Two visiting hikers got lost on the Tam McArthur Rim Trail southwest of Sisters late Tuesday, prompting a successful seven-hour air and ground search and rescue operation, officials said.
Around 6:20 p.m., Deschutes County 911 got a cell phone call from the hikers, Kate Zieverink, 26, of New Orleans, and Zach Hollander, 29, of Portland, said sheriff’s Special Services Deputy Liam Klatt.
The pair said they had walked off-trail while returning to the trailhead and were unable to find the trail again before dark, Klatt said.
The hikers were said to be in good condition but were not prepared for an overnight stay. Klatt said attempts to call the pair on their phone were unsuccessful, as were numerous attempts to “ping” their phone to get GPS coordinates.
A dozen Sheriff’s Search and Rescue volunteers, two deputies and a Forest Service law enforcement officer responded to the couple’s call for help, Klatt said.
They also called in an AirLink helicopter to assist in the search, he said. The helicopter crew flew over the search area a short time later, quickly spotting a fire the pair had made to stay warm.
The AirLink crew relayed GPS coordinates to ground teams, who made contact with the hikers around 1:30 a.m., in a wooded area about a mile southeast of the trail.
They were in good condition, Klatt said.
Ground teams in the field reported windy conditions, with occasional rain and snow flurries during the search.
Klatt reminded travelers that winter weather is approaching and to be prepared when venturing outdoors.
Lt. Scott Shelton, sheriff's SAR coordiantor, said it's "not uncommon" for people, especially those new to the area, to get lost in the Tam McArthur Rim Trail area, which he said is "not that well marked" on the southeast side.
"They just hunkered down and built a fire by a small pond," Shelton said. "AirLink found them initially. We were quite a ways from them. It took us a while to vector in on them."
While "it was blowing pretty hard, a rain-snow mix," Shelton said "it could have been very nasty" as winter weather sets in the next few days.
“With their phone down to a low percentage of battery, they would turn it on and off," he said. "We found the smell of the fire before we ever heard them," conducting "sound sweeps" every 400 yards or so, using a whistle, horn or shout.