A 54 year-old hiker is lucky to be alive after spending 5 days stranded in the sand dunes of Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area.
On Saturday, August 28, the Coos County Sheriff’s Office rescued the unidentified hiker after he had reportedly fallen off a dune and injured both his back and neck. The hiker was hiking alone on the John Dellenback Trail at the time of the injury.
A group of other visitors found the injured hiker on the trail at approximately 11:30 am on Saturday morning. They immediately called 911 to alert local first responders.
The Coos County Sheriff’s Office, Lakeside Fire Department, Lower Umqua Ambulance, and the Winchester Bay Fire Department initially responded to the call. The US Coast Guard eventually dispatched a helicopter to assist in the evacuation because the injured hiker was in an area that wasn’t accessible to vehicles.
The injured hiker was then airlifted to a hospital in Coos Bay. There have been no other reports about the hiker’s condition, but first responders noted that he was dehydrated at the time of the rescue.
Sand Dune Rescue Incident Analysis
A press release from the Coos County Sheriff’s Office notes that the hiker injured his back and neck after falling off of one of the sand dunes on the John Dellenback Trail. Due to his injuries, the hiker was not able to self-evacuate and he ended up stranded in the national recreation area for 5 days until another group of hikers happened to walk by.
It’s unclear how extensive the hiker’s injuries were, but the fact that he managed to survive for 5 days in the park before being rescued is extraordinary.
Without any further information, it’s hard to know if the hiker was able to find himself some food and water during this time or if he already had these supplies in his pack (remember, food and water are part of the hiking 10 essentials).
Either way, the John Dellenback Trail is known to have active dunes that are constantly shifting. Travel over active dunes can be challenging and navigation can be tricky. It’s unclear what caused the hiker to fall, but caution is necessary when moving over soft sand dunes.
Additionally, hiking solo is a great way to enjoy the great outdoors. However, as we saw in this incident, it comes with an increased risk of an extended rescue should something go wrong. If the hiker had been in a group, it’s possible that he may not have been stranded for 5 days.
This incident underscores the importance of carrying a quality communication device, like a satellite phone or satellite messenger when venturing out on the trail by yourself.
Above all, the incident demonstrated some great collaboration between multiple rescue services, allowing the injured hiker to get the medical attention that he needed.