Portland Woman Tragically Falls to Her Death on a Hiking Trail in Oregon

horsetail falls oregon
Image of Horsetail Falls, Oregon (Ian Sane / Flickr)

In a somber update from multiple news sources, the story of a 63-year-old woman, once missing and later discovered deceased at the base of a cliff near Horsetail Falls in the scenic yet solemn Columbia River Gorge, has touched the hearts of many. Terina Kaye Chapman, whose absence since Friday sparked a search, was identified posthumously, correcting earlier reports of her being 61. Notification has been extended to her family, confirming the heartbreaking news of her passing.

The Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office embarked on a search for Chapman late Friday night following concerns she was overdue from her hike. The alarm was raised by a friend after Chapman failed to return from her lone venture to Oneonta Falls on Friday. The discovery of her car near the Horsetail Falls Trailhead late in the evening prompted an immediate response from the Multnomah County Sheriff's deputies, specially trained for rapid trail deployments in the Gorge. The search was intensified with the aid of drones, courtesy of Gresham Police, although Chapman's lack of a cellphone added layers of difficulty to the search efforts.

Despite the rapid mobilization of search and rescue efforts, the mission to locate her concluded with the sorrowful discovery of her demise due to a fatal fall. By Saturday morning, the search had escalated to involve over 50 individuals, along with tracking dogs and drones, in a comprehensive effort that spanned various rescue teams including the Hood River Crag Rats and the search and rescue teams from Multnomah, Clackamas County Sheriff’s Offices, and Mountain Wave. Tragically, Chapman's body was located around midday, bringing a sorrowful close to the search. Her life, marked by her passion for food and teaching, and her untimely demise, has left a void in the community and amongst those who knew her.

This tragedy occurred amidst warnings from outdoor experts and officials about the deceptive conditions in the Gorge. Despite Portland basking in almost summer-like conditions, the Gorge remains ensnared in winter's grip, presenting hidden dangers to the unprepared. Nathaniel Brodie of the U.S. Forest Service emphasized the importance of respecting these conditions, advising adventurers to be well-prepared with essentials such as food, water, and a solid understanding of the terrain. He also stressed the importance of trusting one’s instincts and judgment to avoid potentially perilous situations.

The unfortunate events highlight the stark contrasts within the Gorge, where on the Oregon side, winter lingers with snow, ice, and downed trees obstructing paths, while parts of the northern Washington side have seen most snow melt below 3,000 feet. Sgt. Brian Gerkman from the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office remarked on the wild nature of these trails, dispelling any notions of them being akin to well-maintained park paths. He underscored the necessity of preparation and communication of one's plans to loved ones before venturing out.

This incident, alongside another rescue operation near Multnomah Falls where two individuals were lost overnight, underscores the challenges and risks inherent in exploring the Gorge’s rugged terrain. It serves as a poignant reminder of nature’s unforgiving elements and the critical need for preparation, respect for the environment, and adherence to safety practices while enjoying its beauty. Chapman's untimely passing is a mournful testament to the perils that await the unwary, leaving a community to grieve and reflect on the fragility of life amidst the wilderness.

Residing in Southeast Portland, Chapman was a figure of culinary passion and educational fervor. Her LinkedIn profile, seemingly untouched in recent years, portrayed a dedicated "paleo chef, caterer, culinary teacher, food coach, and counselor," with an academic background in psychology. She shared insights into her career, including over thirteen years of part-time work at New Seasons and her involvement in running a public kitchen that served as a hub for recipe testing and teaching culinary classes to both adults and children.

Her giving spirit was evident in her volunteer work, where she contributed her skills as a line cook at a women's shelter and supported Mingus Mapps' Portland City Council campaign in 2020 as a cook. Regrettably, attempts to reach her colleagues at New Seasons and Mapps' office for comments were met with silence.

In light of her unfortunate passing, it's essential to underscore critical safety measures to prevent falls and enhance overall safety during hikes in the Northwest's unpredictable terrain. Before setting out on your hike, it's important to familiarize yourself with the trail, keeping an eye on weather forecasts and understanding the trail's difficulty level. Equipping yourself with the right hiking gear, especially shoes with strong grip, and considering trekking poles for extra support, can make a significant difference. Sticking to well-marked trails is vital to steer clear of potentially dangerous areas or unstable terrain. Hiking in groups or with a partner not only makes the experience more enjoyable but also enhances your security, providing immediate help if needed.

From my own experience, I've made it a rule to never venture too close to steep embankments or cliff edges, despite the allure of capturing that perfect photo. I've often observed fellow hikers risking their lives for a momentary thrill or an Instagram-worthy shot. It's crucial to remember that no photograph is worth jeopardizing your safety. The wilderness demands respect, and part of that respect involves recognizing the boundaries set by nature and adhering to them diligently.