“Unless you want to die?” That’s a pretty dramatic statement to make but with this story, that’s the only statement to make… I ran for my life, looked death in the eyes and thankfully it looked the other way.
Let me rewind a little bit and explain… I’ve been traveling somewhere every weekend, trying to explore more of the Pacific Northwest, chase the sunshine, wander nature and to create crazy memories. This specific weekend was no different. We decided the last minute to pack up and drive to Bellingham, WA. I’d never been and I knew nothing about the area or what to expect.
We arrived around dinnertime, walked through some shops, got Thai food and decided to find a park to hammock at, wanting to enjoy the last of the sunshine. We looked up parks and found one that seemed especially beautiful. There was a trail you had to “hike down” to get to it but it was right on the beach and looked liked it offered trees that we could pitch our hammock in.
As we reached the park around 7:30pm, we admired the view from the car, changed into proper shoes and made jokes about life, our future and the crazy things we had seen all day. When we made it down to the beach, we were beaming. It was absolutely beautiful. There was train tracks that lined the coast, bright green trees, people were huddled around different inlets, swimming, having campfires and laughing. It looked as if it was a scene from a movie.
Trying to find good trees to set the hammock up in and a place to escape the people, we began walking the tracks, taking pictures and enjoying the view. Once we were about a half a mile away from the beginning of the trail, we felt not only confident but super comfortable in our environment. There was no one around and it was what appear to be a peaceful night.
As we stopped to take in the view, I pointed out there was a tunnel at the other side of the long inlet. Both intrigued, we put our belonging down and begun running on the tracks, skipping every other railroad. My heart begun beat, faster and faster. The smile on my face was growing and I felt invincible. In that moment, everything felt perfect.
As we approached the tunnel, I froze. “Did you hear that?” Jake looked at me, “hear what?” I grinned with joy, “ the train!” Confident that it was far, far away, we began running, trying to make it to the tunnel before it would pass us to go in the tunnel. By the time we reached the tunnel, our adrenaline had kicked in. We were beaming with excitement as we watched as the train pass where we had started, roughly a mile back and slowly approach us.
As the trained neared, we jumped onto the track, standing in front of the tunnel and quickly snapped a couple of pictures. We were high on the fact that though the train was far enough away, we were “living on the edge” doing something most people don’t and enjoying our Saturday evening.
Jake pulled out his phone and we began recorded it! We were amped. Laughing and waving to the passengers on the train, we stood off to the side with pure joy. As the train went through the tunnel and disappeared, we talked about how cool that had been! It was so close, so real and was like nothing we’d ever experienced.
Suddenly I heard laughter and turned around, trying to find where the noise was coming from. At first I couldn’t find it but as I looked back at the tunnel, I watched two large men emerge from the hillside, climbing down onto the tracks. I whispered to Jake, “look, we have company.” We watched them cautiously and continued to talk as the men came right over to us.
Both the men were holding, 32 oz beers in their hands and didn’t seem to mind that we were there. We made about 45 seconds of small talk and as we headed toward the tunnel, they also did. The men got a little ahead of us and as we walked behind them. Jake grabbed me, pulling me to his side. The guy turned back asking, “you mind the smell of marijuana?” Wanting to keep the peace, we both quickly answered, “no man, go right ahead.”
We kept walking and it got silent for a minute. You could barely see the light at the end of the tunnel. As we neared the half way point, Jake laughed, “wouldn’t it be crazy if a train came from that way?” The two men laughed and without even thinking I said, “IT IS!”
In that moment, my instincts took over… All I knew was I needed to turn and run! Jake quickly responded to me saying, “no” and the other men continued to laugh…Oh how I wished the distant train horn I was hearing was from the train that had passed only minute before. But something didn’t feel right and I knew there was a train coming straight for us! Instantly the ground began to rumble, and the light at the end of the tunnel disappeared. I bolted. Both fear and panic rushed through me. The train was in the tunnel with us. Running was all I could think about and it’s what I did. I don’t remember turning back to look at the train. I didn’t need to, the ground was shaking and I knew it was on my heels. The light was gone and you could feel it approaching.
My eyes were focused on the track, each step focused on my footing, praying I wouldn’t trip and hoping to break free of the tunnel. As I began to get closer to the light, I turned back, to see where Jake was but he was right by my side. His eyes were locked on mine and I could see how his only worry was getting me out alive. In that moment I not only saw his love for me but also experienced it in a whole new way.
He grabbed my hand and we ran hand in hand for about two seconds. As we reached the opening, we dodged for the left, slipping into the wires and sand blocks that lined the track. We were only feet from the train tracks. I looked to my right and saw one of the guys who happened to be in front of us, trip and roll off the tracks to the left, where he lay out-of-the-way.
Jake grabbed me, trying to push my up over the wires and to a safer landing but he couldn’t and the train was already upon us. He threw his body around me and sheltered me. And in that moment, I turned to see the 40 mph train coming right for us. The lights, the horn and the force of the train, all shook my body. My first thought was, “God please, I hope we got our legs clear” and as I panicked more, I feared if we were even clear of the train. Closing my eyes for a second, I began to feel the wind of the passing train. I opened my eyes quickly to see the end of the training flying past and within seconds it’s was a mile away. Instant relief flooded my body. We were okay!
It all happened so fast. My heart was racing, my legs were shaking and my adrenaline was pumping. Jake and I jumped up, he checked to make sure I was okay and we hugged panicked. Everyone was swearing, the fear and panic that was now mixed with relief was almost impossible to process and express.
The guy to our right jumped up and we instantly looked towards the tunnel. There was only three of us and four had gone in. The guy began yelling for his buddy and when the guy yelled back, I silently praised God. I was fearful for what I was going to find. And then the guy stumble out of the tunnel and explained he didn’t make it so he hit the deck and hid in the corner, pinned up against the wall and to be honest, I’m not sure how he survived.
After that, minimal words were exchanged between us and the men. Everyone was speechless and no one was stupid enough to go back in. That train had been twice as fast, come from a different direction and everyone knew the track was unpredictable. The men turned to climb back up the hill and Jake and I turned the other way were we began our descent out. Amazed at what had happened and thankful we could walk away… This was the first time in my life that I felt I looked death in the eyes and man am I thankful that it looked the other way.