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National UFO Reporting Center
Sighting Report
Occurred : 8/3/2003 23:05 (Entered as : 08/03/03 23.05)
Reported: 8/9/2003 12:02:33 AM 00:02
Posted: 8/28/2003
Location: Kirkland, WA
Shape: Light
Duration:five minutes
We Can’t Explain It While on a five day back packing trip in the Pasayten Wilderness the first week of August, 2003, we saw a light in the sky that we could not explain. I am a college professor and joined four college men on the hike near Slate Peak, the highest place you can drive in Washington state in the North Cascade mountains near the Canadian border. The 6,600 feet elevation trail head is at an old air force listening station manned in the 1940s which is now marked by an unmanned observation tower closed to the public.

Our camp was about five miles north east of the trail head on a very isolated ridge with no other campers for miles and miles. The Pasayten Wilderness is one thousand square miles. While a very large forest fire was burning in an eastern region of the wilderness, we were at a safe distance. The fire was at a much lower elevation about 35 miles east and two valleys and mountain ranges away.

The first night of our excursion, we were sitting around a small camp fire above the lake looking at a perfectly clear night sky. Then a few minutes after 11 PM we saw a bright light like an airplane in the south east above the mountain ridge skyline about 50 degrees high. It moved like a helicopter, but made no sound. It seemed to be about three or four miles away moving north west, seemingly flying above the Slate Peak observation tower.

Suddenly something shot out of the light. We were astonished. "Did you guys see that!", I said. Yes, all but one student agreed. He didn't bring his glasses and couldn’t see that clearly, but the other four of us all witnessed it. It looked like a shooting star, except it shot out of the airplane-like-light down towards the south east. We immediately thought that perhaps the projectile was a shooting star that just happened to shoot behind the light at the right moment, giving an illusion that the light was the source. Then one student said, "Yea, but what are the odds that a shooting star would appear at exactly that point?" We agreed that the sight was amazingly poignant.

The light then appeared to be moving directly towards us, as if to fly over our lake. And I said, "It must be a Forest Service helicopter. Put out the fire." There was a burn ban which I admit we were not obeying. Moments after the fire was put out with a bottle of water, the light turned away from us and moved directly east. It floated lazily, as if taking in the scenery. It did not move like a helicopter doing a job. And there was no sound. The light moved away and faded into the horizon, turning reddish as it apparently disappeared behind the atmosphere. We witnessed the strange light for about five or six minutes.

We tried to think of what it could be. One of the group remarked that it couldn't be an airplane or jet because there was no discernable shape, no sound and looked like a single, bight ball of light, like a head light pointing at you. His father is a pilot and he seemed sure that it was not a fixed winged aircraft. We had seen Forest Service spotter aircraft looking for lightening fires all day long and could hear the roar of their engines long before we could see them. We all joked that maybe this light was a UFO.

The next day, I took out my compass and topo map and plotted what I thought was the line of flight. Then I realized that the light seemed to out line the eastern side of the wild fire about 35 miles away. Maybe it was farther away than we thought. So, I told the men that it must have been Forest Service helicopter shuttling fire fighting crews or dropping water or fire retardant.

Then on Monday evening we had another sighting. This time about 9 PM, after sun set but before you could see any stars, one of the men looked up at the same spot to the east and said, "Look, the light is back!" This time we saw the same intense point of light acting like an airplane flying away. We saw it for about one minute. It certainly looked exactly like the night before, except that we didn't get to watch it for very long to notice any thing strange. There was not sound.

Tuesday the weather turned to rain and thunder storm clouds obscured the night sky. We later learned that this storm caused some small fires in a valley to the north west of our lake. In the afternoon on Wednesday, we heard a helicopter approaching. Then a large K-Max helicopter flew over our lake tugging a 300 gallon scoop. It hovered over the lake, scooped up water then made a wide turn along the ridge and flew over our camp into the hills to the north to drop water on a small fire caused by the lightening the day before. In about five minutes it returned. The third time we heard it approaching we ran down to the lake to get a close up view. We were directly under the chopper as it hovered. It was huge and make a sound so loud that my ears are still ringing. We noticed blinking lights on the tail and end of the fuselage. It made five water scooping trips.

But, later we reflected on the contrast between the chopper and the light on Sunday and Monday nights. It seemed even more strange. Unlike the chopper, there was no sound. There were no blinking lights. It moved slow and funny. The projectile shooting out of it. That just could not be a helicopter.

We hiked out on Thursday to stay at a hotel before driving home to Seattle on Friday. The ski lodge hotel was catering breakfast and lunches for fire fighter crews because their base camp was a half mile away. As I paid our bill, I met a director of the ground crew operations and asked him questions about the type of aircraft fighting the fire. He said that they use Bell helicopters to shuttle the crews and K-Max choppers to scoop and drop water. I didn’t reveal why I was asking him all of these questions, but he ended by referring me to a forest service information officer at a head office in the town of Tonasket.

Then I asked one more question, "Do the helicopters work at night?" "Oh, no," he said. "They have to be able to see."