Saxons Noah Brown ‘19, Maddy Hadden ’19, Jonah LaDuca ‘19, Maya Merrill ‘19, Josh Morris ‘19, Luly Torres ‘19, Jaylynn Uruo ‘19, and Kenneth Utter ‘19 were among the over 150 hikers caught in a forest fire that broke out on the Eagle Creek Trail on Saturday, Sept. 2. The fire has spread to over 3,200 acres in the Hood River area and was likely caused by a misuse of fireworks.
The eight Saxons had originally planned to take a three mile hike to the Punchbowl Falls, swim, and then leave the same day. As they were leaving the falls, hikers coming from where they were headed told the group that officials and park rangers had instructed hikers to turn around, as a wildfire blocked that end of the trail.
Unable to reach their cars, the Saxons and other hikers waited at the falls until a helicopter delivered a note that told them where it was safe to spend the night. The group hiked roughly 5 miles, then set up camp near Tunnel Falls.
“Being caught in the fire was insane,” Hadden said. “We saw it rising, and later we saw small fires, one of which we were able to put out. People bonded together and everyone was so kind to us, offering water and supplies if we needed them.”
On Sunday morning search and rescue teams led the hikers on a 14 mile hike to the Wahtum Lake area; food and water were dropped to the hikers by the Mountain Wave Search and Rescue. After being given meals, the hikers were bussed to where their families waited for them.
By Sunday, all of the hikers were safely accounted for. Evacuation notices have been sent to residents throughout the area as the fire continues to spread.