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Contact: Barb Maynes, 360-565-3005
Crews hiked into the woods this morning as the search for two missing hikers entered its second day. Neil Twilla, aged 41, of Silverdale and Jeff Mersmann, aged 38, of Bremerton were on an overnight hike to Upper Lena Lake and were expected home by Sunday evening and at work on Monday. A search for the two began late Tuesday after friends contacted park officials earlier that day.
The car driven by the two men remains at the Lena Lake trailhead, where they began their hike on Saturday morning. Yesterday, their tent was spotted beside Upper Lena Lake by helicopter searchers, but no sign has been seen of the two men.
“We’re trying to make the most out of today’s good weather,” said Olympic National Park Superintendent Bill Laitner.
Favorable flying conditions this morning have allowed several ground searchers and a bloodhound to be flown directly to Upper Lena Lake. As weather and flying conditions permit, aerial observers will search from the helicopter; additional dog teams are standing by to be flown to Upper Lena Lake. Ten ground searchers are already hiking along nearby trails and creek valleys, looking for clues of the missing men’s whereabouts.
Two ground searchers tried to reach Upper Lena Lake yesterday, but were turned back by high water at the last creek crossing. Another team will attempt the same route today, with hopes that water levels have gone down.
The Upper Lena Lake Trail and the Putvin Primitive Trail to Lake of the Angels, along with the areas surrounding both lakes within Olympic National Park have been closed to all entry to protect clues and evidence that may be helpful in the search.
Both Twilla and Mersmann are known to be experienced hikers and very physically fit. Both have hiked in the Lena Lake area in the past.
Twilla is described as being 5’11” and 190 pounds with short dark hair and blue eyes; he wears glasses. Mersmann is 6’5” and very lean with short salt-and-pepper hair.
Rangers ask anyone who may have seen Twilla or Mersmann in the Upper Lena Lake area to contact Olympic National Park at 360-565-3120.
At an elevation of 4,600 feet above sea level, Upper Lena Lake is located northwest of the town of Eldon. The lake is 7.3 miles from the trailhead.