I consider myself very lucky living in the Pacific Northwest. In addition to the great places to cycle, the oceans, the great coffee and fantastic wine, the hiking one can experience up here would compare to anywhere in the world.
You have your choice to go to raging rivers, peaceful alpine lakes, secluded ocean beaches, mountain tops and, ice caves. I encourage as many people as I can to experience all the nature they can up here. Sadly, yesterday, 6 people forgot to pack their common sense.
One of the first hikes I ever remember taking was to the Big 4 ice caves up near Granite Falls, WA. It’s a coupla hours drive north of Seattle. Back then, when my Dad was dragging the four of us kids as well as the neighbor’s brood with him, it seemed like the Bataan Death march. Straight up hill both ways.
I now know its a very easy 2 mile round trip. But my legs were shorted back then!
The trail ends at the base of an avalanche chute. All winter long, avalanches fall and the snow and ice pile up here. Then, as the weather warms, the pile begins to melt, and each year an ice cave is formed. It incredible to see, and on very hot day, you can feel the natural air conditioning billowing out of the cave and down the hill. Truly a prime destination in a hot week.
Oh, and it is also incredibly dangerous! 6 people found this out the hard way yesterday. (Read Story Here) One person died and 5 others were seriously injured. (some of these are still in the hospital.)
What happened? Well, simply put, they chose to ignore every sign that said, do not enter, climb on, or get close to the cave. Ice melts, and the hotter it is the quicker it does. The folks in this video, the day before, got very lucky NOT to be hurt.
The people in the story above took it one step farther. They went inside the cave! Sure as hell, the ceiling collapsed right on top of them!
Now I have to ask: Ever see that person on a crotch rocket (super fast motor cycle) flying down the freeway, sometimes doing wheelies and just making an ass out of himself? Ever had the thought, “That damn fool is going to kill himself!”
Walking into these caves is the same level of foolishness. I am not happy that people got hurt, and no way would I ever want someone to die up there. My sympathies are with the families. But, they had it in their power NOT have anything happen. Simple common sense!
If you see a sign such as this (Different trail but same theory)
Then the smart thing to do would be NOT to go near, let alone inside the dangerous area!
I know the thinking process, as I have had them myself. What are the chances it will happen right now? How many people have gone in and come out with no problems? I may never get back here and will regret not going in?
So I do understand the why they went, but since they did so with signs like this above, the risk were spelled out and they made the decision. The fault lays with themselves.
However, the aftermath, that will affect the rest of us, and that’s where I get cross.
Right now, the Ice Caves are closed indefinitely to hikers. I do NOT like the word indefinitely. It makes sense to close it until the body is recovered, but there is no more danger there now then there was yesterday. IF you stay OUT of the cave.
Then there are those complaining that the Forest Service doesn’t do enough to keep us safe in the wilderness. (Notice the first part of wilderness is WILD)
There is no cell service on this, and in fact many of the trails up there. People are asking why there isn’t an emergency phone box at the trail head? Well let’s see, there’s:
- Lack of money
- And the fact people were hiking up here (with kids) for decades before anyone ever HEARD of a cell.
- Do we really want cell towers along our trails?
Then, every year, something happens to someone. They fall off a cliff, over a water fall. or here the cave in. And people yell: Why are there no fences keeping us away from danger???
Really? Most of the people on the trails are adults. Those that aren’t, generally have an adult riding herd. Nature is to be enjoyed and experienced when it is wide open.
Not stared at through a fence!
Which is why I am wiring this. I am hoping the Forest Service realizes this is a chance happening. and not the norm. Just because these people put themselves at risk, does not mean we should prevent the rest of us from enjoying what the moutaingods have given us here in Washington.
Keep the trail open, do NOT put up any fences or gates, and, if need be, add more signs.