Paul & Ellen Martin
August 12, 1989
In the morning, I went over to get the food bags out of the tree so we could have breakfast and I saw that it was gone. I thought Ellen had already retrieved it so I went back to the camp. When I learned that she hadn't, I went back to look for it somewhat confused. Now all the trees looked alike and I couldn't be sure where I had hung the food and I felt sort of disoriented.
After a while, I positively identified the tree where I had hung the food, and below it I found part of the rope I had used. There was no other trace. If a bear had gotten it, there would have been scraps of plastic bag and other packages scattered around. Also the rope wouldn't have been untied like it was - it would have been torn or still tied to the tree.
When I got back to the camp, I checked and found that two water bottles and our filter pump were gone. They had been in the outside pockets of my pack and the pockets hadn't been zipped up. We had been robbed.
The two boys we had seen were the likely suspects since they were the only other people in the area. I was really feeling angry as Ellen and I walked down to their camp. There we found a fire still burning. Open fires are not allowed in the park, however this fire was in a fire pit. We also found some wrappers from granola bars of the kind we had in our food bag, but we found no boys. They were gone. This really made me mad.
We went back to our camp and had no alternative but to pack up quickly and hike up to Mowich Lake as quickly as possible. Maybe we could catch up with the thieves. We only had 4 miles to go and Ellen had a water bottle in her pack so we would have no problem making it. We were hungry, but looking on the positive side, our packs were quite a bit lighter.
On the way out, we stopped in at the boys camp one more time to look for additional clues. We wrote down what we saw in a little notebook and headed out. Ellen was ahead of me and as she was crossing the bridge over the North Mowich River I heard a voice hollering above the roar of the rivers. It sounded like he hollered a name. I am pretty sure the boys were hiding out in the woods watching to see when we would leave. I think what I heard was one of them telling the other that it was all clear.
That encouraged me because it meant that we were ahead of them and could possibly get to the ranger before they could get out. Fortunately, it happened to be a Saturday. The Mowich rangers are on duty only on the weekend.
There are only three ways into and out of the South Mowich River Campground. One was from the south the way we had come, and since the west side road was closed, this was a three day hike. It seemed unlikely the boys would go out that way.
The second way was the trail up to Mowich Lake that we were on and the boys couldn't get past us before we got to the ranger.
The third way is a trail that goes past Paul Peak and connects up with the Mowich Lake road. If the boys had a car parked there, they would be able to get away.
Just before we reached the lake, we met a single woman hiker coming down the trail. When we told her what had happened, she changed her plans and turned around and went back up with us. She was on her way around the Wonderland alone and didn't feel safe going down to the South Mowich alone with those boys there.
When we got to the lake, we looked up the ranger and reported what had happened. He got all energized and got right on the radio to other rangers. The rangers are all armed these days and they took this incident very seriously. They immediately dispatched rangers to go down into the camp area from all three directions.
We had prepared a pretty complete list of everything that we could remember that was taken, and we gave it to the ranger. He said if they recovered any of it they would let us know. To this day we haven't heard anything so the boys must have gotten away.
The rangers said that the incident was very unusual and that it is generally pretty safe hiking in the park. Even so, I am going to be a little more careful next time.
We were pretty hungry, so we asked the ranger if he had any food we could buy. He refused to take any money but he took me to his cabin and gave me some soup and other stuff. I took it back to a picnic table and we cooked and ate a meal. It tasted pretty good.
While we ate, we decided on our next course of action. It was about noon and we hadn't seen Dave or Charis yet. We figured they probably weren't going to show and even if they did, we didn't want to wait too long since we didn't have any food or water.
We had agreed that if our plans changed, I was to leave Dave a note at a certain place down the trail. Ellen and I decided we would hike out by going around Mowich lake to Ipsut Pass and then down to our car at the Ipsut Creek Campground. This would be about a 2 hour hike which we could easily do now that we had eaten.
I got up from the table and started looking around for something to write a note on, and I ran into Dave. He and Charis had brought all kinds of food with them and were prepared to finish the hike with us according to Plan A.
The weather was a little threatening and it was foggy so the views weren't too good. But after talking it over, we all agreed to stick to Plan A. The plan was to hike east from Mowich Lake up to Spray Park, camp there, and then the next day continue on up to Seattle Park and then down to the Carbon River and on to our car at the Ipsut Creek Campground. This made the trip longer than it needed to be, but we wanted to see Spray and Seattle Parks since none of us had been to either place.
We packed up our stuff and took off. Dave's pack was very heavy because he brought stuff like bottles of wine, three pounds of spaghetti sauce, fresh fruit, yoghurt, and stuff like that. He thought we might appreciate it after all that freeze dried food and he was right.
The next stop was Eagle's Roost which is a clearing on Eagle Cliff which we were traversing. The views should have been good from here, but it was too foggy to see much.
From there, it is a short distance to Spray Falls. We stopped there and took some pictures.
The trail gets pretty steep from there up to Spray Park. When we got up there, we had to find a camp site that was half a mile from the trail. We found a nice one but there was no water nearby. We had to hike back down a ways to a lake to get water. Since our filter was gone, we brought our stove and at the lake we boiled the water that we would use the next day, and we brought untreated water back to camp to cook the spaghetti in. The cooking would treat the water and make it safe.
Back in the camp, we had a real feast. Everybody had at least two helpings of spaghetti. We drained the wine and had a bunch of other stuff that they brought.
During and after the dinner, Dave and Charis kept Ellen and me spellbound by telling us the story of the murder of Larry Sturholm. It turns out that Dave and Charis knew all of the people involved in the incident pretty well except Pawlyk, the murderer, who they never met.
Larry Sturholm had been out to our house to do a "Larry at Large" TV news piece on the igloo that Aziza and I had built. Charis worked in the same company as Debra Sweiger, and Dave was their contract programmer.
By the time they had told us the whole grisly story, it was time for bed.
It wasn't long after we had been in bed that it started raining. It's kind of neat to hear the pitter-patter of little raindrops on your tent while you're nice and warm and cozy. It's a little more unnerving when the pitter-patter settles down to a steady rain. It makes you even more nervous when it turns into a downpour and you hear the unmistakable sound of rushing white water in a little ravine that was dry when you went to bed.
That was what it was like all night long. We kept reasonably dry in our sleeping bag, but it was still pouring in the morning. We were thinking we should suggest that we call off the rest of the hike and return to Dave's car at Mowich Lake.
We didn't need to suggest it because Dave and Charis had already decided that's what they were going to do. And to heck with breakfast.
We packed up our soggy gear as fast as we could and started hiking back down in the rain. The trail had turned to mud and we were a sorry sight as we dragged into the Mowich Lake parking lot.
We threw our wet gear in Dave's car and drove around to ours at Ipsut Creek.
We didn't quite complete the loop but with our excursions off the Wonderland Trail at Paradise and at Spray Park, we went a total of 104 miles. Since it is only 93 miles around the Wonderland Trail, we feel as if we made it all the way.
©2002, 2003 Paul R. Martin, All rights reserved.