It wasn't even me who suggested it. My mom asked if I would take her backpacking! I was excited that she wanted to go, especially since the only time she has been backpacking was once with a church group about 28 years ago. So we picked a date, made a packing list, and headed out after work on a Friday. We headed up to a trailhead just past Verlot off the Mountain Loop Highway.
I told a friend where I was going and she said, "Isn't that near where the mother and daughter were found shot in the woods a few years back? Oh sorry, I really shouldn't bring that up."
I remembered hearing about it, and it was incredibly sad and devastating on so many levels. For one thing, they never found the perpetrator: Who killed two hikers near Mt Pilchuck? But that type of random violence is so rare, and even family of the victims urged hikers to not be scared to keep going out there: Family of Slain women: Don't be Afraid.
I simply wanted to go somewhere close, uncrowded, with a short hike in, and with a lake to swim in. Our spot fit the bill perfectly and we had a warm, pleasant hike in, and no one else there.
In the morning, still fairly early, we left camp to take a short walk to the privy. It was still a little early for day hikers, and there was no one else around. But then we rounded a bend and suddenly came upon two guys in their early 20's, looking disconcertingly out of place by the lakeside, dressed best as I can describe, like white trash/90's skinheads. And one holding a huge rifle with bayonet.
With my heart pounding, I said a friendly Good Morning as we walked past. My mind was racing as I struggled to reconcile what these guys might be doing here, and how odd it was that I have never once seen people casually wielding firearms in the woods, except this area with a history of an unsolved mother/daughter homicide. It would have been different if they looked like hunters. In fact, I myself enjoy hunting, and am not unfamiliar with being around guns. But these guys were completely out of an understandable context, compounded by thoughts of knowing that they would have seen our lone car at the trailhead. Also, I didn't know it at the time, but the date of horrible double homicide in 2006 had been July 11th; we were there on July 12th.
I felt absolutely sick to my stomach. I felt so vulnerable and defenseless. And then angry. I was here to enjoy being in nature, and have a nice time with my mom, and I had a whole wonderful life in front of me and I was not going to be a news story. I was on high alert with adrenaline racing as we walked back to the campsite, and even as I started making breakfast. Were they hiding somewhere watching us, sniper style? I told my mom I was still pretty sketched out. She said, "I think our best defense is kindness. If they come back here we should offer them a cup of coffee."
We heard voices and footsteps on the trail, and I tensed up. I have never been so happy to see two middle-aged men in hiking garb walk by. My blood pressure finally started going down, and I could fully enjoy just hanging with my mom. We took a walk around the lake, where we started seeing a ton of day hikers walking, fishing, and picnicking. My mom helped me find a good swim spot and I took a nice refreshing dip.
|Mom uses a pump water filter for the first time|
We were only gone for 24 hours, but it was probably the most fun and meaningful time I've spent with my mom in years. I'm so thankful that she wanted to go and thought it was fun. We are already talking about another overnight for next summer.