A Lomakatsi Restoration Project forestry worker was separated from a work crew Thursday and wandered for eight hours in the Ashland watershed before walking to a friend's house in town, officials said.

A Lomakatsi Restoration Project forestry worker was separated from a work crew Thursday and wandered for eight hours in the Ashland watershed before walking to a friend's house in town, officials said.

Authorities got word that the 35-year-old missing crew member, who wandered up the east fork of Ashland Creek to Four Corners area and down Toleman Creek Road, was OK at about 11 p.m. Thursday, Lomakatsi supervisor Aaron Nuath said.

At about 3 p.m., two Ashland Fire and Rescue personnel joined the 10-person forestry crew's search party, said AFR Capt. Matt Freiheit.

The Jackson County Sheriff's Department and Ashland police joined the search a few hours after AFR, Freiheit said.

Nuath said the area where the crew was piling brush was west of Forest Service road 2060 in a drainage leading feeding East Ashland Creek southwest of Reeder Reservoir; a 30-minute hike from Lamb's Saddle.

"It's straight downhill in, and straight up hill coming out," said Nuath, who wasn't with the crew. "It's a slow arduous walk up a steep hill, and he made a personal decision to try a different route back."

By the time Lomakatsi's crew manager found out, the worker was already gone, having ignored the request to stay from other members of the crew.

"They couldn't stop him," said Nuath. "This is the first time in 17 years of operating that we've any incident even close to this happening."

The worker's trek ended up being less than 10 miles.

"He's in good health," said Nuath. "A little embarrassed."

Reach reporter Sam Wheeler at 541-499-1470 or email swheeler@dailytidings.com.