Students experience wilderness and rescue

An end of school survival trip in May turned into a rescue adventure for six Whidbey Island Waldorf School seventh-graders.

The class, accompanied by their teacher Robyn Jones, had gone on a five-day survival trip to the Umatilla National Forest in Eastern Oregon. They took with them only one wool blanket apiece -- no sleeping bags, tents or matches -- and temperatures at night sank to 17 degrees.

"We made individual fires using flint and steel -- which were a rock and an old knife," Jones said. "Our rations were one cup each of flour, rice, oats, lentils and raisins. And a can of peaches." The peaches were eaten first, so the can could be used to cook their food.

After cooking dinner they put the coals from the fire into trenches they had dug, then put sod on top of the coals and slept on top to stay warm.

The group was guided by Jim Fowler, whose daughter Annalise is a student in the class and who has led survival trips in the past.

After "one blessed night of recovery in a motel room" following the survival trip, the students joined a river guide for a two-night rafting excursion down the Grande Ronde River. It was while they were on the river that the group encountered a lost hiker.

Darryn Kyle, a 20-year-old Eastern Oregon University student who had been turkey hunting with a friend, had been missing for two days in the wilderness. Rescue units, including helicopters, had already been searching for him when he arrived at the river and flagged down the Waldorf rafters.

"His shoes and clothes were torn and his feet were all beat up," Jones said. "He'd even eaten a raw squirrel."

The rafters shared their food, extra clothing and a sleeping bag with Kyle, then brought him back to civilization with them.

"It was pretty interesting, because we had just finished our survival trip in those very mountains," Jones said. "And he had found himself in the same situation, totally unprepared, without water, extra clothing or matches."

The similarities were not lost on the students.

"They were great," Jones said. "And at the end of the trip they were so full of gratitude to their parents! 'We have food, clean clothes, a warm house, thank you!'"

More pictures of the river adventure can be seen on the Web site

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