Scout skills helped boys survive while lost in wilderness

MOLALLA, Ore. -- The two teenagers who left for a hike nearly a week ago and were found days later ate plants, avoided a bear and sought shelter in an abandoned truck.

Jackson Chandler, 17, and Bradley Nelson, 16, left to go for a day hike in the Table Rock Wilderness area on Oct. 27 and became lost before being found two days later. The two had parked on a logging road and hiked up a ridge. It wasn't long before they realized they were lost.

"I asked Brad, 'Think we should say a prayer?' and I'm like, 'Yeah, we should,'" Chandler said. "So as soon as we said that, we both got a really strong feeling to go the exact same direction."

The two West Linn teens began to rely on that faith. As cell phones failed, compasses not pointing in the right direction and the rain began, the elements began to take their toll on the teens.

"We were both starting to shiver and I knew shivering is the first sign of hypothermia," Chandler said.

That knowledge turned out to be life-saving.

"We just huddled under the tree, stayed close together, tried to keep each other warm, used Jackson's stove to try and warm up our hands," Nelson said.

Chandler and Nelson relied on their skills gained as scouts -- skills that are now second nature to them.

"They knew they needed to find water and follow draws of water down and that would eventually lead to trails," said Tim Chandler, Jackson's father. "These guys that could take a shoelace and start a fire by rubbing it against a stick."

Their parents took comfort in that, but still worried.

"The worst case just coming to mind, kept pushing it away," said Jeff Nelson, Brady's father.

But 48 hours after the boys left home, the boys were finally found. Cell phone video caught the Blackhawk helicopter as it turned around. A member of the church the boys attend caught the emotional moments in the woods after the boys were found and about an hour later at the reunion.

"The relief and overwhelming joy of having your child back," said Jennifer Chandler, Jackson's mother.

Tim Chandler couldn't say enough about the members of their church who helped in the search.

"What was even more overwhelming then when I saw my son, was walking into a room and seeing 50 men that had left church early to put aside their lives for a moment and look for my son," he said.

Brad Nelson felt the same way.

"I'm so grateful for all the people that helped us," he said.

The teens estimated they walked about 50 miles in those two days they were lost before they flagged down a man who happened to be in the area and gave them a ride back. They said their feet are still sore, but they are doing well, otherwise. Both boys are closing in on attaining the rank of Eagle Scout and Bradley Nelson said he wants to return to the Table Rock area for his Eagle project and label some of the trails there so other hikers don't become lost.