Lost on a mountain

By Sara Bruestle | Jul 10, 2013

I was already on the phone on when the news tip came in, so the Edmonds Beacon editor wrote me a note.

Two Kamiak High School grads were missing after a day hike in the Cascades on June 30. They had set out on a hike around 7:30 a.m. to Mason Lake, near Mount Defiance. They had been expected back that night.

The note included the hikers’ names: Ricardo Perez and Brian Chim. Do I know them? I wondered.

After making calls to the Mukilteo Police Department, the King County Sheriff’s Department and the King County Search and Rescue, I had most of the story. I had also found their photos on the Internet.

When I saw his mug, I recognized Ricardo right away.

“Oh my gosh! I know that kid!”

The Edmonds editor and I were both surprised at that, although maybe we shouldn’t have been. As of next week, I’ll have been the editor of the Mukilteo Beacon for three years. I was the schools reporter for one more.

If I do the math, I’ve interviewed an average of one Mukiltean a day for four years. That’s 1,460 interviews. Not to mention the countless others I’ve either met, emailed or snapped a photo of.

No, I’m nowhere close to meeting all 20,500 of you, but my point is this: This is the first time I’ve called up either of the police or fire departments for a story and I knew who it was I was reporting on.

Seeing Ricardo, it made the story hit home.

Ricardo, 18, of Edmonds, and Brian Chim, 19, of Mukilteo, were both in Kamiak Leadership. In fact, that’s how they met and became friends. Brian graduated in 2012, Ricardo this year.

I’ve written many stories about community service Leadership students have done over the years, and these two had been a part of all that. Fundraising, helping others and building community.

I hadn’t met Ricardo, but I knew of him. I had seen him around whenever I visited his classroom, talked to his friends and attended Leadership events.

He was also one of the students to speak up at a year-end meeting with the Mukilteo School Board, which I also covered.

As I wrote a story for the Beacon website on the lost hikers, I became more and more worried for their safety. I thought of his family and friends who were worried, too.

My intern, Zoe Jovanovich, is a friend of his, for one. She was shocked when I called her and let her know that he and Brian were lost on a mountain. (I didn’t mean to scare you, Zoe.)

Ricardo and Brian had left for a hike to Mason Lake up the Ira Spring Trail. They parked their car near the trailhead for Bandera Mountain and Mason Lake.

The car was found at the trailhead around 1 a.m., where they left it.

A King County sheriff's detective told me search and rescue had a lot of ground to cover. There were 10 different lakes near Lake Mason, and the hikers could be at any one of them.

By 7:30 p.m. on July 1, 36 hours in, I was already imagining the worst. I wondered what kind of follow-up story I’d be writing for our Wednesday paper. I kept checking my email. Waiting, worrying.

This one, luckily, was a story with a happy ending. Ricardo and Brian were rescued just after 7 a.m. on July 2. They were hungry, tired and scratched up, but they were OK.

I had only my deadline to worry about, then. Whew.

Rescuers estimated that they hiked more than 17 miles in the 48 hours they had been missing.

The two had hiked to Mason Lake and then decided to continue to Island and Rainbow lakes, but lost the trail on the way there.

Brian took the lead. He knew how to backpack from working at YMCA Camp Seymour, and kept he and Ricardo focused on the task ahead: Either finding their way or getting found.

When they couldn’t backtrack to Mason Lake, they hiked steep terrain to a clearing and waited for a helicopter. When rescuers still didn’t spot them from above, they decided to follow the Pratt River.

They were found with a Snohomish County sheriff’s helicopter near the river, about 7 miles from the trailhead where they had parked their car.

They both had backpacks, but neither was prepared for more than a day hike. They were wearing shorts and only had some beef jerky, dried mango slices, two granola bars and a chocolate bar to eat.

They made a campfire their first night, but lost their one lighter in it.

The second night, they made a bed out of rocks, sticks, moss and branches and covered up with a beach towel and a sweatshirt to keep warm.

The two had some close calls on cliffs, in the water and with a rotten log – I know I’d be scared – but all they have are bruises and scrapes to show for it. It’s a relief, and I know all of us in the community feel the same.

Ricardo and Brian, I’m glad you’re both OK. Welcome home.

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