Snow on Pacific Crest Trail strands hikers

EUGENE, Ore. - Rip Stouffer set off alone along the Pacific Crest Trail from the historic McKenzie Highway 242, bound for California by way of the scenic mountain route.

The 57-year-old Arizona man didn't make it.

Ten miles into his hike, he encountered winter-like conditions.

He wasn't prepared to travel in snow, but he had warm clothes, food and water, so he hunkered down in his tent and stayed put Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.

On Thursday, he called 911 for help.

Lane County Search and Rescue and Eugene Mountain Rescue located his camp Thursday night and got a cold but injured Stouffer out of the mountains Friday morning.

Rescuers got a night off before they went back to work on the Pacific Crest Trail.

That afternoon, 33-year-old Samantha Kennedy of Waldport set off from Elk Lake on a hike with her dog on the Pacific Crest Trail.

On Saturday at 6:18 p.m., she called 911 to say she was on the PCT but in deep snow and unable to continue north. She told dispatchers she was unsure if she could find her way back to Elk Lake. Since she had food and camping gear, the Lane County Sheriff’s office requested that she camp in place and await assistance.

A 7-person team from Eugene Mountain Rescue and a search manager left Eugene at 5 a.m. Sunday and tracked Kennedy using cell phone locating technoloyg. The team found her 7 miles into the Three Sisters Wilderness in good condition just before noon. The team led her out to the Obsidian Trailhead and gave her a lift to Eugene.

The sheriff's office said the two incidents illustrate that there is still a substantial amount of snow in the mountains, and many trails above 4,000 feet are under snow. John Miller with Lane County Search and Rescue said it can be difficult to locate and follow trails buried in snow without advanced navigational skills and equipment.

Miller urged backcountry hikers to make sure they are properly equipped and trained before setting off into the woods. Hikers should also leave a detailed itinerary with a responsible party who can call authorities if you go missing.