WA WA - Laura Macke, Hiking Alone @ Enchanted Valley, Camping at Pyrites Creek, 30. Oct 2022

MaestroMackes

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1. The skimpy plan. LM was supposed to be hiking for 3 days. She had a history of hiking the Long Trail in VT. Overnight hikers on major trails like the LT and AT have veritable cult commitments to travel light. Unclear how LM might fit in that scheme. She might have just decided "one day in, one full day on the trail, one day out, let me see, I'll take 2 dinners, 2 breakfasts and a bunch of snacks, but not too many. I can fill up when I'm done." I have a feeling (feeling only) this is probable (I have encountered ALOT of LT hikers), and this would be the MAX they take. This method also counts on others to provide for you if you've screwed up your plans, and it's very problematic if there's no one else around.

2. Traditional planning, standard rule of thumb. I did most of my hiking learning in the PNW with a club like the Mountaineers, but have also done ultra-distance thru hiking. I carried more than most thru hikers, but about standard for a backpack trip, e.g. in the PNW. You take an ENTIRE extra day of food, and you take extra energy bars, just in case. On a trip like LM's to the EV, I would be taking 3 days of food at 2lbs per day and my spare day maybe on the light side (7.3 lbs total).

But here's another dimension of the problem. There is generally some kind of cooking involved. These days, you pour boiling water on your prepared food, and it sets up. No need to actually cook. However, you'd be carrying a stove and fuel. There is a second advantage to this: if it gets cold, you can heat yourself some water to drink. (Hot Jello is standard SAR fare.) But if you're in a deluge......I'm not sure how this would work.... It would be very complicated if your safety required you to stay in your tent. Under no conditions can you safely use a stove in a tent (carbon monoxide poisoning) or even the vestibule.

Which brings to mind..... if LM had a stove, she'd have been able to start a smoky fire. Many stoves have piezo's (like a Bic lighter) or a spark, so don't require matches: no issue with wet matches. She'd have had to find something to burn, but IMO there should have been a smoky fire in this case, and for sure it would be spotted (e.g. from the air). It's possible she didn't take a stove (per ultralight thinking), but I think more likely hypothermia happened very early in the trip.

Pro tip. I've provided this before, but I'll do it again! Get some cotton balls and smear vaseline on them. Put them in a baggie in your (day) pack along with a lighter. They take up almost no space. They are fire starter. Alternatively, take trick birthday candles (they don't blow out). You will use these to start a smoky fire if you need help....
Per her boyfriend, she didn't pack a stove on this trip because of the weight. She did her food shopping the day before heading to the trail (via security camera footage) but they don't know what she took.
 

MaestroMackes

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is that the actual trail or a stream nearby?

(there are some signs near Rocky Mtn Park in CO, on the roads, that say if it starts to rain hard, to leave your car and head uphill ASAP because the canyon you are in will likely flood, and running uphill might save your life. I just recalled those-)
That is the actual start of the trailhead in the photo.
 

MaestroMackes

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So helpful!

It was supposed to be very windy in Quinault, so I guess that's why they couldn't use the dogs. All the water might have been too dangerous, too.
They have had canine units out at least once (including 2 cadaver dogs) and they are hoping to drop in more from the top and work down when they are able. The helicopters that flew yesterday all had thermal technology and found nothing.
 

Snoopster

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They have had canine units out at least once (including 2 cadaver dogs) and they are hoping to drop in more from the top and work down when they are able. The helicopters that flew yesterday all had thermal technology and found nothing.
Welcome to Websleuths. Thank you for stopping in here and updating us.

We all want Laura found soon!!
 

RickshawFan

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Nov 9, 2022 article: Has not been located but search to continue. Rather interesting about an anonymous tip and a “military grade SOS ping”. Why an “anonymous” tip and does anybody know about this ping technology? Sounds like awful weather conditions like many locals here have pointed out.


[…]

Park officials want to talk with the person who left an anonymous tip on Nov. 3, she said.

[…].

Laura’s sister Jennifer posted that her phone is being sent a military grade SOS ping every day that doesn’t require cell service but does require that the phone has battery power and is turned on. No hits have been received.

The SOS signal is working because it was sent to a family member who was able to touch the screen and send the information back. The ping is designed so that she only has to interact with the screen that pops up. Then GPS coordinates can be gathered within a 35-foot accuracy.

[…]

… The search area includes the trail to Enchanted Valley as well as beyond and off-trail areas.

