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Published: Monday, December 12, 2011, 12:01 a.m.

Stuck? Club members send their Jeeps to the rescue

Club members help stranded travelers and Forest Service

  • Andy Hayter (center) hooks up a strap to a stuck Subaru wagon while Carl Niebuhr (left) operates the winch on his Jeep.

    Jennifer Buchanan / The Herald

    Andy Hayter (center) hooks up a strap to a stuck Subaru wagon while Carl Niebuhr (left) operates the winch on his Jeep.

  • Ed Tenney decorates the club's "Charlie Brown Christmas tree" with battery-operated lights.

    Jennifer Buchanan / The Herald

    Ed Tenney decorates the club's "Charlie Brown Christmas tree" with battery-operated lights.

  • Mick Clapp oversees the winch line as the Jeep club works to free a Subaru stuck in the snow.

    Jennifer Buchanan / The Herald

    Mick Clapp oversees the winch line as the Jeep club works to free a Subaru stuck in the snow.

  • Club president Carl Niebuhr takes his Jeep up a short cut while the club prepares to move out on a short drive.

    Jennifer Buchanan / The Herald

    Club president Carl Niebuhr takes his Jeep up a short cut while the club prepares to move out on a short drive.

  • The dials and speedometer of Ed Coonts' 1981 Jeep.

    Jennifer Buchanan / The Herald

    The dials and speedometer of Ed Coonts' 1981 Jeep.

  • Ruby the dog checks out the gathered Jeeps.

    Jennifer Buchanan / The Herald

    Ruby the dog checks out the gathered Jeeps.

  • Jeeps rest in the snow during a short break.

    Jennifer Buchanan / The Herald

    Jeeps rest in the snow during a short break.

STEVENS PASS -- Leslie and David Bjornsen were trying to get closer to the trail at Tonga Ridge for their first snow hike in the area last Sunday morning.
The Monroe couple realized they could not drive further because of the snow, so they tried reversing down the hill. That's when they got stuck on the ridge between Stevens Pass and Skykomish.
It could have taken them most of the day trying to get out, but at that moment, Jeeps started arriving.
They were members of the Dirty Thirteen Jeep club, a Snohomish-based club that helps people who go to cut their Christmas trees but get stuck in the snow. Last weekend, they helped people in 15 to 20 vehicles.
Club members used a winch to pull the Bjornsens' car out of the snow three times so the car could safely get down the hill, a distance of about half a mile.
The couple was grateful. Leslie Bjornsen was impressed the group does this for fun.
"I can't believe they come here on a Sunday," she said. "I can think of many things to do instead."
Dirty Thirteen does it for more than just helping people. They enjoy romping in the snow and spending time with their family and friends.
"It's fun. We get to play in the snow and enjoy taking people out of it," club member Jim Loe said.
The group is comprised of 13 families, most of them from Snohomish. Members are between the ages of 19 to 66. They meet once a week and work on different volunteer activities over the year. They only head up into the hills to help stuck vehicles two weekends in December.
They also travel the snowy trails and let the people know which roads are safe to travel, U.S. Forest Service Ranger John Robinson said.
And they don't ever ask for money.
This is nothing new since the club has been helping the Forest Service since the 1970s. In 1981, they started helping with the Forest Service Christmas tree project.
"The group is an essential part of the Christmas tree project," Robinson said. "Without them, we could not provide vital information to the public."
The group cleans and rebuilds trails and campgrounds at other times of the year.
They sometimes even help in finding people lost on the trails.
Four years ago, a man and his St. Bernard dog got stuck in his car on Jack Pass in four feet of snow, Loe said.
The police could not get to him. It was the Dirty Thirteen that pulled him out.
It's their specialty.
"It's not too glamorous," Loe said.
They do not keep records of how many people they help, but figure it's been thousands.
Besides helping strangers, the group also keeps an eye out for each other. Nobody goes on a trail alone and each Jeep has a radio and supplies to survive for one night in the wild, club president Carl Niebuhr said.
"We are all in it together. We would not leave anybody behind," Niebuhr said.
On Sunday, eight Jeeps met at the Skykomish Ranger Station. From there, they headed to Tonga Ridge to set up a bonfire and wait for calls to help.
After what had been a busy Saturday, the Bjornsens' car was the only vehicle they helped on Sunday. So the group focused on having fun. Some members went up the hill for wood and got a Christmas tree for themselves. They even decorated two trees with Christmas lights.
Brandon Clapp, 19, of Marysville, a third-generation member of the club, joined because he enjoys being outdoors.
"It's the best part," Clapp said.
Alejandro Dominguez: 425-339-3422; adominguez@heraldnet.com.





Story tags » SnohomishStevens PassOutdoor RecreationVolunteer

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