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August 13, 2013 at 9:10 AM

Stranded in the North Cascades

Corrected version

Victoria Jurgens and her husband celebrated their 11 wedding anniversary this past weekend by hiking the popular Sahale Arm in North Cascades National Park.

They will remember this one.

They were among a number of people stranded by the washout of Cascade River Road.

Here’s her account of their adventure, er, maybe misadventure when they became rain soaked and stranded and the efforts by the National Park Service to get them out.

My husband and I were backpacking for our 11th anniversary. We got hit pretty hard by a thunder, lightning, and hail storm on Sunday on the way down from the Sahale Arm. The water was running down the trail so hard that it was sloshing up over the tops of my boots! It was pretty wild.

We encountered a fresh rock slide after we crossed over Cascade Pass, and the water was coming down in torrents. When we finally arrived at the parking lot, completely soaked, with pizza and beer in Marblemount on the mind, we were informed that the road was out.

We knew there were two rangers who had hiked into the back country, but they were both supposed to be out for several days. There was a guy from Chicago at the trail head, who was suposed to be picked up by a friend at 6:00. We figured when his friend discovered the wash out, he would alert the ranger station in Marblemount about the situation. There wasn’t much anyone could do, so we all just sort of tucked in for the evening.

We were lucky we had been backpacking because it meant we were well prepared to spend the night. We were however very low on food. After a long day of hiking, we each had an energy bar for dinner.

Later in the evening, one of the rangers showed up. Apparently the station alerted him via radio of the situation. He checked on everyone and took names and numbers of people to be notified of our situation. After that, everyone pretty much went to bed. There were a few tents, but most people slept in their cars. We adopted the guy from Chicago and let him sleep in our car.

The next morning the ranger called a meeting at 7:30 to let us know that people were working on the situation and that we might be going out by choppers, or by a zipline type system to get us over the 25 foot deep wash. He said we would have a meeting every hour on the half hour to get updates.

Later, the second ranger arrived from the back country. After a very light breakfast, we headed out to get water. A few people had filters, and pulled together to take care of those who did not. People with food were also very generous.

We spent the day trying to stay entertained. Someone had a guitar, and another person had a mandolin, so they played and sang songs to pass the time. We took a walk down the road a mile and a half to see the wash out. It was bad. We figured we would have to leave our car up there, possibly for months. Apparently the culvert became clogged with logs and debris during the massive runoff from the storm, so the water tore through the road to find a new route down the mountain.

We walked back up to our camp. As the day wore on, there was talk of a crew possibly trying to build a temporary road. By noon, people were running out of food and no one knew if we would be spending another night. The hourly meetings continued, and we were told that a chopper might come in if the cloud layer lifted enough to make it safe.

The cloud layer did lift, and sure enough, a chopper arrived carrying boxes of sack lunches made by several restaurants in Marblemount. It was pretty great. We also got a third ranger. She told us that the temporary road might be ready between 5:00 and 7:00pm, and that the chopper had gone to access the situation upstream. She said thunder storms were in the forecast again, and that if the road did not hold, we would likely be going out by chopper.

A while later, we got a fourth ranger via helicopter, and just after 4:00, they said the road was ready, and to be packed and ready to go by 4:45. Everyone loaded up and we headed out. We could not believe what the road crew had managed. They dumped huge logs in the wash, and then dumped rock and dirt over them. The logs allowed the water through, making a temporary culvert. It was very impressive.

I have to say, we were extremely impressed with how the rangers handled everything. They did a great job and we are very grateful to be safe and sound in our own beds this evening!

Correction: In an earlier version of this post, the headline and the introduction mistakenly said Jurgens and the others were stranded on the North Cascades Highway. They were not. They were stranded when Cascade River Road washed out because of the storms.


Comments | More in From our readers, General news, Traffic & Transit | Topics: Cascade Pass, North Cascades Highway, stranded


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