The area has experienced rain and snow during the past several days, which has hampered search efforts, especially for drones and helicopters. Temperatures are near freezing at Lake Quinault and below freezing in the search area.

Officials are asking the public for any information. Anyone in the area of Lake Quinault, Graves Creek or Enchanted Valley between Oct. 30 and Nov. 1 is asked to call or text the tip line at 1-888-653-0009, submit a tip online at go.nps.gov/Submit ATip, or email [email protected].
The call for more info re Nov 3 went out almost a week ago, and it seems there's been no response. I guess family is hanging onto that "tip", but it's anonymous. I can't see why anyone would send an anonymous tip about a wilderness sighting. I'm thinking it's bogus: maybe a far-fetched conspiracy, maybe a Bigfoot attack.

That "military-grade ping" sounds interesting, but the phone has to have battery life? It's very unlikely LM's phone would still have power. And, as I understand, keeping a phone on when it's out of cell coverage makes it constantly look for a tower and wears the battery down super fast. This is a HUGE problem in backcountry SOS—almost every lost person runs out of battery.

Apart from the details that have to do with this case and other recent cases.... I've been actively thinking about technologies to keep myself safer. I mean, when I go hiking, do I have communication capabilities to match my situation? If we have a local disaster, do I have appropriate grab-and-go, will my hiking plan work for that, too, and for how long? Is my stuff all charged? If I have a home invasion like Pelosi did, will my hiking gizmos work for that, too? I suppose I'd better practice as well.
If you're in your car, and there's someone close by acting weird, and by mistake you left your purse in the trunk, can you call an SOS without leaving the driver's seat? The answer is yes, definitely. It's the same problem if you break your leg on a hike and your phone slid off a cliff and out of reach. How do you plan for it, and without breaking the bank?

So, it's helpful to know about stuff like "military grade pings" (in reality, they're probably commonly-used and not very exotic), but especially what they require to be valuable.
 

RickshawFan

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is that the actual trail or a stream nearby?

(there are some signs near Rocky Mtn Park in CO, on the roads, that say if it starts to rain hard, to leave your car and head uphill ASAP because the canyon you are in will likely flood, and running uphill might save your life. I just recalled those-)
From the USGS map, I believe the trail runs along that river, mostly close at the river bank. I think it's the East Fork of the Quinault. There are many creeks that feed into it. It is highly cliffed, especially on the north bank. Imagine trying to walk, let alone camp in that in hurricane-volume rain. Searching had to be called off several days because the trail was swamped and trees were down.
The other problem.....the creeks have to be crossed at several points, as far as I can tell; if there's a bridge at all, it's a log bridge. Apart from the dangers of just being in the area at all, IMO the creek crossings are a very likely source for an accident. I would guess, actually, this is what happened. My sense is this is how SAR went about searching first. Their top likelihood was a river accident, and that's why so many resources were concentrated there.
 

RickshawFan

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Per her boyfriend, she didn't pack a stove on this trip because of the weight. She did her food shopping the day before heading to the trail (via security camera footage) but they don't know what she took.
Oh, no. I was afraid of that. I was exactly afraid of the "ultralight" thing that a Long Trail hiker would get into. "Ultralight" only has any kind of safety if there are plenty of other people around who can get your back if you don't bring enough.
Ironically, you can take a lot lighter and less bulky food (and get the calories you need) if you have a stove.
I will dig out my stove, weigh it, and report! I will weigh some cold food for you and compare it with cookable food (by that I mean the kind you "cook" by pouring boiling water on it).
 

acutename

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From the USGS map, I believe the trail runs along that river, mostly close at the river bank. I think it's the East Fork of the Quinault. There are many creeks that feed into it. It is highly cliffed, especially on the north bank. Imagine trying to walk, let alone camp in that in hurricane-volume rain. Searching had to be called off several days because the trail was swamped and trees were down.
The other problem.....the creeks have to be crossed at several points, as far as I can tell; if there's a bridge at all, it's a log bridge. Apart from the dangers of just being in the area at all, IMO the creek crossings are a very likely source for an accident. I would guess, actually, this is what happened. My sense is this is how SAR went about searching first. Their top likelihood was a river accident, and that's why so many resources were concentrated there.
I have been hiking twice in groups where previous rain or an extra amount of snow melt made some creek crossings "not possible." A good thing would be if she was hunkered down somewhere waiting for the creek levels to lower because sometimes you just cannot get from point A to point B.

