AUBURN, Wash. — Two men say a chance encounter on Mount St. Helens has given them a renewed perspective about the healing power of hitting the trails.
Scott Brown made a post on a hiking Facebook page Friday hoping to return someone's hat. The post said, “did you or your friend get hurt on Helens on Thanksgiving? I found your hat!!”
Brown had no idea how special the hat was when he wrote the post. He could not have known what it means to John Wood and his son Tristan, who was wearing it when they left for their hike before dawn that day.
Wood and Brown didn’t actually come face-to-face on the trail. Wood had an unplanned face-to-face encounter with the ice on the trail when he slipped and fell.
His son, Tristan watched as his dad slipped and fell about 30-40 feet.
“It was definitely scarier for me watching him slide down. It was a good thing we were close to the end of the icefall, so he just kind of leveled out very quickly,” he said.
Brown happened to be hiking with a friend up the hill and yelled down to see if they needed help, but Wood gave the thumbs up and said despite being a little banged up, he was ok. Brown watched to make sure the pair could get down ok and saw one of their hats blow away in the commotion.
“On the way down I found the hat, and it had a unique logo, Footprints of Fight I think it said, so it seemed like something significant, so I thought I would post it, see if we would find the owner,” he said.
They connected through the Facebook page, and that's when Wood told him what the group is about.
“Footprints of Fight is an organization that fundraises to help families battling pediatric cancer,” Wood explained.
Sadly, it's not just a cause to them – at one point the group supported their family during a heartbreaking time.
“Our youngest son Seth over three years ago was diagnosed with brain cancer and passed away about seven months later,” Wood said.
A month before Seth was diagnosed, he asked his dad if they could climb Mount Rainier together. Instead, the family scattered some of his ashes there four months after he died.
Hiking became a way for their family to cope with grief and loss.
“We share his story on the trails. We carry his ashes everywhere we go, so he's always in our travels with us,” Wood explained.
Brown connected with their story, because he has also found healing through his time in the outdoors. He works with the group Beyond Recovery that helps those battling addiction to fight their pain through hiking and mountaineering.
The two men met to exchange the hat and share their stories, grateful for a common healing connection made in the mountains.
“Seth was really a light in the world, I feel," Wood said. "And so I think...he was in on this. I think he was looking down on us and saying, 'You two people need to meet for whatever reason.'”