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Thoughts on the rescue

by Larry Wilson
| May 17, 2023 2:00 AM

Everyone in the North Fork followed the story of the young man lost on the Huckleberry Lookout Trail. Several, who are members of the North Valley Search and Rescue, spent all or part of the three day search for the young man from Michigan. He was finally found, alive, but suffering from frostbite by Two Bear rescue helicopter and airlifted to an ambulance and transported to the hospital. In deep snow he had lost his telephone, water bottle, and the tennis shoes he was wearing.

Yes, he was not properly equipped for the conditions. However, we need to remember – there was no snow at the trailhead and the weather was OK when he started. This time of year there is still snow in the high country and that is what cost him. Luckily he didn’t have to pay with his life.

We are fortunate to have not one but two volunteer search and rescue groups in the county. North Valley Search and Rescue and Flathead Search and Rescue. Both of these groups are well equipped and spend hundreds of hours training each year at no expense to taxpayers. They do have a county budget for equipment and operating costs but no Search and Rescue member is paid.

In addition, we are really fortunate to have Two-Bear helicopter. It is a multi-million dollar machine with every bell and whistle on it and its crew are provided at no cost to Flathead County and surrounding areas. This is an amazing charitable donation which has saved multiple lives including probably the young man from Michigan.

Granted, many search and rescue operations could be avoided by better preparation, better equipment or better judgment. People being people means mistakes will always be made. At the same time – people being people – we can be thankful for those of us who work and train to help and rescue those of us who make mistakes.

Yes, there is still snow in the high country. It will be melting soon and cause the rivers to get muddy, swift and very cold. The Flathead snowpack is only at 75% of normal so I don’t expect a major flood. Even so, it is important to be careful out there. Dress for the weather, have good equipment and if you must go out alone make sure someone knows where you are going and when you will be back.

Above all, don’t pick up a cute bear cub – they will cut you three ways – wide, deep and often. Their mothers might do more!

What do you think?