by Jeff Switzer
What began and proceeded as an educational field trip to Canada for a group of 80 Hollywood Hill students Apr. 26 turned into an exercise in disaster preparedness.
The students, chaperones, parents, and teachers, 110 in all, made the journey by train. The northbound trip was uneventful. But as many as five mudslides prevented the return trip from being as smooth.
Tree debris and mud trapped the train and made it necessary to back up until the tracks were cleared for progress. When the path was clear, progress was relagated to a 5 mph return trip from Bellingham to Edmonds, with students and parents reunited four hours later than scheduled.
The students and adults were trapped at a standstill for hours at a time, and because the train was stopped, the restrooms and snackbar were closed.
"This was the best group of kids and the best behaved group of kids," said Paula Omestad, who went along with her daughter, Kari. "If nothing else, the kids were calm."
Train staff reran the movies and broke out the water, assigning a "watermom." The teachers and chaperones informed the waiting parents at Edmonds of the situation by cellular phone.
The kids played cards and "truth or dare" to pass the time, camping out until the train slowly made its way back to Edmonds.
"A guy came on the intercom and told us about the mudslides," said Kari Omestad. "Mostly, I fell asleep the whole time."
The students did have a full day by most standards. After a 6 a.m. departure from Edmonds, they took a ride on the Skytrain, the Seabus, visited the Quay Market, drove through Stanley Park, and went to the Capilano Bridge.
The students also dealt firsthand with the exchange rate between the United States and Canada, and saw how different shops in the different cities can have different standards of exchange.
One of Kari's favorite parts of the trip was the Capilano Bridge, a 500-foot suspension bridge 230 feet above the ground.
Sue Russell, one of the sixth grade teachers on the trip, said the group had two goals: have fun and be safe.
"We accomplished both," Russell said. "This is an experience the kids will always remember. More than the Capilano Suspension Bridge, the students unanimously voted getting stuck as the most memorable."