Day hike near Mailbox Peak turns into unexpected overnighter
June 27, 2012
By Michele Mihalovich
Five hikers spent a chilly night near Mailbox Peak, just east of North Bend, when they lost the trail and darkness fell June 24.
Deputy Peter Linde, with the King County Sheriff’s Office, said six hikers, one with a 10-month-old baby, all from Oak Harbor, set off for a day trip. The man with the baby decided to come down the trail after they had all reached the top at 6 p.m., and mistakenly thought the rest of the group was behind him, Linde said.
He said the peak is just a bunch of rocks and people can have trouble finding the trail again, especially if it’s getting dark and they don’t have adequate light.
“We used to get rescue calls on Mailbox quite often, so we got together with the DNR and put reflective markers up so people could shine their flashlights and find their way back to the trail from the peak,” Linde said.
He said the group, with only two flashlights with them, got turned around on the peak, lost their way and got trapped in some vegetation.
“It’s not uncommon to lose your way up there, and it’s not hard to do. But people do need to pay attention,” Linde said.
The man with the baby notified search and rescue when the rest of the group didn’t return to the trailhead.
Linde said the man was able to talk to the rest of the group on cellphones until their batteries got low. He also communicated with the group using the horn of his vehicle.
Linde said the group of hikers did contact the sheriff’s office at about 2:30 a.m., and deputies were able to pinpoint their location using cellphone GPS.
“Because it was dark, we asked them to stay put and hunker down for the night,” Linde said. “We had two SAR teams at the trailhead about 4:30 a.m. The group was some distance from the trail, but we got everybody down to the trailhead by 8:15 a.m.”
Linde said the group was cold and tired and had some scratches, but no one required medical attention.
He said hardly anyone in the group was prepared for an overnight stay on the mountain.
“It was probably 40 degrees last night and one guy had on a T-shirt and shorts,” Linde said June 25. “This is a good reminder for people that even a day hike can turn into an overnight. People need to bring extra food, water and clothing, and everyone should carry their own flashlight.”
Michele Mihalovich: 392-6434, ext. 246, or email@example.com.