Hike along Eagle Creek Trail becomes nightmare for group of Salem teens
Posted September 8
SALEM, OR — A group of teenagers say a simple four mile hike on the Eagle Creek Trail Saturday turned into a nightmare when a wildfire was sparked.
It's been five days since Theo Lassen and Mya Merill spent an eventful night in the woods, one they say wasn't optional.
"I had my t-shirt, shorts, tennis shoes and a swim towel, that's it," said Theo.
"I didn't sleep at all, like not at all," Mya said.
For Mya's 16th birthday, the group of smart, energetic kids went on a short hike that they thought would be a great send off into the school year but it was a trip that will make a lasting impression on their lives.
During their hike, they stopped for a swim at Punch Bowl Falls. On their way back to their car they realized something was wrong.
"This big group of like 30 hikers, they tell us 'oh there's a forest fire, can't go that way,'" said Theo.
Their friends stopped to snap photos, documenting their trip and the fire, but the seriousness of what was going on around them didn't hit until they saw the flames and a note from rescue teams that said "Stay put. We see you. Danger!"
All together almost 150 hikers slept on the cold ground, worrying about their next move. The teens were worried about their parents.
"We realized they were starting to worry about us and that they're going to be like freaking out by now," said Theo.
By the next morning they didn't find help, but help found them. They received a map with an alternate route, back-tracking on an additional 10 plus miles to their already tedious hike and long night.
"I feel like crying right now, but I realized that I made up fantasies of the worst or the possibilities or tragedy that didn't happen so I just sort of greeted her and walked around," said Mya's dad.
"When he got off the bus and I could actually touch him I fell apart," said Theo's mom.
Now back to normal, Theo is back to swimming and Mya is happy to be home.
"I think that was the biggest reward at the end. I mean, we had a meal once we got back, seeing our parents all waiting, and my mom immediately started crying and I couldn't hold it together and we just hugged for a long time," said Theo.
Everyone got out safely, and the teens have now decided to practice hiking more and said they'll be sure to be ready for anything that comes their way.