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Harrison Ridge to Miracle Mountain, Trail 217

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Harrison Ridge to Miracle Mountain, Trail 217

Hike #370

51° - 61° 

Sept 13, 2010…Harrison to ridge to ‘Miracle Mountain’…Tr #217…hike # 370

This is a very long and very hard hike and our fourth time to the plane crash site…the first being our unsuccessful search for it; this is the hike wanted to do last week but turned back due to the fog. Skies were mostly cloudy when we left home today but headed up Pack River Rd anyway. Surprisingly there was one rig at the trail head, and we met the couple coming down…they had stayed the night up at the lake. We saw no one else today.      

 So once again, using the Harrison Lake trail as a jumping off point for more adventure, we cut off trail just before the lake and bushwhacked down to the river, crossed it and climbed up the steep rock wall. We could probably do it with our eyes closed by now…so many hikes over this way. Crossing the granite for a short bit, we headed up the steep wall of granite and boulders. New cairns marked our way. If you don’t know where you’re going it is very easy to not only get lost but get disorientated, which we always seem to do on the way back! Up and over boulders and granite we went, always looking up toward the ridge to see if we can find the tree with the sign. Finally realizing we were not far enough up yet, we decided to look for the only possible way up to the top. We have come down this chute in the past. It is about as close to rock climbing as you can get without using ropes. If our report reading group could have seen us, their eyes would have widened in amazement, as my own do quite frequently as well! Pictures help but just never really tell the story. We slowly worked our way up the narrow and almost vertical wall of rock, each one keeping an eye on the other. Whew…we did it.  I tried not to look down.

Up now on the ridge we headed over and behind the huge “Sister #6” mountain in the Seven Sisters Range. Traversing across four difficult boulder fields, I finally let out a loud yell saying I could see the tree and the sign, and also some of the wreckage which is still left on our side of the ridge, about 30’ below…here is where the windshield, wing and other smaller pieces landed. After walking around and taking some more pics of the wreckage, we walked up to the ridge to check the sign and look below the other side of the ridge at the wreckage 150’ below down in the boulder field. We had fixed the broken bolt on the old sign in the past and added the article that I able to find in the 1986 Daily Bee about the two couples in the plane…a mom and dad and their son and daughter-in-law…and the crash itself, and how they survived on the crash on that Sunday, April 20, 1986, as they were returning home to Bonners Ferry. Long time report readers will remember this story.

Being a genealogist, I know that all back issues of the Bonner County Daily Bee are stored at the Historical Society Museum and after reading the account, and knowing the exact spot and the conditions possible in April with snow and wind, it is exactly as what the sign says…a miracle! Had they crashed into Sister #6, they would not have survived.

Here is what happened: With the top of the mountain covered in cap clouds, the Cessna 172, C-70040 hit a large snag 10' from the top and it split the plane in half. The two less injured walked out to Priest Lake….unbelievable…and the two more seriously hurt stayed with the plane and made a fire. Turns out they all should have stayed with the plane because their beeper had been picked up and the wreckage was located for the search party. But they didn't know that. Eventually most of the fuselage was removed but a tail section was hanging by a cable and could not be accessed so it is still there, but now lying below amid the boulders.  The NTSB attributed the crash to pilot error, with misjudgment, clouds, mountains and a mountain wave being contributing factors. 

Four years ago, in September 2006, for the Irwin family, we encased the article in a plastic sleeve and fixed it securely to the tree. Today, the sign was still okay but the article was gone. The straps which were holding the article are still attached to the tree. I hate to think someone would steal it but there was no trace of it or any part of it lying around. Nothing…no plastic pieces, no paper. So sad. I don’t think it was a bear. Took more pics of the main part of the wreckage still lying down in the boulders below and then sat down to eat lunch while enjoying the view.

For the walk back to the only way down off the ridge, we decided to not go thru the boulders but instead to use the ridge route down Sister #6. It was SO much easier and faster! Added to the knowledge base! Climbing down the steep granite wall went well…again, I found an easier way to get down than the way Jim did. I kept holding my breathe while watching him and thought...I am NOT going that way. The drop off was straight down as in straight down!             Once down to the granite, as usual, we got “misguided” but the new GPS saved us. It told us we were way off track and we then knew which direction to turn so we didn’t get lost as badly as usual. Finally, we got down the last rock wall, back across the river and then bushwhacked up to the main trail down the rough descent. When we got to the truck, I recorded that I was so tired, my feet hurt, my knees hurt, the bottoms of my feet were burning and I was ready to go home to “the boys.” A good hike but a long day.

Left home                    8:20

Started up                   9:30

Got up to ridge             1:25

Started back                1:40

Got back to main trail   3:30

Got to truck                 4:35

Total miles hiked          11 miles           

Total hiking time          7 hours, 5 minutes

GPS readings               N48.40.073   W116.39.974 (location of wreck)




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Author info

Betsy Fulling Betsy Fulling In 2002, after a bout with cancer and wanting her energy back, Betsy Fulling began hiking with her husband Jim. Regardless of the weather they go into the high country every week - in eight years, she has only missed five times.

Tagged as:

outdoors, hiking, Trail #217, Miracle Mountain, Harrison Ridge, Seven Sisters

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wreckage the 'path' is steep glacier

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