We just got back from spending 3 days out at Reflections Lakes and were escorted out by the US Forest Service Tactical team this morning.
Firstly, a truly tragic event for all involved. My heart goes out to all the families.
From our perspective.
Had an uneventful hike in Sat to set up camp for our long weekend. Set up a nice pit kitchen with a full tarp to shed the snow that fell all night later. Actually made it to midnight with the help of some rum and cranberry juice.
Sunday we had a super lazy start to the day, day hiked to Lake Louise and then hiked back to camp around 2pm to settle in for the night. In the afternoon, we start seeing planes circling the mountain and figure they are either joy riding on a beautiful New Years day or someone is missing. We start seeing more planes and then the choppers show up, 3 actually. We see one of the choppers swoop down into the corners of the lake, checking out the nooks and crannies. It hovers over our tarp and gets SUPER SUPER low, so we get out to see whats going on, once they saw us they took off again. We had no idea what was going on. They kept swooping until the light was out, and planes stayed out. We still have no idea whats going on so we continue drinking our champagne and enjoying a beautiful night out. We were the last party at the lake at that point. We figured someone was lost.
This morning, we are all still in bed around 8:30am when the chopper comes back and hovers for a good long while until we get out of the tents. They call out on their speaker "ranger shot and killed. Shooter at large." Well crap. That explains the swarms.
So we decide to start packing up and just get out, but it takes time since we were pretty well entrenched. There are 3 choppers at this point flying all over the lake and mazama ridge. The chopper swoops back over us, and drops a coffee cup that reads: "A ranger has been shot shooter at large. Call on cell if able to Pierce Co sheriff" so we hurry even more to get out. An hour later cup #2 comes: "Take road to falls and sheriff deputies. We will keep an eye on you. Do not drive from paradise w/o armed escort."
After we are all packed, the chopper comes back over us, gives us a signal to go ahead, and we start up the road. The chopper alternates between flying around the area and staying just ahead of us on the road. I've never had a helicopter escort before! At this point, we are all pretty worried, since we have nothing but snow shovels and we are having paranoid visions of a sniper bearing down on us. As we just turn the bend in the road, we run into the US Forest Tactical team sent out to get us. They are all armed with assault rifles, camo and enough gear to keep them out for a few long days. As we meet them they get a radio call that the shooter has been found, facedown in a stream dead. They escort us back to the end of the road just above narada falls where the ranger's truck is. Bullet holes and everything.
Apparently he took off and headed to the woods after a 90min fire fight. The rangers were concerned that he would shoot and kill anyone he came across for their clothing and gear. When I spoke with the chopper pilot who was signaling us, he said he was worried when we didn't immediately come out of the tents this morning since they thought he might have gotten up the trail far enough to find our camp, kill us and take our gear.
It was memorable to say the least. RIP to all those involved, we are still processing it. Truly tragic.
Geez! Memorable indeed. That was way too close. So glad things ended as they did.
PS Coffee cups, really? Pretty low tech communications! I guess you do what works under the circumstances and from experience, there's no cell coverage until you get back to Eatonville.
-------------- "May I always be the kind of person my dog thinks I am"
One thing I can say, and I might get flamed, but I hope this doesn't lead to cell towers all over this park and others.
Thanks for sharing. A lot of us have been close to being evacuated because of nearby forest fires, but nothing like this. Interesting that they didn't try to come get you yesterday, but I have little doubt there's a reason for this.
That's actually something we were talking about the whole time we were packing. In some ways, it was much better to NOT know about this sunday night, as we 1. would've not been able to sleep AT ALL and 2. might have tried to hike out while he was still active and probably in our path.
But I would think they wouldn't have wanted anyone there last night. My thinking is that it would've been too dangerous to come get us at night, in the area they knew he was in, as it would make them moving targets. This guy didn't have a pistol, he had an assault rifle with him and he was a very good shot (according to the team that escorted us out anyways) and sending a team of rangers in at night would've exposed them to unnecessary harm.
I think it may be time for a radio though, they said they were trying to call us on a radio but we didn't have one. I've been thinking for years of getting one, and finally have an experience that is going to push me to get one.
Hopefully will never have to use it in this type of situation again!
What a way to start the new year. Gonna have to come up with something epic iffin' you want to top this adventure. In all seriousness tho, welcome home. Glad you are safe and sound. Glad everyone is off the mountain safe and sound.
-------------- Tomorrow's not promised to anyone, so be bold, scare yourself, attempt something with no guarantee of success. You'll be amazed at what you can achieve. -Olive McGloin
Wow! Now that is one trip report I will never forget! Probably you won't either.
Glad you were all escorted out without any issues.
My condolences to the Ranger and her family.
Not to distract from the trip report, but I just happened to have come across a blog posting a few days ago (prior to this tragedy) about the pride one of our Rangers has in her job. It's a very moving read, IMO, and really makes me appreciate them all the more.
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