Jen Edwards survived a 60-foot fall in the backcountry thanks to a daring search and rescue operation, her inReach, and her brave dog Ruben – now she wants to return the favor to the men and women that saved her life.
Jen Edwards had always wanted to complete a solo backpacking trip through the Illinois River Trail in southern Oregon. The trail, considered one of the most scenic and rugged paths through the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest, meanders 60 miles through stands of old growth forest, steep river canyons, and fields of beautiful wildflowers. When the opportunity came for Edwards to embark on the challenging journey this September, she knew she couldn’t say no.
“The appeal is that there’s just the most breathtaking views,” said Edwards. “It was a trail I’ve wanted to do for about ten years, and I’ve already done different sections of it.”
Edwards then set out to learn about the tools solo backpacker use to mitigate risk when they venture outside of cellphone service. One of the devices she kept reading about was the DeLorme inReach. She decided to purchase an inReach SE and activate on a Freedom Plan prior to departing on her trip, a decision that would later save her life.
About 10 miles into her journey Edwards slipped on some loose shale that covered the trail and tumbled down a 60-foot ledge, hitting her head on a boulder and landing face down in a creek bed. Still conscious and strapped to her 40-pound pack, Edwards crawled on her stomach out of the water and up to drier land. It was then that she thought to grab the inReach, which she wore around her neck on a lanyard, and press the SOS button. She had suffered a broken neck, broken hand, a concussion, and several lacerations.
The inReach, Edwards said, gave her the assurance and confidence she needed to stay calm while a rescue was dispatched. “Fortunately I had the inReach with me and was able to send my exact location and text with fiancé to provide up to date information on my injuries. Not only did this device save my life, but provided me comfort to speak with those that I love and get updates on where my rescue efforts were at.”
About 45 minutes after the fall, her dog Ruben found her, and remained by her side throughout the entire ordeal. At one point, Edwards heard a rustling nearby and wasn’t sure who or what was approaching her. Ruben let out a loud bark, and Edwards turned on her flashlight to see the rear end of a black bear running back up the trail.
“At this point, I was very much in the mindset that I was not going to die there,” said Edwards. “I just really needed to stay calm.”
At 11:45 p.m. a member of Curry County Search and Rescue reached Edwards’ location and administered first aid. The search and rescue worker stayed with Edwards through the night as they waited for additional personnel to arrive by daylight.
At 9:20 a.m., the Curry County Search and Rescue team arrived at the Illinois River Trail Head where they met up with four Josephine County Search and Rescue members. They then hiked the trail to Edwards’ location while several other members hiked into an area known as “Buzzards Roost” to relay radio communication and to provide assistance if needed. The U.S. Coast Guard had also been contacted for assistance and they deployed a helicopter from North Bend Air Station to assist in the rescue.
The Coast Guard helicopter and rescue swimmer were not able to reach Edwards in her position in the creek bed, so the search and rescue members had to move her across the Illinois River to a safe area. Around 1:50 p.m., Edwards was placed into a Stokes basket and raised to the helicopter and transported to a hospital in Grants Pass where she was treated for her injuries. Ruben was hiked out by the search and rescue team and later given to Edwards’ family members.
Now at home recovering from her injuries, Edwards plans to get back out on the trail when she is feeling better. “I love to hike alone and I have taken that for granted in the past that nothing like this would happen. I still want to continue to hike alone, and the chances of something this extreme happening to me twice is unlikely, but knowing I have my inReach I will feel as though I have a hiking buddy, a lifeline to save me if needed.”
Edwards also now wants to return the favor to the amazing men and women that responded to her distress signal that day.
“They risked their safety for mine and had something tragic happened in that effort, no one would know their location because of the equipment they currently have. I owe everything to them and my goal is to be able to raise enough money to buy several of the inReach devices as well as a year worth of service for them.
“They did have line of sight communication, so once the Coast Guard chopper was above us there was some feedback, but because of the variety of canyons, communication outside of this was scarce and the search and rescue teams relied heavily on my fiancé and I’s texting thru the inReach.”
