It sounds a bit like a fairytale gone wrong, but it ended happily enough. A lost family of three mushroom hunters spent a very rough week, sheltered in a vacant hollow tree in an old-growth Oregon forest, until they were finally rescued on Saturday, reported the Associated Press.
“It’s a miracle, really,” said Curry County Sheriff John Bishop. “They just got turned around. They sought some shelter in a hollowed-out tree and basically they stayed in the same place. But it was heavy vegetation where they were.”
Bishop said that the family was “in pretty good shape,” given the week they had spent in the cold, wet conditions without warm clothes, food, fire or significant shelter.
The story began Sunday, January 29, when Belinda Conne, Daniel Conne, and their 25-year-old son Michael went out looking for hedgehog mushrooms. These expensive, orange-topped fungi are favored by mushroom enthusiasts, but they almost cost this family their lives.
Evening came before their ‘shroom hunt was over, and the family couldn’t agree on the direction back to their vehicle. The Connes then proceeded to survive the week by drinking water from streams and using the only shelter they could find–a huge, rotted-out tree trunk. Search parties were dispatched Tuesday, and teams worked all week to locate the family, both on foot and from helicopters. Searchers on the ground had found a “bread crumb” trail of hopeful clues along their way, including a Pepsi can, some mushroom-picking buckets and a few pieces of clothing. However, as the weekend approached, the authorities were beginning to lose hope for a rescue and were preparing to shift the operation into recovery mode.
But thankfully, the rescue mission became a success on Saturday as the family was spotted in a clearing by a search helicopter. The Connes were picked up several miles outside of Gold Beach, Oregon, which is about 300 miles south of Portland.
The three were airlifted to a Gold Beach hospital, where Sherriff Bishop met with them at the ER. The father had suffered a back injury, the mother had hypothermia, and their son had a sprained foot and minor frostbite. All three were dehydrated and hungry, but are doing well now.
The family said that they could see helicopters just a few hundred feet above them throughout the week, but could not signal their would-be rescuers through the thick undergrowth.
The Conne family’s nightmare experience should provide ample lessons for any would-be adventurers. For starters, you should always be equipped with at least some essential survival equipment when heading into the wilderness, even if it’s an area that you think you know. Some sort of signaling device–a loud, high-pitched pealess whistle or singaling mirror–most likely would have led to a more expeditious rescue. Some form of fire starting equipment and a space blanket for each would have made whatever amount of time they spent in the woods somewhat more comfortable.