‘Missing hikers’ hope to repay search and rescue workers

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NORTH BEND, Wash. -- A couple that was forced to spend a frigid night in the woods after getting lost on a day hike is hoping to repay the search and rescue crews that helped to bring them home.

In October, Jennifer and Elizabeth Moran spent 31 hours in the wilderness near North Bend after getting turned around during what should have been a 6-mile hike along the Pratt River Trail.

The couple spent the night sleeping on the river bank, thinking about their five children and wondering whether anyone was looking for them.

“We were screaming for help for hours and hours and nothing,” Jennifer said.  “We started to wonder if anyone really was looking for us.”

In fact, more than 60 volunteers with King County Search and Rescue, along with friends and family, had already set out to find them.

The couple’s oldest daughter, Peyton, waited at the trailhead.

“Waiting was just like, anxious. I felt stuck in my own skin,” Peyton recalled of the ordeal.

Back at home, the Moran’s four youngest kids – ages 10 to 14 – watched the news and waited for word that their moms had been found safe.

“I knew someone needed to believe and so I did,” said Ellie, 11.

“I was confident they would get out, it was just I was in disbelief that everything was going on,” said Ashley, 14. “I thought we were in a dream and I didn’t think anything was real.”

On the second day of their ordeal, Jennifer and Elizabeth saw perhaps the best sight of their lives.

“The three rescuers kind of emerged out of the rainy fog and yelled down to us, and Elizabeth yelled back and they asked our names,” Jennifer said.

“And their response was, ‘We’re King County search and Rescue. We’re here for you,'" Elizabeth recalled.

On the hike back to the trail head, where they would be reunited with relieved friends and family members, Jennifer and Elizabeth said they learned a lot about the men and women who came to their rescue.

They learned that KCSAR is an all-volunteer organization that operates strictly off donations. Searchers sometimes use vacation days to aid in rescue efforts and often foot the bill for food, water, and warm clothes given to people like Jennifer and Elizabeth.

“I think all of us kind of share a passion for the outdoors, as well as look at ways to give back to the community,” said Larry Colagiovanni with KCSAR, who works for EBay during the day.

While Jennifer and Elizabeth put together gifts baskets as a way to thank the volunteers who found them, they wanted to do more.

On Thursday night, the couple will host a sold-out fundraiser on behalf of KSCAR, sharing not only their story of survival, but the stories of those who came looking for them.

“I’ve never understood what it was like to love somebody I didn’t know, and we truly love these individuals,” said Jennifer. “My heart will be forever imprinted by what they did for us and bringing us home to our kids.”

If you would like to learn more about KSCAR, or to donate, you can visit kcsara.org.