Respectfully bolded by me.
This case has really stuck with me for several reasons.
One, the weather. Pouring rain. Maybe she thought rain is beautiful and therapeutic, which I guess in certain other cases could be true. But there on your own, rain is just miserable and life-threatening. How and why did she enter into that situation?
Two, related to holding above, and this is surely my own bias, but to hike 10 miles with elevation change in one day to Pyrites, you would need to be at a certain level of physical fitness, and you’d need to be training.
Please correct me if I’m wrong here because my hiking experience is very limited even though I’m a fantastic armchair hiker.
I’m in good physical shape - I walk 3-5k almost every day and am muscular and not overweight. Even so, for me to do 10 miles in one day with elevation change would be a challenge and something I’d need to focus on building to. Was LM at that level of physical fitness?
And if not, why did she think she was?
It’s so disturbingly and in the end life-threateningly unrealistic.
Three, the bear canister. Is it possible she planned on traveling light by carrying a rope to hang food instead of a bear canister? Also, how does it work with the rangers, do they check you this time of year? How often do the rangers pass through? Is it possible LM didn’t have a bear canister?
Four, why has NPS found almost nothing and will se ever hear anything? Or will this story just fall away without any final reports?
So, let me have a go at these one by one…. I’m speculating.
1. LM began in that weather because she convinced herself she was “experienced” and above a little rain. I believe this because her family kept describing her as “experienced”; maybe they heard it from her and didn’t really think through what that looked like? IMO her hiking history was that she “did miles”; this is not the same as acquiring skill at decision making in wild spaces, nor is VT anything close to the PNW.
Real experience would have had LM abandon her plan just by looking at the forecast. There’s plenty else to do in WA.
2. From what I can guess (otherwise I can’t think of any reason at all for this plan), LM was used to “doing miles”. That’s kind of a thru hiker thing; she wasn’t a thru hiker, but there are other signs (like pack weight consciousness beyond all else) that she wanted to think of herself in that vein: hardened by miles.
She might have thought of herself as a “low 20’s” hiker. But, as you point out, the 9-10 miles to Pyrites is quite a haul. Plus, let’s not forget that she evidently drove to the trailhead that morning, and it got dark maybe 5:30. AND the weather. And she would have had to get water at least once (depending how many liters she carried, and getting water was going to be a challenge so as not to have an accident.
She might have planned on long trails rule of thumb of 2 miles per hour and wasn’t impressed by the elevation gain. EZPZ.
Yep, hiking by the numbers: ALL of it.
3. The bear canister is mandatory, per the NPS. Bears that are habituated to human food can become dangerous, and have to be put down. An exception would be Pyrites, where NPS had a bear pole. It’s like a metal flagpole, which theoretically bears can’t climb. You attach your food bag to it, and haul it up like a flag.
But the plan was to go to Enchanted Valley. A bear canister is mandatory for EV. However, her family didn’t include it in the list of equipment, and she was so weight-conscious, I doubt she had one. And, yes, she could have got a ticket if a ranger saw her without one. If she enticed a bear by not having a bear bin, and it attacked someone, I would imagine she could be liable as well. But really, I doubt she had one.
4. It’s not unusual for missing hikers never to be found. With that much water (apparently 8” her first day), she could have been washed out to the ocean. It’s right near by.
Hope that helps.
I can’t think of any reason LM ever set foot on that trail except she was in awe of her own experience and thought she was trail superwoman or something. Even without the weather, she was taking colossal risks. Did anyone try to set her straight before she took off?