Prineville's Binder family has a long history of wilderness activities and adventure. So it was no surprise last year when the family allowed Shiloh, who was 14 at the time to solo hike the entire Oregon portion of the Pacific Crest Trail.
Older sister Marah was also involved in adventure in 2019, participating in a 50-day wilderness leadership program that included mountaineering and backpacking.
In addition, the family has taken wilderness survival courses as well as first aid and wilderness first aid classes.
With the family fully prepared, Marah, now 17, and Shiloh, 15, had planned to hike the Washington portion of the Pacific Crest Trail this summer. However, COVID-19 dramatically changed their plans.
"Originally we had been planning on hiking all of Washington and then with all of the COVID stuff coming it was just looking like a lot of their towns and shops and stuff were not going to be open," Shiloh said. "So we decided that for this year we would do a shorter, closer-to-home trip."
On July 2, Shiloh and Marah set out from Cascade Locks, along with family friend Caden Bulic, who is also 17, to walk a portion of the Pacific Crest Trail.
The trio returned July 13, with stories of the adventure of a lifetime.
For most of the trip, their hike was uneventful. The trio was well prepared, carrying two satellite phones, solar panels and two battery packs, so that they could charge electronics in the evening, and plenty of supplies.
Traveling light, the trio averaged approximately 20 miles a day early in the trip, arriving at Timberline Lodge right on schedule.
Once at the lodge, they took a rest day, while family members resupplied them.
The trip continued uneventfully until their second resupply point at Breitenbush hot springs. Continuing south, the trio entered the Mount Jefferson Wilderness, an area that all agreed was one of the highlights of the trip.
"Mount Hood was really pretty, but as soon as we got to Jefferson Park, we were hiking through snow fields and there were some really pretty alpine lakes that we camped at," Caden said. "They were gorgeous and they always had a view of Mount Jefferson."
"It was absolutely amazing," added Marah. "We camped at the base of Jefferson a couple of nights at different campsites where we always had Jefferson in our view. The lakes were so beautiful."
Shiloh added that it was completely different than he remembered it from the previous year.
"It was nice weather and it was real pretty," he said. "It was tough hiking, but it was pretty fun days."
What made the hiking so tough was that the entire area was still covered in snow. When Shiloh hiked the area the year before there were scattered patches of snow, but with a cooler than usual spring and summer, the entire area was still blanketed with snow. In addition, the trio was heading south, while Shiloh hiked north the previous year.
"It was extremely different," Shiloh said. "It wasn't even like the same trail. I remembered parts of the trail, but it was a different experience being with people and everything about the trail was just different. I was thinking backward and when I was thinking about what was coming up, I had to think what did I hit before this last year. It was kind of weird to think about it that way. We went up everything I went down last year."
DETERMINATION DURING HARROWING NIGHT
The trio had intended to finish their hike at the Santiam Sno-Park on U.S. Highway 20, but their plans changed dramatically on Saturday, July 11.
After an uneventful day of hiking near Three-Fingered Jack, the trio set up camp. Shortly thereafter, a man named Carl walked through their camp. He returned a short time later. The trio of teens struck up a conversation with Carl and discovered that his hiking partner, James, had been seriously injured earlier in the day. The pair had been in a remote area and James had fallen into an icy ravine, breaking his ankle.
Neither hiker had satellite phones and they could not reach anyone on their cell phones.
Carl said that James had fallen and broken his ankle at approximately 2:30 in the afternoon. By the time Carl talked to Shiloh, Marah and Caden, it was 7 p.m.
"Carl was camping close to us and he wandered through our camp a couple of times, so we were checking in with him, saying 'what's up?'" Marah said. "And he said 'my buddy just broke his ankle.' We asked what we could do to help and he said 'I don't think there is anything that you can do to help unless you have a satellite phone.'"
The trio told Carl that they had a pair of satellite phones.
"Carl pointed out on a map to us some crude directions where he thought James was," Marah said.
The trio immediately sprang into action, first calling 911 from the satellite phones to give them James' approximate location to search and rescue.
Then, Marah and Caden took the group's first aid supplies and at approximately 7:30 p.m. left their camp in search of James. It wasn't until after dark that they found him.
"It was only about two miles from our campsite, but it took about three miles to get there because of how remote it was," Caden said. "It was pretty hard to get down to him because of how steep it was. Luckily, I had brought my headlamp because I had figured out that we were going to be out there really late. I also had a little lamp that I gave to Marah, so we were able to get down pretty good, but it was pretty hard because of the ice. Things were starting to ice over and there was a glacier storm coming into the ravine, but I think we did it as safely as we could and I think it turned out really well."
Meanwhile, Shiloh climbed to a ridgeline where he could establish better communications both with search and rescue and with Marah and Caden.
