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Originally published March 21, 2007 at 12:00 AM | Page modified March 21, 2007 at 2:02 AM

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Hiking pair who died near Mount Rainier inseparable to the end

Their son wasn't surprised that his dad would jump into swift, frigid water to try to save the woman who shared his love of nature.

Seattle Times staff reporter

Robert and Frances Annette Blakely were typical of the Northwest's hearty breed of hikers who don't let rain and rough weather keep them off the trails, even in winter.

Their love of the outdoors was matched only by their devotion to each other, which their son said ran so deep that they would have died for each other.

That's what Chris Blakely believes happened Monday when his parents were swept to their deaths in a swollen creek in Mount Rainier National Park.

The two died after his mother, who went by the name Annette, slipped off a log into Ipsut Creek and her husband went in after her.

"He would have died to save her and she would have died to save him, and I think they would have rather died together than live if the other one couldn't," said Chris Blakely, 24.

Park officials and relatives said the couple and a third hiker, Debra Adams, had spent the weekend camping at the Ipsut Creek Campground when they found that Ipsut Creek, which they had to cross to get to their car, was too high to traverse Sunday night.

Trail conditions


For updates about Mount Rainier National Park, check the park Web site, www.nps.gov/mora.

Hikers are advised to be alert to flags and other markers along trails.

The Washington Trails Association urges hikers to check and report trail conditions on its Web site, www.wta.org.

They decided to spend an additional night and try again in the morning. That's when the two went into the water.

Adams was able to get across the creek to summon help.

Robert Blakely's body was recovered Monday afternoon, and his wife's body was pulled from the water Tuesday.

"They were experienced. They always prepared, and they knew what they were doing," said Chris Blakely. "That's why it really took me off-guard. My grandmother said they were the last people you'd think that would happen to."

Annette Blakely worked at the REI distribution center in Sumner. She would have turned 47 Tuesday. Robert Blakely, 44, was a supervisor with Rexam, a can company in Kent.

The Puyallup couple met 25 years ago while both were in the Air Force and stationed in Germany. They made local news last summer when they disarmed a home invader.

"A guy broke into the house and got ahold of my father's pistol," said Chris Blakely. "My mom saw him, woke up my dad, and my dad basically beat the crap out of him."

The home invader was charged with a handful of crimes, including first-degree assault with a deadly weapon. Chris Blakely said his parents had planned to attend the robber's sentencing Friday in Pierce County Superior Court.

"I guess I'll be going for them," he said.

Meanwhile, park officials and hiking enthusiasts say the couple's deaths underscore the need for hikers to be cautious when venturing to Mount Rainier National Park, which was devastated by flooding late last year. The floods washed out bridges, roads and trails and caused an estimated $36 million damage to the 386-square-mile park.

A National Park Service footbridge connecting the Ipsut Creek Campground with the park entrance was among those destroyed, said Patti Wold, public-information officer for the park.

She said the three hikers apparently went north of the damaged bridge to find a place to cross among numerous downed trees.

They chose a log that was right next to another, broader log that Park Service workers had "flagged" as safe for crossing the river. It's possible, Wold said, that the hikers did not see the brightly colored plastic ties on the adjacent log, did not understand what those ties meant or found that the flagged log was wet or treacherous when they made their attempt.

While the creek was only about 4 feet deep, it was "very full, very swift and very cold," Wold said.

Slightly upstream from where the accident occurred, she said, a portion of the Carbon River had swollen out of its channel and slightly shifted course, joining the smaller Ipsut Creek and making the stretch of water more treacherous than usual.

Much of the national park is inaccessible right now, and even areas open to the public should be approached with caution, Wold said.

Seattle Times news researcher Miyoko Wolf contributed to this report.

Christine Clarridge: 206-464-8983 or cclarridge@seattletimes.com

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