While perusing the Internet one day, I happened to read about a small plane crash that had occurred somewhere along Klahhane Ridge on 03MAY2018. So of course, I had to go have a look…
Eleven days later I made the drive out to Port Angeles and headed for the ridgetops.
There was still some snow to contend with along the “Switchback Trail” up to the top of the ridge, but a solidly stomped path led the way until I began to ascend untrammled snow more directly uphill.
On the way up I was preoccupied with speculation on where the wreck might be. This is steep, rugged terrain! It probably wasn’t going to be easy to find this thing!
However, as luck would have it, just as I was leaning into the last few steps up to the ridgeline I heard the unmistakable phump, phump, phump of a helicopter.
Atop the ridge, I stood on the lip of a brilliant, ivory bowl overlooking the Strait of Joey De Fuca. The iconic orange paint of a Coast Guard helicopter immediately caught my eye against the glaring bright of the snow.
The chopper was just lifting off from the alpine slopes as I set down my bag for a brief respite. I quickly noticed the crumpled Cessna not far away from where the chopper left the ground.
The helicopter initially left in the direction of the water, but gained altitude as it turned around and flew over top of me. I waved and watched as they circled westward around the rocky summit of Mt.Angeles before heading north toward the guard station at Ediz Hook.
A boot path across the snowy field passed near the downed aircraft. Just off the trail, an FAA sign warned against approaching within 50yds of the “active investigation site”.
Immediately I was struck by the name “Rite Bros” emblazoned on the rudder. Ironic enough.
According to the article, the pilot, who was flying alone, survived the early morning crash landing and climbed to the ridge top, where he was airlifted out.
I, on the other hand will be walking back, since I seem to have missed the last helicopter!
At this point, who knows how long the wreck of the “Rite Flyer” will sit atop Klahhane Ridge. I guess until someone gets it down from there, ’cause it certainly ain’t flying out on it’s own!
Maybe they should just leave it up there, after all it makes for an interesting hiking destination!