Oregon hiker tells of 3 nights in national forest

AP News
Posted: Aug 08, 2011 10:54 PM
Oregon hiker tells of 3 nights in national forest

An Oregon hiker who survived a 50-foot fall, broken bones and three nights in a national forest says a strong drive to live led her to keep moving, eat bugs and even try a bite of a "plump and juicy" slug.

Pamela Salant told reporters Monday that the snail-like forest mollusk "looked really tasty, but it was not" and she spat it out after giving it a chew.

"I was thinking, `I can't believe I'm doing this, but it's what's happening,'" she said.

The 28-year-old Portland nursery school art teacher was rescued Aug. 2 by the crew of an Oregon Army National Guard helicopter. While on a camping trip with her boyfriend July 30 in the Mount Hood National Forest, she walked off to look for a campsite, got lost and fell.

Speaking from a wheelchair at a Portland hospital, Salant said she survived on caterpillars and berries. She was wearing only shorts and a tank top when she got lost, so she covered herself with moss to stay warm.

Salant suffered a broken tibia and fractures in her middle back. She followed a creek drainage in hopes of reaching the Columbia River, crawling and scooting on her bottom because she couldn't walk. She crawled more than a mile from where she fell, staying close to a creek.

"That drive to live was so strong for me and I felt like I wasn't done yet," the hiker said. "I just kept pushing through all the pain. I just wanted to keep going."

Salant said she was initially stunned after her fall and didn't realize the extent of her injuries until she awoke in pain the next morning.

She thanked her rescuers, all the volunteers who looked for her and her boyfriend, Aric Essig, who called for help when she didn't return to the spot where they separated at Bear Lake near Hood River.

"I'm just so thankful that I'm here," she said.

Salant said she hopes to leave the hospital soon and will return to hiking.

Next time out, however, "I'm going to look at the map and be acquainted with my surroundings."