It doesn’t happen often — but sometimes a news story unfolds right in front of you and obliges you to help it on its way. Once involved, it’s hard to step back and report it in typical news fashion.
Such was the case on Monday, July 30.
My friend, John Koopman and I were being introduced to the newly reestablished Peers Creek Heritage Trail, east of Othello. Kelly Pearce of the Hope Mountain Centre for Outdoor Learning met us at the trailhead, where Koopman and I immediately noticed something unusual: a pristine 1972 Triumph TR6 convertible, parked with its front end facing out, front tires carefully chocked with small boulders.
Pearce told us that the car had been there for three or four days. Since the trail is being developed for a four or five-day hike, it was conceivable that someone would be out in the bush for that long — but who would bring such a beautiful vintage car up a rough logging road and leave it here?
It didn’t feel right.
A quick walk around the car revealed that it was from Washington state. There was no note left, telling of the owner’s plans, so Koopman and I vowed that if the car was still there after our hike, we would report it to the police.
Seven hours later, the car was still there. We were worried for the owner’s safety, so when we found the passenger door and glovebox unlocked, Koopman checked for any paperwork that would give us contact information for the police. There was none. I photographed the licence plate and left a note, saying that we would be reporting to the Hope RCMP.
“My immediate concern was for the whereabouts and safety of the car’s owner,” said Koopman. “Reporting the situation to the police felt like the right thing to do.”
We proceeded to the local detachment, where we talked to Const. Lara Davidsen. She said she would head out to the scene and check it out.
This was Monday evening.
As we learned later, the car’s owner, Gordon Montgomery of Blaine, Wash. had been overnight hiking in Manning Park with his brother. Sunday afternoon, they walked out of the bush at the Cascade Recreation Area parking lot — east of Rhododendron Flats in Manning Park — and saw that the TR6 was missing.
Tuesday evening, Montgomery responded to my note, phoning to express his thanks for our helping getting his car back. The Triumph had been towed into Hope and he came to collect it on Tuesday, though the steering had been damaged so the TR6 had to be towed back to Blaine.
“I had left the car at the Cascade trailhead on Friday afternoon — which I was told was a very safe area to leave it,” said Montgomery. “We had hiked for three days in the park and on our return, Sunday afternoon, the car was gone.”
According to Pearce, the car was at Peers Creek by Saturday morning. That suggests it was likely stolen on Friday and abandoned at its new location… 38 kilometres away.
“A guardian angel, Rusty Ashworth from Coquitlam, picked my brother and me up on the highway and drove us back and forth while filing police reports, picking up my brother’s car at another trailhead and then driving me into Abbotsford so my wife could pick me up and drive me home,” said Montgomery.
“It is very troubling to have had it stolen and treated in such an irresponsible manner. Nevertheless, I have it back and with a little luck, the perpetrators will be apprehended.”
Hope RCMP Cpl. Darren Rennie said police managed to find a fingerprint on the car. The case remains under investigation.