‘No one thinks that they’re lost’
It was Day 2 when two Kamiak High School grads lost after a day hike in the Cascades first heard a chopper.
A King County sheriff’s helicopter was searching overhead for Ricardo Perez, 18, and Brian Chim, 19, who had set out on a hike on June 31 to Mason Lake, near Mount Defiance.
The two had hiked to Mason Lake and then headed to another lake, but lost the trail on the way there.
“No one thinks that they’re lost,” Perez said. “We just kept going, seeing as how we didn’t really think we were lost.”
At about 8 a.m. on July 1, Perez and Chim waved to the helicopter with a beach towel and sweatshirt. After a day lost near Mason Lake, they were more than ready to be rescued.
Then the helicopter left.
The hikers waited for six hours, but with no luck. They hadn’t been spotted.
“It was maybe 200 yards away from us, and so we thought he saw us,” Chim said. “We thought for sure we were going to be saved.”
Perez and Chim had left around 7:30 a.m. for a hike and a swim at Mason Lake up the Ira Spring Trail. They parked their car near the trailhead for Bandera Mountain and Mason Lake.
When they got to the lake, they decided there were too many hikers and continued on to Island and Rainbow lakes.
“The trail wasn’t very well maintained,” Chim said. “It was pretty brushy at some points, and at one point we were literally forced into two different ways without telling us if it was a side trail or a main trail.”
By noon, they had made it to a lake, but it didn’t look like Island Lake or Rainbow Lake. They stopped and had lunch, and afterward set out again on the trails.
After several miles hiking, they realized they were lost. They had lost the trail in the snow.
The teens then tried to find their way back to a familiar lake: They thought they could see Mason Lake from where they were. After 2-3 hours hiking steep terrain, they hadn’t found the lake, but a waterfall.
“That’s when I knew this wasn’t Mason Lake and that we were really lost,” Chim said. “I didn’t have any idea where we were.”
They spotted a nearby boulder field and decided to go there so that a rescue helicopter could see them. They scaled cliffs to get to the clearing 400 feet below, nearly losing their footing a couple of times.
“I would just go from tree to tree, sliding as best as I could with my backpack, grabbing on to tree limbs and whatever I could to keep myself from sliding all the way down,” Perez said. “Brian went down in front of me to clear my path.”
In the clearing, they made a campfire and kept it going all night. They took turns tending to the fire and taking naps. Neither of them got much sleep.
The next morning was when Perez and Chim saw the King County sheriff’s helicopter, but it didn’t see them. After that, they decided to follow a river, thinking that the helicopter could spot them there.
At sunset on July 1, they set up camp near the Pratt River. They had lost their one lighter in the fire the night before, so they made a bed of rocks, moss and branches to keep themselves warmer, off the ground.
On July 2, they continued to follow the river, listening for helicopters.
“Ricardo was a trooper the whole time,” Chim said. “He’s not an avid hiker and doesn’t know how to swim.”
The two were found by a Snohomish County sheriff’s helicopter shortly after, about 7 miles from the trailhead where they had parked a car. They were hungry, tired and scratched up, and thankful to be found.
“I was so relieved that the whole ordeal was over,” Chim said. “I was just grinning from ear to ear.”
Rescuers estimated that they hiked more than 17 miles in two days.
King County Search and Rescue and the King County Sheriff’s Office searched July 1 for Perez and Chim and resumed the search on July 2. The teens were rescued just after 7 a.m.
The hikers were picked up by a sheriff’s office helicopter and brought to Bandera Air Field in North Bend.
“Brian was great,” Perez said. “He, honestly, held me together. If I had to go through that, I’m glad it was with Brian. He kept his cool the entire time.”
Perez, of Edmonds, graduated from Kamiak this year, and Chim, of Mukilteo, graduated in 2012. Chim just finished his freshman year at the University of Washington.
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.
“I had a pretty good idea we would survive,” Chim said. “Even if we ran out of food, we could survive four days.
“At the same time, I just wanted to get home to my mom and dad. I knew they were worried sick about me.”