Though no one sets out to get lost when they head into the woods, those who end up missing — as well as loved ones left behind — can provide great assistance to rescue crews searching for them.
"The catch phrase we use is to stay put, make yourself comfortable as best you can and make yourself visible," says Skip Snyder, the search manager for the Jackson County Sheriff's Department, which is the lead search-and-rescue agency here.
"Let us find you," Snyder says. "And we will find you."
The best way to get rescued is to take a few pre-trip steps to make your trek traceable, and then follow a series of steps that missing hikers can use to speed up their discovery.
County search crews now are peddling a "hiking plan" sheet that allows hikers to list such things as where they are going, their planned route, when they plan on returning and other information.
The form can be left in their vehicle or given to family members beforehand so searches can be more pin-pointed, Snyder says.
The forms can be downloaded from the county's Web site at www.jacksoncounty.org.
The best thing family members can do when they discover someone is missing is to report the case immediately, Snyder says.
A common myth is that you have to wait 24 hours to call 9-1-1 and report someone missing.
"We want them to call," Snyder says. "We'd much rather be deployed and on our way and then (sent home) than be called out later."
Once you discover that you're lost, the first thing to do is don't panic, Snyder says. Then find some open ground where a helicopter can spot you and stay put.
Wandering around the woods reduces your chance of being found by searchers, who use a grid system to comb the forest. You could accidentally wander into an area deemed already searched or get yourself in even deeper trouble.
"You have to make yourself as big as you can," Snyder says.
If you have a cell phone, keep it on but don't over-use it. Phones have GPS tracking capabilities that can help focus search crews.
"Cell phones aren't the silver bullet," Snyder says, "but they have helped a lot in recent years."
Reach reporter Mark Freeman at 541-776-4470, or e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.