Edwards is running a fundraising campaign to fulfill her goal of purchasing enough inReach devices for the search and rescue teams. You can donate here: https://www.gofundme.com/2qifnvo
PLEXSYS developed OnScene Commander (OSC) as a tool to deliver mission-relevant, actionable information to command centers to monitor and protect deployed field assets—both personnel and equipment. A critical part of the OSC system is the inReach and inReach Portal Connect (IPC) API, which PLEXSYS integrated with their OSC Server, the platform that receives field data from inReach, among other sources, and distributes it to all OSC clients. Whether tracking military cadets, field workers, or equipment, inReach IPC delivers real-time location data, messages, and SOS distress signals to the OSC server, where it can be monitored and addressed in real-time.
“The implementation of the server has been a game changer. It enables us to share data among our software clients that we weren’t able to share before. It guarantees that all clients are viewing the exact same thing,” said Nick Bittle, Project Manager at PLEXSYS.
PLEXSYS also developed their own test server to mimic the IPC and create test devices. This gave them the ability to efficiently test their software, and to accurately demonstrate their system to potential clients.
Taking OnScene Commander to West Point
PLEXSYS, together with Parsons Corporation, were contracted to use OnScene Commander to provide a situational awareness display and common operating picture for the 2016 West Point annual summer field training exercises—a grueling and unpredictable cadet training program in the rugged wilderness outside of West Point, New York. The weather and training environment vary greatly during the months of April to August, ranging anywhere from a cold, barren landscape to a very hot and humid dense forest. Furthermore, the training area is steep and difficult to traverse.
Before they implemented OSC, the Cadet leadership would send Cadets out on the course and only after the time limit had expired would they know to begin looking for any lost or injured Cadets. The ability to provide leadership with a constant display of cadet locations and a user interface capable of setting geo boundaries, inactivity alerts – all while receiving text messages and SOS emergency alerts – greatly increased the overall safety of field training.
Throughout the 2016 training schedule over 1500 cadets were equipped with inReach devices, enabling West Point leadership to know the exact location of every cadet at all times. PLEXSYS was able to customize the inReach devices so that features such as the digital compass, waypoints, navigation, and weather forecasts were unavailable to the cadets; tools which could interfere with the quality and difficulty of the training exercises.
“We sent over 700 messages to devices while we were operating and were able to monitor up to 300 cadets at a time. Overall, we improved the safety and communication of the exercise without reducing the challenge presented to the cadets,” stated Nick Bittle.
Another great benefit of integrating IPC into the OnScene Commander system is the ability for high-detail after-action reports. PLEXSYS can now provide leadership with a one-second interval picture of where every cadet traveled during the training, verifying the actual path of the cadet and confirming their land navigation proficiency.
For more information on inReach Portal Connect please reach out to your account manager, or email inReach.firstname.lastname@example.org.
To learn more about PLEXSYS and the OnScene Commander system, visit www.plexsys.com.
Autumn is often considered the most beautiful time to retreat into the wilderness and experience everything nature has to offer. Cooler temperatures, fewer bugs, and thinned crowds can deliver a much more enjoyable experience than trekking through the crowds of people (and mosquitoes) in the summer.
Despite the beauty and favorable conditions, hiking in the fall presents a new set of risks that should always be considered before heading into the mountains, woods, or waters. We’ve compiled a list of our top five tips for safe and enjoyable fall hiking.
- Check the weather. Weather during the fall can change in an instant. One moment you are taking in peak foliage underneath sunny skies with temperatures in the mid 60’s – then before you know it, rain or snow can roll in and create treacherous trail conditions. If there is a chance for foul weather, it is best to leave your hike for another day, or come prepared with proper rain or snow gear. Your inReach can deliver up-to-date weather forecasts via satellite, giving you the data you need to make educated decisions in the backcountry.
- Give someone your itinerary. Write down your destination, a rough timeline, and location of your car and give it to a friend or family member. Periodically check in with your contact via your inReach satellite messenger, and be sure to let them know when you have finished your hike. Turn on tracking and share your trip with your contact to give them automatic updates on your location and progress, or periodically send them a preset check-in message.