I am more thinking how much darkness there has been and if she had a good (waterproof?) headlamp. pitching a tent or doing anything in total darkness is tough. I also read the Facebook comments which said that "other hikers were slowed by their bear cannisters" so... bruins... and securing food in the rain/darkness/wind... also not easy.
 

RickshawFan

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I have been hiking twice in groups where previous rain or an extra amount of snow melt made some creek crossings "not possible." A good thing would be if she was hunkered down somewhere waiting for the creek levels to lower because sometimes you just cannot get from point A to point B.

I am more thinking how much darkness there has been and if she had a good (waterproof?) headlamp. pitching a tent or doing anything in total darkness is tough. I also read the Facebook comments which said that "other hikers were slowed by their bear cannisters" so... bruins... and securing food in the rain/darkness/wind... also not easy.
As I read the map, I haven't seen hunkering down as an option here. There's nowhere to go on that trail to escape flowing water. Even in summer, the crossings are difficult in several places. And you'd have to have really good boots.

I wasn't concerned as much about headlamp as about raingear. I would hope LM had real Goretex (or high end counterpart) pants and jacket, and didn't stint there, and that they had been recently treated with new DWR finish. My fear otherwise comes from my years of outdoor experience in VT : most hikers don't carry rain pants, unless they have a group leader who requires them in cold-ish season. After 25 years in the PNW, I find this gobsmacking. For the Olympics, water protection on a Frog Togs jacket will last all of about 5 minutes.

The bear issue seems to have pretty much passed for the season, per NPS, but a single hiker might be too much temptation, too easy a target. I believe they have bear poles at the riverside campgrounds, so carrying a bear canister wouldn't be absolutely necessary. On the other hand, camping riverside hasn't been a survivable option for the last 10 days, so yep, you'd be right that bear protection would take some thought.

Pro tip on the headlamp issue: a spare set of batteries belongs in your first aid kit. Even if it's dark you can feel into your first aid kit and locate them. Good luck getting them in the right order in the dark, though (I almost made that mistake once, lol; thank gosh, I got them in the last dying rays of sunset. I mean, what if I'd dropped one?).
 
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RickshawFan

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Oh, no. I was afraid of that. I was exactly afraid of the "ultralight" thing that a Long Trail hiker would get into. "Ultralight" only has any kind of safety if there are plenty of other people around who can get your back if you don't bring enough.
Ironically, you can take a lot lighter and less bulky food (and get the calories you need) if you have a stove.
I will dig out my stove, weigh it, and report! I will weigh some cold food for you and compare it with cookable food (by that I mean the kind you "cook" by pouring boiling water on it).
I did this little task I set myself, and it came out way heavier for the "ultralight stoveless method" than I anticipated. If you don't take a stove, it takes over twice the weight versus the equivalent dry, because food is largely water. And a stove is a safety device: you can start a fire with the spark; you can boil water and put it in a Nalgene and hug it; and you can have hot drinks. These are life and death possibilities.
There's a lot of internet myth among those who hike long-distance trails or who are thinking about it, and it can be so dangerous sometimes. This is my BIG fear in this case: internet myth took over and resulted in several catastrophic decisions.
This weight thing for would-be long-distance hikers is EXTREMELY competitive: least is best.
Here's an example of what can happen; as far as I can tell, it's very much like this case as far as the preparation of the hikers. Two hikers who had been on the AT for 4 months almost died in NH in a blizzard because they misapplied the weight-conscious ethic. In summertime. Whatever they had with them was totally inadequate. They hadn't checked the forecast. They didn't even have a map to tell them that there was a hut 1/4 mile away. Luckily, another thru hiker came along who was properly equipped. He knew how to pitch his tent in the lee in screaming wind, and got them inside, then called SAR.

This is the story, but it's behind a paywall. I'll try to find an accessible one:

 
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RickshawFan

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How does that work then? I'd like to know more!
I have a feeling it's used for non-wilderness catastrophes. It might also ping the cell phones of military pilots who get shot down, and that's why it has no sound. A return ping would give GPS info, and allow the pilot to be scooped up by friendly forces. I'm thinking it might be readily operable in WA/OR both because of the number of bases (it's border to Asia via the Pacific), and because of the tsunami threat.
I am making this all up....

