It started as a training exercise in orientation in the outdoors, but it ended in a lesson in disorientation.
Cody Moore, a 13 year old 8th grader from Crosby Middle School, was part of a group of almost 400 boys in Scouts and LOTC (Leadership Officer Training Corps) from several schools that went to Sam Houston National Forest to practice outdoor skills last weekend.
On Sunday morning, they were assigned a map reading exercise. Armed with a compass and a map, about 100 boys including Cody set out on a trail, individually, a minute apart. They were supposed to find marked spots in the forest, and return to the start. For some reason, Cody lost his direction, backtracked for a while, and eventually just wandered about, disoriented and lost, according to reports he gave to rescuers later.
When he did not return on time, group leaders set out to search for him. Hours later, with no results, they enlisted authorities that eventually included the DPS, Walker County Sheriff s deputies, U.S. Forest Service, Texas Parks and Wildlife, TDC canine unit, police and fire departments from Huntsville and New Waverly, and volunteers. They searched all day and late into the night, finally quitting about 4 a.m. until morning.
In the meantime, Cody was getting cold, as the night temperature dropped to about 27 degrees. He crawled into a log, he told rescuers, stuffed leaves around him for warmth, and waited until daylight. At morning sunlight, Cody decided to walk some more, this time toward the sun, sensing the warmth after a cold night.
The search party, which had numbered in the hundreds on Sunday, now was about 40 persons, and had started looking at dawn. Steve Degner, of Montgomery County Search and Rescue, said they used horses, dogs, helicopters, ATVs, and thermal imaging equipment as part of the search.
Finally, about 10:30 on Monday morning, a DPS helicopter spotted Cody in the pine trees below, waving some branches to get their attention. The pilot said he was helped by the fact that Cody was wearing a red shirt, that stood out in the woods.
It turned out that he was located only about 1000 feet from the end of the mapping course, but only after wandering far afield before that.
Cody was checked by medical personnel, at the site and at a Huntsville hospital, and discharged with only minor scratches and dehydration.
He was welcomed back by the search party and family that had gathered at the scene. Officials with the training group, and Crosby ISD, said they will review the guidelines and training that participants received, to understand and correct what went wrong in this exercise.