Once they were down to James, Marah started first aid, while Caden searched for an open area where he would have better communications. As soon as he found an open area, he sent his GPS coordinates to Shiloh, who relayed the information to both the Sheriff and the National Guard.
Shiloh then set out to go up and down trails in the dark, looking for trail junction markers to help give search and rescue personnel better directions how to get to James, while Marah and Caden continued giving first aid and relaying information about James to Shiloh.
"Shiloh was maintaining communications with 911 and the National Guard and search and rescue," Marah said. "Then, we used our maps instead of his maps to tell the EMTs where to go because our maps were better. I started doing first aid to get him out of shock and make him comfortable. They were just very unprepared."
Shiloh continued to walk back and forth the entire night, helping describe the trails to search and rescue, while staying in touch with the sheriff's office, search and rescue, the National Guard and Caden and Marah.
"We all worked together really well and I think that was a big part of why it was so successful," Caden said. "Marah and I were adjusting (James') position pretty much all night. What we did is prop up some rocks to keep his leg in a little bit of an elevated position and then we used his pack to hold up his leg so it didn't roll off the little ledge that he was sitting on."
"That night I hiked 16 miles," Shiloh said. "Going back and forth to try to mark out trails because Carl only gave us a very crude description of how to get down there, and it was dark, so I was going all over the place until I was finally able to mark my trail back out. Then I was able to contact search and rescue and tell them a different trail to try to get to us much faster and I was able to relay what kind of equipment they needed, if they needed a rope and stretcher or a wheel litter, or what it was exactly that they needed."
The 16 miles came after a full 15 miles of hiking during the day, and was all in the dark in snow, without any food or sleep.
"It really wasn't all that bad," Shiloh said. "It was really snowy up here, you were walking on snow way more than you would be on dirt, it was almost all snow. I was definitely tired because I didn't eat at all during that time or sleep at all, but it really wasn't that bad."
Caden and Marah also had a sleepless night, giving their sleeping bags to James to make him more comfortable.
Although it got below freezing, all three said that they were warm enough because they were properly dressed.
"We had some puffy jackets to keep us warm that night and we were wearing long pants, we weren't wearing shorts like we usually would be," Caden said. "So, it wasn't too bad, but it did get pretty cold."
Search and rescue finally reached the site about 7 a.m., but they turned out to not be fully prepared.
"They were shivering and cold by the time they arrived," Marah said. "Right as they sent their first text back to dispatch their satellite phone died and then their GPS's weren't working so they couldn't contact anybody, so we had to text with their dispatch and the National Guard with our satellite phone. It was about three hours after that that the helicopter came because they couldn't get him out of this ravine on foot. There's nobody else who I would rather do it with. Those boys were just as well prepared as I was and we all handled it really well. I think it all just worked out as well as it could have."
"I think I'm glad that for the first time all of my mapping skills, wilderness skills, first aid skills were put to the test," Shiloh added. "That was really neat to see that everything that I had learned with mapping and first aid and search and rescue to use it all. I think anyone who is planning on doing much in the outdoors, especially wilderness, it's a pretty imperative thing to have the training."
All three hikers had wilderness survival and first aid training. In addition, Marah had taken a winter wilderness survival class and wilderness first aid courses. All three said that having the right equipment and training made their backpacking trip safe as well as preparing them to rescue someone in trouble.
"I don't think it would have been as easy as it was if we didn't have that kind of technology with us," Caden said. "They were really thankful and said we were a huge part of the rescue and it would have taken them a lot longer to find him if it wasn't for us. And we did help a lot with the communication as well. The satellite phones are just a huge advantage when it comes to helping people."
"It was a really neat experience and I was glad that we were able to help them out," Shiloh added.
Both Marah and Caden had been interested in becoming EMT's in the past, but are now even more sure that is what they want to do for a career.
"We already wanted to be wilderness EMT's or something in that kind of field and this just kind of sparked more of that, so we are looking to do more adventures now," Marah said.
She added that although James is the only person that they helped to rescue, he was not the only person who had gotten in trouble on the Pacific Crest Trail this year.
"We had one of these days where we showed up to a campground and there was missing posters for three different people and a couple of abandoned vehicles just in disarray," Marah said. "Especially with the forest trails not being taken care of because of the COVID stuff it is invaluable to have other capable people with you."
Since the trio did not get any sleep on the July 11, they chose to have a rest day on the 12th then shortened their hike ending up at the Community Lake Trailhead on the 13th instead of walking clear out to Highway 20.
The trio all agreed that they would encourage other young people to try similar adventures, but to make sure that you are fully prepared.
The trio is currently planning their next big adventure and hope to hike the entire Pacific Crest Trail from Mexico all the way to Canada next year.
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