Cheri Keller is pictured at the Duckabush Trailhead at the start of her trip on Sunday.

Cheri Keller is pictured at the Duckabush Trailhead at the start of her trip on Sunday.

Lost backpacker found in park after four-day search

Reported to be in stable condition

OLYMPIC NATIONAL PARK — A lost backpacker last seen on Wednesday was found alive and in stable condition Sunday morning after a four-day search for her in the southeast area of Olympic National Park.

Cheri Keller, 56, of Olympia, was spotted at 11 a.m. off trail in a basin to the east of Mount Steele by a King County Sheriff’s Office Guardian II helicopter crew, said Penny Wagner, park spokeswoman, in a press release at about 3 p.m.

The helicopter landed in the basin and transported her to Sanderson Field Airport in Shelton. From there, she was transported in stable condition by ambulance to Mason County Hospital for evaluation, Wagner said.

Keller was reported missing at about 10 a.m. Thursday. She was last seen by her backpacking group at about 11:30 a.m. Wednesday near Home Sweet Home camp in the upper Duckabush River drainage near First Divide, where the group of five hikers had stopped for water.

Home Sweet Home is located 12 miles from the North Fork Skokomish Trailhead in the Staircase area of the park.

Others in the group waited for her at Camp Pleasant, Wagner said. When she didn’t arrive, two members hiked out to Staircase Ranger Station on Thursday morning to report her missing. The other members of the group hiked back to First Divide to look for her but were unable to locate her, Wagner said.

The four-day search-and-rescue operation involved teams in the field made up of Olympic National Park staff, Olympic Mountain Rescue and Tacoma Mountain Rescue.

Trail containment involved National Park Service staff and Mason County Search and Rescue.

Washington State Search and Rescue Planning Unit, North Cascades National Park and Mount Rainier National Park assisted.

Additional resources assisting with the search on Sunday included the Kitsap unit of WESAR, Washington State Department of Corrections tracking team, and two teams from Kitsap County Search Dogs.

Saturday evening, a State Patrol fixed wing airplane took advantage of a break in the weather to search for a couple of hours before low clouds moved back in.

The group had a wilderness permit to hike from the Duckabush trailhead to Staircase Ranger Station near Lake Cushman from Aug. 1 to Thursday.


Executive Editor Leah Leach can be reached at 360-417-3530 or at

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