Nothing compares with the natural beauty of the Pacific Northwest but some days it is better to stay inside as 13 year old William Hickman recently discovered. The boy very nearly went over the edge of the 265-foot Wallace Falls near Gold Bar.
Out hiking with his Dad and a few friends, Hickman slipped over the edge of the upper falls. Fortunately, his fall through a narrow opening landed him in a deep pool ten feet below. The pool, however leads to the much larger cascading falls nearby.
Hitting the water still in in an upright standing position, Hickman was amazed by how deep the pool was. He never touched bottom. He knew he needed to swim for the shore or risk being carried over the edge of the falls and falling 265 feet.
He made it to the edge of the pool and climbed up on some rocks where he waited for eight long hours. Cold and wet, he recalls the waiting being the hardest part. He feared hypothermia might cause him to lose his toes or something.
Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office Search and Rescue Unit and the Gold Bar Fire Department worked together to coordinate rescue efforts. Hickman was able to catch a coat, a blanket, a couple pairs of socks and some food thrown down to him by rescue workers.
A rescue helicopter was unable to reach the boy because of the angle of the waterfall but the sheer sight of it brought tears of joy to the boy who wasn’t sure anyone was coming.
Rescue efforts were further hampered by the wet terrain. One worker rappelled down to the boy and was also dropped unceremoniously into the pool when one of the ropes snapped.
By the time rescuers reached the teen, darkness had fallen. Hickman, exhausted had fallen asleep briefly and wakened to the sight of fire ladders, attached one to the other, extending down to where he was. One worker told him the rescue would be uncomfortable and the boy replied that whatever got him out was just fine.
Hickman was reunited with his father and friends at 1:30 in the morning. Due to the darkness, the party was forced to camp nearby until morning. They were finally able to depart from Wallace Falls at 6:00 a.m.
Though Hickman can make light of his ordeal now, he thought as he went over the edge that he was going to die. He is grateful to have been lucky enough to survive unharmed.