But.... the new iPhone 14 has satellite transmission capabilities. There is also current tech in Garmin (inReach) and Zoleo. Non-starter not to have one if you're solo.
 

annpats

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I have a feeling it's used for non-wilderness catastrophes. It might also ping the cell phones of military pilots who get shot down, and that's why it has no sound. I'm thinking it might be readily operable in WA/OR both because of the number of bases (it's border to Asia via the Pacific), and because of the tsunami threat.
I am making this all up....
I can't understand how it'd work without a cell signal? How would the phone receive such a ping?
 

RickshawFan

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I can't understand how it'd work without a cell signal? How would the phone receive such a ping?
It sounds like it has to be on, for starters. And there are some residual features even if you don't have cell service. This is how the Turpin girl called 911 on an old phone.
So, maybe something like that is a chip that can be pinged? There must be some national emergency capability for messaging if cell infrastructure is sabotaged.

Ta da! 2 seconds of research...

 
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fridaybaker

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Okay, I’ve so far refrained from commenting here because it’s way out of my depth but I’m trying hard to understand her situation. Can anyone comment as to whether it would be likely that a hiker such as Laura would carry flares or some other signaling device on a three day hike? I mean in an area/time of year such as this where you might not be around many people, shelter,etc.

I ask this because my outdoor experience tends to be on the water, and it’s SOP to always have signaling capability on a boat: Every boat has flares at the very least (or should have.) Would Laura have been carrying something like that?
 

TwinkieDefense

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Thanks @RickshawFan and others for your valuable input on various threads and your discovery of most likely the SOS ping system mentioned earlier. From the link you provided is this:


[…]
  • Authorized national, state, or local government authorities may send alerts regarding public safety emergencies – such as severe weather, missing children, or the need to evacuate– using WEA.
    Authorized public safety officials send WEA alerts through FEMA's Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS) to participating wireless carriers, which then push the alerts to compatible mobile devices in the affected area.
[…]

However, I’m not understanding several points brought up in this article I had posted earlier. If the pings that are being sent are from (whichever) agency is mentioned above, are the pings being forwarded or sent to both Laura’s phone and to members of Laura’s family? Are individual phones targeted for only specific cases, and not an area wide distribution? Who is sending the pings? Are the emergency pings normally designed where anyone can “touch the screen and send the information back”? What information would be sent back? I must say the 35’ GPS accuracy is astounding. What a great asset. I realize my questions probably won’t make sense. They don’t make sense to me either. So thanks in advance to anyone who chimes in.


[…]

Laura’s sister Jennifer posted that her phone is being sent a military grade SOS ping every day that doesn’t require cell service but does require that the phone has battery power and is turned on. No hits have been received.

The SOS signal is working because it was sent to a family member who was able to touch the screen and send the information back. The ping is designed so that she only has to interact with the screen that pops up. Then GPS coordinates can be gathered within a 35-foot accuracy.

[…]
 

ItalyReader

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Thanks @RickshawFan and others for your valuable input on various threads and your discovery of most likely the SOS ping system mentioned earlier. From the link you provided is this:


[…]
  • Authorized national, state, or local government authorities may send alerts regarding public safety emergencies – such as severe weather, missing children, or the need to evacuate– using WEA.
    Authorized public safety officials send WEA alerts through FEMA's Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS) to participating wireless carriers, which then push the alerts to compatible mobile devices in the affected area.
[…]

However, I’m not understanding several points brought up in this article I had posted earlier. If the pings that are being sent are from (whichever) agency is mentioned above, are the pings being forwarded or sent to both Laura’s phone and to members of Laura’s family? Are individual phones targeted for only specific cases, and not an area wide distribution? Who is sending the pings? Are the emergency pings normally designed where anyone can “touch the screen and send the information back”? What information would be sent back? I must say the 35’ GPS accuracy is astounding. What a great asset. I realize my questions probably won’t make sense. They don’t make sense to me either. So thanks in advance to anyone who chimes in.


[…]

Laura’s sister Jennifer posted that her phone is being sent a military grade SOS ping every day that doesn’t require cell service but does require that the phone has battery power and is turned on. No hits have been received.

The SOS signal is working because it was sent to a family member who was able to touch the screen and send the information back. The ping is designed so that she only has to interact with the screen that pops up. Then GPS coordinates can be gathered within a 35-foot accuracy.

[…]
The WEA alerts use the cell tower system, as I understand it. Here is the gov site which explains that system:

Instead, the military grade ping that is being sent to LM does not require cell service. So I think it is different from WEA.

I am thinking satellite ping because how else could a signal arrive to a phone if not from a cell tower? That is just my inexpert guess.

Thoughts?
 
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