These events would have taken place on the 4th of July weekend in 1995.
My wife and I, as well as another couple were up by Atlanta, Idaho doing some camping and motorcycle riding. The four of us rode up the Grouse Lakes trail with the Grouse lakes as our destination. While sitting around one of the most serene high mountain lakes in the state, one of the girls asked why it was called Grouse Lakes, if there was only one. Hmmmm. We pulled out the topographic map and discovered that there was indeed another lake that we had never been to. The four of us set out to find the second lake.
As we were wandering through the trees and rock outcroppings, with no trail or indication of the other lake, we spotted a khaki colored parachute hanging from one of the pine trees. My buddy and I cautioned the girls to stay where they were while we investigated, in case there was a body attached to the end of this completely out of place parachute. Once we made sure there was nothing gruesome hiding in the bushes, we called the girls over. To our shock, there was not a person attached to the chute, but about a 30 gallon drum was found at the end of the ropes.
We carefully examined the drum, trying to discern it’s origin or intent. The drum was too heavy for either of us guys to lift and was completely duct taped and waterproofed. Upon rolling it over, we found that there was an inscription in sharpie on the lid. The inscription read, “R2 Lightning Pounder – Cursed be the man who opens this, but does not own it.” Beneath the inscription was a date and the date was July 4th, 1995 (the day before the day we had found it) We had a video camera with us and filmed our little adventure, but opted not to open the container, not wanting to be cursed….or worse. Everyone joked and wondered about what could be inside this crazy discovery, but after some laughs, resumed our search for the 2nd lake.
The real excitement actually began well after we had left this high mountain vista.
The other couple that was with us had to return home a day earlier than my wife and I. We wished them safe travels and sent them on their way. My wife and I enjoyed another day of mountain experiences and then made our way home, over the slow and bumpy James creek summit road. Upon returning to civilization, we had messages on every phone number we had, both personal and business. Apparently, our good friends had described the weekend adventures to their parents, who also found it to be a strange thing to find in the middle of nowhere. The parents had made some calls to people who might be able to explain what the parachute was doing there and those friends called other people in the know. Needless to say, by the time we returned home, the forest service wanted us to bring that video to them ASAP.
My wife and I headed to the Forest service, where we met with the top management in the Twin Falls office. Upon hearing our story first hand, they didn’t even want to see the video, but instead called the DEA right in front of us. The Forest service officer then explained that we needed to take the video directly to the DEA office on main street and they would be expecting us to be right over.
A little dazed by the series of events, we wandered into the DEA office an they escorted us back to a room of men sitting around a table, obviously waiting for our arrival. It is hard to describe this group of guys, but suffice it to say they looked more like criminals than law enforcement because this was the undercover team that worked in the field. Once again, we were asked to retell the events of our trip to the lakes. We showed them the video and circled the location on the map. As this is a fairly remote place, they asked how they could get there and we informed them they would need to take Motorcycles. The guys talked some jargon that we didn’t really understand and then looked at us and said, “We are never going to find this without you. We are convinced that this is a barrel of illegal narcotics and we need to you take us to this place.”
“Uhhhh. Sure. I can take you there. I can probably make something work next weekend.”
“No.” was the reply. “You will be taking us there tomorrow.”
I explained that this was not possible. I had a full days worth or appointments tomorrow, every hour on the hour.
“You will be cancelling. We need to get to this immediately” The officers explained that not only was this narcotics, but that this was a LOT of narcotics and in fact that our very lives were in danger for even having stumbled across them. They indicated that this sort of thing was a somewhat common occurrence for drug smugglers to parachute contraband from the plains and pick it up later on horseback to avoid any airport security issues. They also instructed us to tell nobody what had happened, lock our doors and please tell us that you did not sign in at the trail head box.
My wife and I left the DEA office more than a little nervous. We slept very little that night and I awoke early the next morning and met the officers with my motorcycle and gear.
Myself and 2 agents from Twin Falls set out to meet some officers from the Boise office in MTN Home. From there, we would all ride together the rest of the way. Once we met up with the Boise agents our car space grew crowded, but the conversation turned to a territory battle over which agency would get the credit for the bust. It seems that the informant (Me) was from twin falls, but the drugs had been dropped into Boise jurisdiction. It was at this point, the officers explained to me that as an informant, I was entitled to a 5% reward of the street value of these drugs. This had never occurred to me and I spent much of the rest of the car ride mentally spending my reward money.
It would be an understatement to say that the DEA officers were not at home on a dirt bike, but after many breaks and some slow going, we did manage to make it to the lake. From there, we set out on foot to find the parachute, which was still dangling just as we had left it 2 days ago. One of the guys from boise took over from that point and carefully examined the container without touching anything. He then asked me, “You said that you guys rolled this around and tried to lift it?”
“Yes. That is correct”
To that the agent let out a sigh of relief and said, “Good. If this was booby trapped, it should have exploded at that point. Does anyone in the group have explosives training?”
I must have turned white as a ghost, because one of the other guys tried to comfort me and say that it probably isn’t set to explode.
The head agent from Boise whipped out a knife and carefully cut away the duct tape. Once completely cut, he struggled to pry the lid back. Underneath the lid, was some carefully cut cotton batting, similar to what you would find inside a quilt. He looked at the other guys and smiled. “Here we go boys. This is why we do this”. He slowly peeled away the cotton batting to reveal the valuable contents below. As the rest of us waited to see what 250 pounds of Cocaine looked like in person, something rolled out from under the cotton and it was not a bag of white powder.
To the surprise of everyone on the scene, the first thing to fall out of our parachuted contraband was an aluminum can of beer. This was no Budweiser or Coors light beer though, it was some strange brand I had never seen before. As the cotton was completely removed, it was plain to see that the whole container was filled with cans of beer. As I recall, no two were alike and they were all strange assortments of odd brands and styles.
The head Boise agent scratched his head and snickered for a minute. “Well. This is unexpected.” He cracked open one of the cans and the foam shot out looking and smelling just like beer. He tried a sip and confirmed that it was indeed beer. The agents examined the cans and opened a couple more to make sure they were filled with liquid and not solids. Everything looked to be in order and the cans from top to bottom were what you would expect from beer. One of the Twin Falls guys could see the fact that I was a little disappointed in the outcome and he laughed and said, “I know. That reward would have been nice, huh? Well. A promise is a promise” With that, he handed me one of the cans of beer and said, “There’s your reward.” I kept that can of beer and have never opened it. I will include a photo with this story. It sits on my shelf to remind me of my extremely short career as a drug informant.
The DEA carefully put the contents back in place and laid one of their business cards on top of the cans of beer. “Whoever dropped this in to stock their elk hunting camp will certainly be surprised when the open it up and find our calling card, won’t they?”