Search for missing hiker discontinued

Sean C. Morgan

The major search effort for Mark Joseph Hardin, 49, of Sweet Home in the Upper Calapooia area near Holley concluded Sunday afternoon.

Hardin’s wife reported that he was missing in the afternoon of Aug. 7. She told the Sheriff’s Office he had been missing since Aug. 5.

Hardin was last seen near the road late on Aug. 7 by a pair of transients camping about two miles east of where his vehicle was located, Sheriff Tim Mueller said.

The search continued throughout the week, Mueller said. On Thursday, 83 searchers from Linn, Marion, Lane, Benton and Deschutes county sheriff’s offices were looking throughout an 8-mile area where Hardin’s vehicle was located. They were assisted by an OH58 Kiowa helicopter from the Oregon Army National Guard, along with four-wheel drive and ATV teams.

Friday, the Sheriff’s Office scaled back the search to members of the Linn County Search and Rescue team, two cadaver search dog teams and a fixed-wing aircraft piloted by a volunteer, Mueller said. Up to 31 searchers remained in the area through the weekend, covering an area approximately 12 miles long by 2 miles wide.

“Since the search began, the Calapooia River and the area around Mr. Hardin’s vehicle have been searched extensively,” Mueller said. “Unfortunately, no clues have been discovered other than a water bottle, cigarette butts and a lighter that were found in the first two days.”

More than 2,000 man hours have been spent searching for Hardin, Mueller said. Members of the Linn County Mounted Posse are scheduled to search specific areas later this week.

“Without further leads or tips, the search will conclude after the final efforts by posse members,” Mueller said. “Combined with the warm temperatures, lack of food and shelter, the chances of his survival after this amount of time with no water are very poor.”

When Hardin was reported missing, deputies found his Chevrolet Lumina at 3:16 p.m. on Aug. 7 near the 100 line gate on Upper Calapooia Road. Hardin is known to hike in the Upper Calapooia area.

Deputies checked the area on foot and then with ATVs but did not locate Hardin. Additional deputies and members of the Search and Rescue team joined the search until about 11 p.m. The search resumed on Aug. 8.

A lighter and water bottle were located alongside the road not far from the vehicle and are believed to belong to Hardin, Mueller said.

Deputies checked with Hardin’s cell phone carrier to see if there were any recent calls or text messages from his phone, Mueller said. There were not. They also attempted to call the phone, but it went to voicemail.

Detectives also searched his computer and cell phone for possible clues as to his plans, but they have not found anything conclusive, Mueller said.