Tyler Batch of Port Orford was found in good condition in Powers Wednesday afternoon after spending a week alone in the backcountry — and hours before a winter storm was forecast to hit the coast.
He was reported missing Jan. 13 after he borrowed a friend’s vehicle Jan. 10 and didn’t return. The vehicle was found abandoned on U.S. Forest Service Road 3353 about 32 miles east of Port Orford, halfway between Powers and U.S. 101, said Curry County Sheriff John Ward.
Batch said the car broke down and he started to walk — in logging boots, wearing a cotton hoodie and carrying a gallon of water.
The adventure begins
“I passed some mile-marker signs that said the highway was more than 30 miles away,” Batch said Thursday “I figured if I followed the dirt road, I’d be closer to civilization than to backtrack 34 miles.”
But dusk hit. He got turned around.
“It was all foggy, misty, rainy, cold, wet; it was ridiculous,” he said. “Before I knew it, it was dark and I had no bearings.”
By night, Batch tried to sleep beneath large trees or in small, protected cubbies in the roots of overturned fir. He caught short catnaps before the cold awoke him.
“I could see some light in the mornings, so I knew east, west,” he said. “And water always flows to civilization; I figured no problem — two, three days at the most.”
Meanwhile, his former wife, friends, sheriff’s search and rescue volunteers and others from Curry and Coos counties were combing the woods. They found the car he’d abandoned, but not Batch.
“I had no idea there was any kind of search party,” Batch said. “I thought it was me against the world.”
An Idaho native and 12-year resident of Curry County, Batch is no stranger to the mountains.
“I wasn’t scared, but it was becoming worrisome that all these roads just dead-ended,” he said. “That’s not what I’m familiar with. There were all kinds of trails, and they’d go and go and go and then, no. A dead end in the middle of nowhere. So I’d backtrack miles and miles, uphill, downhill …”
He drank water — there was plenty of that — and foraged for mushrooms, even eating some he wasn’t sure were safe. His travails were wearing him out, as was his clothing, sodden with rain and fog, and weighing on him figuratively and physically.
“The whole time, my intuition wasn’t working in those hills,” he said. “Should I go left? And I’d end up one on one of those dead-end roads, and have to start all over again. I kind of gave up and just winged it.”
His feet were blistered and bloody; he often took off his boots and walked barefoot.
Thoughts of family, friends, things he had yet to do kept him going, Batch said.
By the end of his adventure, as he called it, he had hiked miles up and down ravines and canyons, even swimming downstream in creeks thinking it would get him somewhere, anywhere, faster.
“That wasn’t the case,” he said with a chuckle. “They zigzagged just like the roads. I’ve been in the woods most of my life, and that wasn’t something I’d think would happen. I didn’t know how much longer I could hold out.”
Toward the end, Batch found a road sign, posted for traffic flowing the opposite direction. It read: PAVEMENT ENDS.
He followed it toward Powers, Batch said.
Two men drove by in the opposite direction, and he asked them where the nearest highway was.
“They said it’s not close,” Batch said. The men — later identified as just Vince and Roger — told him they’d pick him up on their way back into town. When they did, it was a 10-minute drive to the civilization of Powers.
Although a “pretty independent guy who never asks for help,” the assistance Batch received was indescribable, he said.
“It was an amazing ordeal. I owe a lot of thanks to a lot of people. A lot of gratitude to family, friends, people I don’t even know. Support from the community was huge.”
He arrived home cold, wet and exhausted.
And he’s had time to reflect on the incident, too.
“Karma had it out for me,” Batch said. “I thought karma and I squared up years ago. I hope we’re back on the same page now. And there is not going to be a next time but there will be a lot more adventures.”
Reach Jane Stebbins at firstname.lastname@example.org .