Tamolitch Pool - July 29, 2017
Coordinator Richard O'Neill, narration and pictures by Richard O'Neill

Lane and I had hiked this trail several weeks prior on a cold and dreary day. What a difference several weeks make. The cold and the dreariness had long since been banished by the heat of summer and we all looked forward to hiking along a beautiful cascading river in a shady forest with blue sky above. Unfortunately, so did most of the population of Eugene, Bend, and all points between.

We started at Carmen Reservoir and immediately delved into the wonderfully shaded forest. The trail was quite busy with mountain bikers and we all made sure to step aside for the faster bikes . Those with cameras soon found themselves at the customary tail of the hiking group.

The Blue Pool is spectacular, the waters displaying an unbelievable blue color, especially when lit up by the sun. However, unlike me and Lane's exploratory sortie from several weeks prior, the pool was ringed by hundreds of casual hikers. There was a noticeable pall hanging over the crowd. Seems a young lady had fallen 80 feet off a cliff and amazingly, she was still alive. A rescue was taking place and for me, the enjoyment of hiking was lost for the day when they stretchered her past us, her body posture the perfect picture of misery. At least she was conscious and alive. While the rescue was being performed, teenagers were leaping off the cliffs into the pool in youthful obliviousness.

When we had left the shuttle vehicle at the trailhead, we noticed the search and rescue crews assembling in the parking lot. That was about 11AM at that point. So the timing of things was first the injurious fall, which had to have happened fairly early in the morning, close to or before 9AM. There is no cell phone coverage on the trail so a pair of hikers had to hike out to the trailhead, which would take close to an hour, There was no phone coverage at the trailhead so they had to drive down the McKenzie Highway to find phone coverage. The search and rescue crews came from McKenzie Bridge, Corvallis, and Sweet Home. While McKenzie Bridge was reasonably close, the others were well over an hour's drive away. Then the crews had to hike up to the injured woman, another hour spent. Then they had to immobilize her in a stretcher and rappel her up the cliff and steep slope. Then came the triage and first aid and finally, as we looked, they carted her down the trail with the utmost of care. After the hike finished (we had long passed up the stretcher party) we drove the 7 miles or so to retrieve our vehicles, drove back down to pick everybody up, and the rescue crews still had not reached the trailhead, and it was now about 430PM. That's a very long time to be injured and without significant medical treatment, search and rescue is an elaborate process and not very fast.

As we hiked down the trail, hundreds of "casuals" were coming up the trail, hiking in flip-flops and bikinis. Some were dragging little wagons of food and drink behind them. Real hikers, like ourselves, were in short supply and frankly, there were way too many people who had no hiking sense. I'm glad to report the injured woman was not seriously injured but not so glad to report that her rescue was the third extraction by search and rescue that week. The other two rescues had significant injuries. I'm also not glad to report that fatalities are a common occurrence at the Blue Pool , that seems to happen several times each summer. So (I'm giving a finger-wagging lecture here), be sensible boys and girls and respect the danger that is always present in hiking. You don't need to scramble down a cliff to get closer to the magnificent Blue Pool, the view is just as good from a safe distance away from the cliffs' edge. Don't hike in flip-flops and bikinis either. The Willamette National Forest is aware that the Blue Pool is being loved to death and have made plans to route the mountain bike trail around the pool but in my view, the problem is not the bikers but that flip-flopping crowd. I vote for moving all trailheads at least 5 miles away from the pool.

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