- Bring emergency gear. You’ve already purchased an invaluable tool for emergency communication, the inReach. There are several additional items that every hiker should bring with them into the woods. A backup topographic map from the USGS, a compass, extra food and water, fire-starting materials, a pocket knife, extra layers of warm clothing, and a basic first aid kit should ALWAYS be in your pack. During the fall, a headlamp or flashlight will help as the sun goes down much earlier than in the summer. A trekking pole and crampons are also safe additions to any hike. And don’t forget to download your maps in Earthmate!
- Wear blaze orange. Fall means hunting season. In order to hike safely in the fall months, you must coexist with hunters and take the proper safety measures. This starts by knowing where you are hiking, and what the local hunting regulations are. Whether you hunt or not, knowing the seasons and hunting zones is invaluable information to anyone in the woods. Of course, you should never go hiking in the fall without at least two articles of blaze orange clothing, including a hat. Don’t forget about blaze orange for your dogs… they can be easily mistaken for game such as coyotes or turkey.
- Know your limits. This is one of the cardinal rules of outdoor recreation, but it bears repeating again and again. Pushing yourself physically and mentally is the greatest part about hiking and backpacking, but you must know your limits to stay safe. When the days begin to shorten and the temperatures drop, the room for error dramatically shrinks. Tools like the inReach can get you out of an emergency, but there is no reason to put yourself in that situation if it can be avoided through intelligent decision making. There will be plenty of beautiful hikes in your lifetime. If you can’t make the summit or cross the river this time, you will have another chance in better conditions on another day.
Today we share with you a letter from one of our customers that recently used an inReach to coordinate on-the-fly changes while backpacking in the Sierra Nevada Mountains in California.
I used the inReach on an 11-day backpack in the Sierra. I wondered how much I would like the idea of feeling attached to the outside world by being able to communicate via text. I was concerned it may not allow for the type of escape I was accustomed to, but the SOS capability kept me solidly in the “go with it” camp. I subscribed to the Freedom Expedition Plan so there would be no limits on my ability to send family members start and stop daily messages.
After reaching Dusy Basin on the south side of Bishop Pass on our first night, we settled in for dinner. Upon lighting our stove, I could immediately tell something was wrong and it was confirmed when the stove soon turned into a ball of flame due to a pressure/fuel leak. One too many trips for our old, white gas-fueled friend of a stove. We had 10 nights to go and here we were on night number one without the ability to prepare our most important meal of the day. I reached for my newest tool, the inReach, to send a text message to my in-laws who still happened to be in Bishop, CA for the night.
Long story short, we sent a text message to my in-laws regarding our stove situation. The next morning, two of us explored Dusy Basin while two hiked over Bishop Pass to meet at the trailhead for a new stove and fuel canisters. The inReach immediately proved its worth to us because it made our recovery SO MUCH easier. Later in our 11-day trek we were able to confirm the availability of a few items at Muir Trail Ranch via email…again proving the value of being able to communicate.
Throughout the trip my family members enjoyed the tracking feature and daily updates. On one occasion while on the trail I was visiting with a solo hiker who expressed concern that he’d like to take an extra day to exit his hike but thought family members and his house watcher would be worried about him. I offered to send his daughter a message so she and his house watcher would know all is well and what his plans were. I used my synced iPhone to send a text to his daughter. I soon received a response that his daughter and house watcher were okay with his plan and glad to know he was well. He was very relieved to be able to hike his new plan without the stress of knowing others would be worried about him.
I found that the routes and waypoints I preloaded were very helpful for our days of exploring off-trail. I was amazed at how accurate the map app proved to be. On one occasion I was sure the trace of a trail was to our left. We worked our way 20 feet to our left and we were on the trace. This kind of accuracy and assistance proved to be common. The Earthmate app worked seamlessly with my iPhone and contacts and the whole system was trouble free. It was fun to be able to make waypoints of good future campsites on-the-fly while we were exploring.
Overall, I’ll never hike anywhere without the inReach again. It proved its value time and time again. I loved it.
Thanks for your help prior to departure.