PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Labor Day is the traditional and unofficial end of the summer season. As the temperatures are a little cooler in Oregon this holiday weekend, more people may decide to take a hike or go places they don’t normally go.
That’s why the Hood River County Sheriff’s Office is urging everyone to be extra cautious. Officials said there have been a record number of rescue calls in 2022.
Search and rescue crews who spoke with KOIN 6 News said they are glad to see more people enjoying the outdoors. But they said proper planning can help prevent a tragedy — a fallen hiker or a drowning, for instance.
“If you’re out hiking don’t leave the trail, don’t try and take a shortcut, don’t try and go overland,” said Dr. Christopher Van Tilburg, a rescue mountaineer with Hood River Crag Rats. “If you think you are taking a shortcut down a creek bed, it’s probably going to end in a waterfall in the Columbia River Gorge.”
Van Tilburg said this has been the busiest season in the agency’s 96 years. Just this week, crews completed their 52nd rescue mission of the season. About 30% of rescues are for people who are lost. He recommends hikers download a GPS app and map their trails ahead of time, he said.
Scott Ransmeier with Pacific Northwest Search and Rescue said their crews have also seen an increased number of rescue calls this summer.
“Almost every time we go out we’re fishing folks out of the water, so the love of recreation opens that possibility for incidents, unfortunately,” Ransmeier said.
In August, two hikers fell to their deaths. A 62-year-old woman from Minnesota died August 19 after she fell about 100 feet while hiking near Multnomah Falls. Just 5 days later, it took the Hood River Crag Rats 22 hours to recover the body of a 20-year-old Tualatin man who fell off a cliff near Angel’s Rest Trail.
“Please be ‘selfie-aware,'” Ransmeier said. “If you’re going for that beautiful picture on a steep or near a cliff, be very careful. That’s a dangerous thing that can get you into trouble.”
Along with packing the appropriate gear, extra food and water, Ransmeier said it’s important to let others know what trails you plan to hike and when you will be back.
The Hood River County Sheriff’s Office released a list of safety tips for anyone planning to hike this weekend or anytime.
- Go with a partner
- Don’t leave the trail
- Avoid hiking close to the edge
- Map out your route on a GPS app before you go
- Wear proper footwear
The Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office also shared advice for people on the water.
“As more people head out this Labor Day weekend, the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office encourages anyone who enters the water to wear a well-fitted life jacket. This is especially true if you are recreating on the Sandy River,” the sheriff’s office said.