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Jim Larry Holloway of La Grande greets his wife, Lenora, early Tuesday night after she was found safe and unharmed in the Elkhorns. (Chris Baxter/The Observer)
It was the understatement of a lifetime. Jim Lawrence Holloway of La Grande, fighting back tears, gestured toward Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife biologist Eddie Miguez early Tuesday evening.
The two were standing with a search party near a road deep within the steep terrain of the Elkhorns.
“I owe you an ‘Attaboy,’” Holloway said.
A crisis and perhaps a tragedy had just been averted thanks to Miguez. The biologist had found Holloway’s mother, Lenora Holloway, 76, after she had been missing for four hours. Lenora Holloway, who had been camping with her husband, was in good condition after getting lost while hiking alone in an area seven miles west of the Anthony Lakes Highway near Sand Flat.
“She was not scared but I was,” said her husband, Jim Larry Holloway of La Grande.
Lenora had been missing since 2 p.m. Tuesday. Her husband, after a frantic search, called their son, Jim, at about 2:30 p.m. Jim Lawrence, who was in Union, next phoned county officials and within an hour he and Union County Search and Rescue team members were launching a search for Lenora. Eventually, 14 search and rescue team members and 14 volunteers were scouring the area.
“I made one phone call and this is the kind of response I got. This is what rural America is all about, right here,” said Jim Lawrence Holloway at the base site of the search. “You have no idea how much I appreciate these guys.”
Miguez, manager of the Elkhorn Wildlife Area, found out about the emergency because of a wrong turn made by a group of volunteers from La Grande driving to the search site. The party mistakenly drove into the Elkhorn Wildlife Area office site, where Miguez and his family live, thinking it was on the road to the search location.
Miguez was there and corrected the party’s drivers. Next, he hopped on his all-terrain vehicle and followed the party to the area below Sand Flat. Before getting there, Miguez turned off and took a steep road up to an overlook where he hoped to spot Lenora.
“I wanted to get a good view of the meadows in the area,” he said.
Not far before reaching the overlook Miguez found Lenora Holloway standing in the road around 6 p.m. He then gave her a ride down to the search site where she was greeted by a warm embrace from her husband.
Miguez is philosophical when reflecting upon how a wrong turn helped the search for Lenora be a successful one.
“Everything happens for a reason,” he said.
Had Lenora not been found before darkness hit she would have been at risk since evening temperatures have been dipping into the 40s in the Elkhorns. Lenora, who did not have a coat, was not prepared to spend an evening in the cold.
“Hypothermia is always a concern at this elevation,” said Union County Search and Rescue Coordinator J.B. Brock.
Lenora and her husband, who have been camping in the Elkhorns for a week, plan to stay until Friday. Jim Larry Holloway said they had a simple plan for celebrating their good fortune Tuesday night.
“We’re going to roast trout and hot dogs,” he said.