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Rescued hiker ate berries and bugs to survive

August 10, 2011

Following a successful rescue on Aug. 2, Pamela Salant, 28, the Portland woman lost for three nights in the wilderness of the Mt. Hood National Forest last week, underwent surgery on Friday, Aug. 5, for injuries she sustained in her ordeal. She was released from the hospital Tuesday.

According to Detective Matt English of the Hood River County Sheriff's Office, Salant became separated from her boyfriend in heavy brush and steep terrain near Bear Lake while looking for a new campsite late in the afternoon of July 30.

Following a night without contact, Salant's boyfriend, Aric Essig, of Portland, reported her missing around 8 a.m. Sunday, July 31. The two had argued just prior to her departure, according to HRCSO Chief Deputy Jerry Brown.

Hood River County Sheriff Joe Wampler coordinated the multi-agency search beginning on Sunday, which involved many aerial fly-overs and ground teams scouring the remote area.

On Tuesday morning, Wampler called in the National Guard search helicopter for another fly-over to an area located below some footprints left on the trail that were thought to be Salant's.

Salant was found in steep terrain within the Lindsay Creek drainage area, according to Wampler, who noted that Salant was finally spotted around 2 p.m., Aug. 2 while lying on a log and signaling to the National Guard helicopter crew.

"We hoped that the many hours of flying in the area would allow her time to get herself into the open," said Wampler. "That's exactly what happened. She heard the helicopter and was able to drag herself into the creek and out from under the trees."

Once spotted, Salant was then reached in person by four search and rescue volunteers from the Crag Rats, who waited with her until a larger Oregon National Guard helicopter with hoisting capability reached her location.

Search teams included more than 25 personnel from the Hood River County sheriff's office, Crag Rats, U.S. Forest Service, Multnomah County Sheriff's Office and Oregon National Guard. Within two hours of Salant's airlift, which occurred around 3:30 p.m., she was receiving emergency treatment at Legacy Emanuel Medical Center in Portland.

English reported that Salant suffered a broken leg during her 50-foot fall in the steep drainage area, along with multiple lacerations and mid-back fractures.

Salant, an avid hiker, reportedly used moss to cover her body for warmth and ate berries and insects from the area within her reach. She was wearing just a T-shirt and shorts and had no supplies with her at the time of her fall.

According to English, Salant was found about halfway to the Columbia River from Bear Lake, which is located at the base of Mount Defiance.

Salant reportedly was able to move slowly by scooting along the ground - enabling her to locate food and increase her visibility. It is estimated that she crawled about a mile from her original fall site over the three days.

The Oregon National Guard rescue team reached Salant with a UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter. According to Oregon National Guard's Lt. Col. Mark Ulvin, finding Salant was like finding "a needle in a haystack."

Friends and family of Salant report that her injuries will force her to miss two months of work. She also reportedly has no insurance.

A fund has been established for those wishing to help via PayPal.com, using the "send a payment" option, to the email address: survivorpam@gmail.com.

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