Hikers says Big Four Ice Caves Trail is safe after death of boy

VERLOT, Wash. — We now know a 6-year-old boy likely drowned in the Stillaguamish River after wandering away from his parents in Snohomish County.  Police say Aidan McClanahan of Mill Creek walked away from his parents near the Big Four Ice Caves Sunday evening around 6.

Big Four Ice Caves is no stranger to tragedy.  Just last summer a collapse killed two and injured four others.  But the tragedy on the trail Sunday had nothing to do with the caves, and hikers maintain the popular trail off Mountain Loop Highway is not especially dangerous.

“It’s something I would take my parents on, and they aren’t big hikers so it would be easy for them too,” said Paige Zielinski, who had just completed the hike for the first time.

In fact the ice caves are touted as one of the easiest, more family-friendly trails to do in the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, provided you stay on the trail.  It’s only about a mile to the top and there is just a 200-foot elevation gain.

The trail is even ADA-approved, but it doesn’t lead to the water or the caves, which didn’t form this year; hikers have to venture off trail to access either.  Sandi Carpentier and her husband Mike say they watched just that Sunday.

“That was very scary to watch them on top of that ice—I was just really afraid they were going to fall through,” she told us.

They snapped pictures of their grandkids on the trail, and in the background people are climbing on top of what’s essentially an unstable pile of ice and snow.  The Carpentiers think they may have even encountered the little boy on their way down, which is why they returned Monday.

“We just felt drawn to come back, you know?” Sandi explained.

The couple feels for the family, yet they’re hopeful fear won’t keep families away.

“It’s a very easy trail, family-friendly.  You’ve just got to keep a close eye on your children when you’re walking because anything can happen,” Sandi concluded.