UPDATE 11:25 a.m. | Chelan County Undersheriff John Wisemore said searchers are working shoulder-to-shoulder doing a “grid search” of an area within a quarter-mile of where missing 79-year-old mushroom hunter Hildegard Hendrickson’s car was found at a national forest trailhead Tuesday.
“It’s been down to 39 degrees,” he said. “Not a good temperature, but not out of the realm of being survivable.”
Hendrickson’s car, with her purse and ID inside, had apparently been at the trailhead since Saturday, but was not reported as “suspicious” until Tuesday. Deputies contacted family members, who said Hendrickson had not returned home from her Saturday hike. A search of the area was begun Tuesday evening.
A Seattle woman missing on a mushroom-hunting hike in Central Washington is well-known to area mushroom hunters in the Puget Sound Mycological Society. Hildegard Hendrickson, 79, missing since Saturday, is also a retired faculty member and department chair with Seattle University’s Albers School of Business and Economics.
She is missing in the Chikamin Gulch area near the Basalt Peak trail of Chelan County, according to KPQ radio in Wenatchee.
She had been expected to return from a day trip Saturday.
The website of the Puget Sound Mycological Society lists Hendrickson as someone people can email with questions about mushroom identification.
In 1997, Hildegard Hendrickson and her late husband, Monte, were winners of the group’s “Golden Mushroom Award,” presented to those who have helped shape and strengthen the organization.
“She is very highly regarded. We’re just beside ourselves,” said the group’s president, Marian Maxwell, who said Hendrickson joined the group in 1972.
“We did worry about her, because with her husband passed away, she does a lot of hikes alone,” Maxwell said. “A lot of people asked her not to do that.”
Maxwell said Hendrickson conducted free Monday evening sessions at the Center for Urban Horticulture in which anyone could bring in mushrooms to have them identified. Her absence from this week’s session was the first time most club members knew she was missing.
Maxwell said Hendrickson was generous with her time, and committed to helping novice hunters avoid poison mushrooms.
“She’s a very strong person,” Maxwell said. “If there’s a chance of anyone being alive up there, after four days, it’s her,” Maxwell said. “She’s tough as nails. ”
A 2004 Seattle P-I article about the Mycological Society descibed Hendrickson as “a club legend” who kept detailed notes for decades on where she found choice mushrooms, even identifying the specific tree they were near. That article said she “walks the forest with an orange grocery store basket slung over her arm, an old ski pole to poke at mounds of earth and a plastic whistle hung around her neck. (One blast means ‘Where are you?’ Two is ‘We have found mushrooms!)'”
A Seattle University website says Hendrickson came to SU in 1967 to help start its MBA degree program, and taught until 1996. The site says she was born in Yugoslavia to a family of German origin and came to the U.S. to pursue her education, earning her bachelor’s degree, masters and doctorate at the University of Washington.