They set out hiking 6 miles along the Pratt River Trail and wound up lost and cold, discussing overnight who would make the better parent if only one could survive. Now, Elizabeth and Jennifer Moran want to repay a favor to King County Search and Rescue.
When the dark settled around them and the cold took hold, there was nothing to do but huddle together on a rock, talk about the people they loved, and try to forget about the bear out there.
Last October, Elizabeth Edwards Moran and her wife, Jennifer, set out to meet their friends for a 6-mile hike along the Pratt River Trail in North Bend, then return home to Bothell in time for their son’s birthday party.
But after a series of wrong turns and frustrating switchbacks that their compass couldn’t clarify, the women found themselves lost, tired, hungry, cold, facing nightfall and thinking they could very well die out there.
‘Story party’ benefit
An event to raise money for King County Search and Rescue, hosted by Elizabeth and Jennifer Moran, 6 p.m. Thursday, March 10, The Baltic Room, 1207 Pine St., Seattle, $27.37.
“We knew how desperate our situation was,” Elizabeth said. “Physically, you know what your body can take. And in our minds, it wasn’t so good.”
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So they talked about the people they love, starting with their mothers, then about the five kids in their blended family.
If only one of them was to get out, Jennifer told Elizabeth, it should be you. You are the better mother, she said. And the insurance is on me.
She wasn’t kidding. It was that bad.
When daylight came, they set out again. Then sometime around noon, they looked up to see three people in red jackets standing on the trail above them.
“I don’t mean to sound cheesy,” Elizabeth said, “but out of the misty fog and the rain, these three people appeared and yelled out, ‘Hello!’ ”
The women, hoarse from calling for help for hours, rasped back: “Hello!”
“What are your names?” one of the red coats asked.
“We’re Jennifer and Elizabeth Moran!”
“We’re King County Search and Rescue. And we’re here for you.”
Said Jennifer: “You’re trying to understand that this is really happening, and you don’t want to lose them. So we started chasing them up the hill.”
Stay put, the rescuers told them. We’ll come to you. And when they did, they had everything the women needed: Long underwear. Hand warmers. Miso soup. Granola bars. Skittles.
Jennifer couldn’t stop hugging them: “I partly did that because when you’re rescued, you give away the rest of your energy, like ‘Ohhhhh, I’m saved.’ ”
That moment of setting eyes on someone is an “emotional high” that King County Search and Rescue (KCSAR) volunteer and spokesman Larry Colagiovanni never tires of.
“There is an emotional connection and a sense of relief,” he said of rescues. “In the case of the Morans, we had no idea where they were. We sent out 11 different search teams. So there’s a lot of anxiety and excitement, and you’re wondering what state they’re in.”
On their way out of the woods, the Morans peppered their rescuers with questions, learning that KCSAR is made up of 500 volunteers who donate their time, food, gear and — in Colagiovanni’s case — even coats off their backs.
About 70 percent of their searches are in the region’s trail systems; 15 percent are urban, such as for missing Alzheimer’s patients; and another 15 percent are for evidence, as in the case of Cheryl DeBoer, the Mountlake Terrace woman who disappeared from a park-and-ride Feb. 8 and whose body was found six days later.
Last year, KCSAR went on 146 missions, with annual operating costs of just $50,000. And while each unit has its own budget, it’s clear they perform miracles with next to nothing.
So, to show their thanks, the Morans are hosting a fundraiser for KCSAR from 6 to 9 p.m. on Thursday, March 10, at The Baltic Room in Seattle. They’re calling it a “Story Party,” and will tell their tale of the trail — but also that of KCSAR.
People giving thanks this way “doesn’t happen as frequently as you think,” said Colagiovanni, who, when he isn’t on searches, is a director of software development for eBay.
“Folks are appreciative, but there can be a bit of embarrassment there,” he said. “You get some people who are not necessarily as prepared as they could be, and some who just have a crappy day on the mountain.”
Whatever that October day and night was for the Morans, they are home and safe and grateful for every thing. Every one. Every prayer. And every person who searched.
“Carrying this through is a lesson for us,” Jennifer Moran said. “We want to make sure we can convey our gratitude. I hope we can have an impact through our story, but also introducing this amazing group of people.
“They have become part of our family.”