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West Linn families thank community in search for their sons

by: VERN UYETAKE - Jackson Chandler, left, and Bradley Nelson review a map that shows where search crews looked for them and where they were found.After being lost in the woods for 48 hours, two teens have learned the strength of their faith and the power of their community.

Jackson Chandler, 17, and Bradley Nelson, 16, missed a trailhead and got turned around on a day hike Oct. 27, leaving them wandering nearly 50 miles over the course of two days before being found. While the two teens relied on the power of prayer and their Boy Scouting skills to stay alive, they had no idea how many people were working to help find them.


On Oct. 27, Jackson and Bradley set off for a short hike at Table Rock around 5:30 p.m. They had never been to the area, which is east of Molalla, and expected to be off the trail before dark. However, when the two teens missed the trailhead, they decided to park their truck and hike a ridge they could see from the road.

The boys, who have known each other their whole lives and are in the same Boy Scout troop, are experienced hikers. Though they didn’t have a map, they had hiked off trail before and felt confident. They made it to the top of the snow-covered ridge in about 40 minutes.

They turned around to head back to the truck. After an hour passed and it started to get dark, Jackson and Bradley realized they were lost. After saying a prayer together, they both felt certain one direction was the way to go, and so they forged on, into the darkness.

“We both had the same feeling, so we thought it must be right,” Jackson said.

The weather that weekend was windy and rainy, making the steep and dense terrain difficult to navigate.

“It kept raining,” Jackson said. “We kept praying.”

The boys reached the top of another ridge and decided to take a break as it was nearing midnight. Taking shelter under a tree, the boys used Jackson’s camp stove to warm their hands and water. Luckily, the stove was left in Jackson’s backpack from a previous trip and he hadn’t bothered to take it out.

They tried to start a fire by cutting branches with their knives, but the wood was just too wet. Unfortunately, the boys did not have any food, and according to Bradley, they were already hungry before they had left for the hike.

By this time, the boys’ families were getting concerned.

Tim Chandler expected his son home around 9:30 that night. When it got to be after 10 p.m., he called Bradley’s parents, Jeff Nelson and Penny Savik. When there was no word from either boy, Tim Chandler decided to call the county sheriff’s office and asked them to check the trailhead for the truck. Deputies responded and said there was no truck.

Immediately Tim Chandler thought of the worst; perhaps the boys slid off the side of the road in the dark and the fog.

In the meantime, Jennifer Chandler, Jackson’s mom, was also left in the dark. She was out of town for the weekend, and Tim Chandler didn’t want to worry her unnecessarily.

“I thought we would find them,” Tim Chandler said. He and Jeff Nelson drove all night looking for the boys.

When the boys weren’t found by morning, Jennifer Chandler was told what was going on and hurried home from Bend.


In the meantime, when daylight struck Sunday morning, Jackson and Bradley headed down the opposite side of the ridge, sureby: VERN UYETAKE - Two families are overjoyed their sons have returned home safely after being lost in the woods for 48 hours. Front row is Bradley Nelson, 16, and Jackson Chandler, 17. Back row is Bridget Nelson, 13, Katie Nelson, 18, Penny Savik, Jennifer Chandler and Tim Chandler. they would get back to their truck that day. On their way they noticed bear tracks in the snow. A short while later they spotted a black bear across a creek.

Reaching the bottom of the creek, Jackson and Bradley stumbled upon an old logging road that was overgrown but had recent ATV tracks on it. They followed this path all Sunday morning, reaching Surprise Lake and a dead end.

The boys backtracked and tried another logging road. While they were walking they talked about what their parents might be thinking.

“It made me want to get home even more,” Jackson said.

“I didn’t want them to worry anymore,” Bradley added.

Meanwhile, the search for the boys was escalating. Both the Chandlers and the Nelsons are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and their congregation is part of a grouping of seven congregations in West Linn, Lake Oswego and Wilsonville — called the Lake Oswego Oregon Stake. On Sunday morning, during service, texts were spreading that the boys were missing. One hour into the three-hour church time, the adult members held a special meeting, requesting that willing men meet in Molalla to help in the search effort.

When Tim Chandler heard some church members were offering their assistance he was expecting a dozen or so. But when he pulled up at the meeting location, there were more than 50 men ready and willing to help in the search for Jackson and Bradley.

“I want to express my gratitude and appreciation for the community and all the friends we have here,” Tim Chandler said.

On Sunday evening, the boys’ truck was located about five miles east of the Table Rock trailhead, coincidentally in the Lost Creek Meadow area.

Relief spread across friends and family when the truck was located, as they were now certain the boys were just lost in the woods.

Katie Nelson, 18, Bradley’s sister, said they felt the boys were OK. “They are both strong. They are smart and knew what they were doing,” she said.

The boys followed the ATV tracks all day Sunday, coming across an unlocked abandoned truck that evening, which was a welcome refuge for the night.


The boys started back hiking first thing Monday morning, following yet another logging road.

Search-and-rescue teams spent Sunday night at Table Rock. A new group headed up around 7 a.m. Monday, joined by a Clackamas County mounted patrol horse unit, search dogs and crews from West Linn along with Clackamas, Benton and Marion counties.

A search helicopter with Oregon Air National Guard arrived shortly after 9 a.m. Monday. Crews were determined to continue the search until the two West Linn High School students were found.

The Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office reported more than 150 people — from 17 different agencies — from all over the region joined in the effort to locate the missing teens. Search efforts consisted of radio communications, ground searchers, K-9s, 4x4 groups, mountain rescue, helicopters and horse posse groups.

The boys’ prayers were finally answered Monday early afternoon, when they were found on a forest service road by a Molalla resident, approximately seven miles from the truck’s location. Jackson and Bradley see it as divine intervention.

“It was exciting because he was stopping for us,” Bradley said.

After explaining their circumstances, the driver agreed to give the boys a ride.

“It was nice to take off my pack. It was nice to sit down in a comfortable chair,” Jackson said.

From the good Samaritan’s home, his wife called ahead to the sheriff’s office, stating her husband had found the missing teens. The word soon traveled fast to friends and family, though police cautioned that the call seemed “hokey” and might not be true. But 20 minutes later, the story was confirmed.

“We all just sighed a big breath of relief,” Katie Nelson said.

Jackson and Bradley got their first glimpse of how many people were out looking for them when they approached base camp.

“It was overwhelming for me,” Jackson said.

Bradley said he was filled with love and gratitude for all the people who were willing to help search for them.

“I want to thank everyone who went up and helped us and prayed for us,” Jackson said. “I know we felt them.”


Now a week after their ordeal, the Nelsons and Chandlers are still piecing together what happened, where the teens walked and what they went through. Though neither boy was injured, they did suffer some exposure in the cold and were very sore. Jackson lost 15 pounds in the 48 hours.

After studying maps and where the search crews scoured, they realized the search extended to the west, but the boys had gone east, where not a single search party looked.

“They went completely the other direction,” Tim Chandler said of the teens, adding that in a few weeks they want to go back and revisit the area.

Both families are grateful for all of the volunteers and search and rescue parties who gave up their time to look for Jackson and Bradley.

“It’s amazing the goodwill that’s out there,” Jennifer Chandler said. “It’s so amazing people are willing to give freely. There is a lot of good out there.”

“We hope we never have the opportunity to repay the favor, but we will certainly be willing and eager to,” Tim Chandler said.

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