Search for Missing Hiker in Panhandle Gap area on the Wonderland Trail
Contact: Fawn Bauer, Information Officer, 360-569-6701
Search efforts are underway in Mount Rainier National Park for a day hiker who went missing Saturday, July 12, while hiking with his son in the Panhandle Gap area on the Wonderland Trail. Edwin Birch, 64, from Tacoma set out from Box Canyon early Saturday morning after he dropped his son off at White River to hike the same trail in the opposite direction. Both father and son had set a goal to hike the Wonderland Trail in sections, and Saturday's mission was to hike the section between Box Canyon and White River, roughly 19 miles in length.
At approximately 3:30 pm that day, father and son met midway on the trail near Indian Bar at around 6600 feet. The son reported his father seemed well, although he was a bit tired. After arriving at the Box Canyon trailhead around midnight, the son picked up the car and drove to pick up his father at White River. When his father did not appear he notified park rangers at White River at 1:30 am.
By 7:00 am on Sunday morning, Mount Rainier National Park initiated search efforts with ten ground searchers and an MD530 helicopter from Northwest. Helicopters. The entire trail, as well as high probability areas close to the point last seen, were covered that day without any signs of the missing hiker.
Today's search efforts include 53 personnel including members from Everett, Tacoma, and Olympia Mountain Rescues, along with an Everett Mountain Rescue dog team, and air support from Northwest Helicopters. The Soup Ladies are providing food for searchers.
This section of the Wonderland Trail is snow covered above 6300 feet and patchy at other locations. The park advises that all hikers should come prepared with the ten essentials (http://www.mountaineersbooks.org/Assets/ClientPages/zz_TenEssentials.aspx) , and be prepared for difficult travel this time of year when snow can obscure park trails.