Drug drop? And from where?
By Rebecca Spiess
A local climber made a strange discovery while pitching a new route near Cutthroat Trailhead on July 11: He chanced upon a large duffel bag containing Ziploc bags full of small white crystals.
In a post on a local climbing forum, he described first seeing the substance on the ground and thinking it could be an odd fungus. He then discovered a black duffel bag in the nearby underbrush. It was badly damaged and spilling its contents.
After the climber — who asked to remain anonymous — notified police, an Okanogan County Sheriff’s Office deputy and a Twisp Police Department officer trekked out from nearby Mazama on July 12 to collect the bag.
As the ensuing police report noted, the approximately 40-pound duffel was found in a “densely wooded area with no sign of trails or contact.” According to a Border Patrol press release from 2020, that amount of meth could have a street value of over $350,000. The police report also noted the bag appeared to have been “dropped from an aircraft.”
That odd description led to speculation about how the bag landed in such a remote area.
One possible explanation: On Nov. 20, 2019, an unnamed pilot led U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Air and Marine Operations (AMO) on an international chase, dropping cargo on the way.
The pilot first gained AMO attention when he made an unauthorized stop at the Methow Valley Airport in Winthrop. When agents attempted to question him, he jumped into his plane and fled.
The ensuing helicopter chase crossed the Canadian border and ended at the airport in Langley, British Columbia, where the pilot was arrested by a Royal Canadian Mounted Police border-enforcement team and other officials.
According to a press release at the time, AMO agents witnessed the pilot toss several bags out of the plane into the wilderness. However, the story does not end there.
Responding Deputy Anthony Coble performed a quick drug test on the bag the climber found in July, after he returned the bag to the Okanogan County Sheriff’s office, and determined the substance was not drugs. The North Central Washington Narcotics Task Force (NCWNTF) collected the bag for evidence the next day.
So, if you happened to lose a duffel stuffed with a white crystalline substance portioned into individual Ziploc bags near Mazama, feel free to contact the task force to collect your valuables.