June 01, 2001 11:00 pm

The two Portland women who were lost in the Eagle Cap Wilderness this past week did several things right and just a few things wrong. People who venture into the high country can learn from their experience.

Unfortunately, Emma A. Rounds, 25, and Sarah Ann Checkal, 28, left their compass behind and failed to tell family and friends where they planned to enter the mountains. But the pair were well prepared for the extra three nights that they stayed waiting for their rescue.

When Rounds and Checkal realized Sunday afternoon that they had lost the main trail under remnants of snow and were on a ridge they didnt recognize, they moved down the ridge toward a stream, set up camp, lit signal fires and stayed put.

Union County Sheriff Steve Oliver pointed out that the pairs patience in waiting to be rescued worked to their advantage. Too often, people who are lost make a mistake by roaming around, expending energy and leading searchers on a chase.

In this case, the hikers built three fires that were seen by rescue helicopters. A team from the 304th Air National Guard rescue unit in Portland spotted the pairs tent and fires and was able to hoist them into a helicopter and out of the wilderness.

The women, expecting to stay only one night in the wilderness during the Memorial Day weekend, brought enough food to sustain them throughout their ordeal.

Rounds and Checkal proved that those who take the time to prepare well for their outing with adequate food, water, clothing, shelter and matches will usually come out on top.

A compass and map are also important aids when exploring the high country.

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