself into the creek and out from under the trees."

Once spotted, Salant was then reached in person by four search and rescue volunteers from the Crag Rats, who waited with her until a larger Oregon National Guard helicopter with hoisting capability reached her location.

Search teams included more than 25 personnel from the Hood River County sheriff's office, Crag Rats, U.S. Forest Service, Multnomah County Sheriff's Office and Oregon National Guard. Within two hours of Salant's airlift, which occurred around 3:30 p.m., she was receiving emergency treatment at Legacy Emanuel Medical Center in Portland.

English reported that Salant suffered a broken leg during her 50-foot fall in the steep drainage area, along with multiple lacerations and mid-back fractures.

Salant, an avid hiker, reportedly used moss to cover her body for warmth and ate berries and insects from the area within her reach. She was wearing just a T-shirt and shorts and had no supplies with her at the time of her fall.

According to English, Salant was found about halfway to the Columbia River from Bear Lake, which is located at the base of Mount Defiance.

Salant reportedly was able to move slowly by scooting along the ground - enabling her to locate food and increase her visibility. It is estimated that she crawled about a mile from her original fall site over the three days.

The Oregon National Guard rescue team reached Salant with a UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter. According to Oregon National Guard's Lt. Col. Mark Ulvin, finding Salant was like finding "a needle in a haystack."

Friends and family of Salant report that her injuries will force her to miss two months of work. She also reportedly has no insurance.

A fund has been established for those wishing to help via, using the "send a payment" option, to the email address:

Latest stories

Latest video:

Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge

Log in to comment

News from our Community Partners