Stranded cars recovered from Hoh River Road exile

OLYMPIC NATIONAL PARK – Three cars stranded up the Hoh River road have been rescued and set free – including a rental car that presumably has been racking up a sizable bill.

A one-lane, temporary bridge was installed over a 75-foot-long by 25-foot-deep washout near West Twin Creek last week and the last of the three cars trapped during the storm Nov. 6 were removed by Friday, said Olympic National Park District Ranger Bill Rohde.

“Everybody who wanted them came and got them,” he said.

Two cars belonged to park employees, and one was a rental.

Park officials hope to have access to the top of the Hoh River road opened to the public by the end of February, barring any further damage, said park spokeswoman Barb Maynes.

The PT Cruiser owned by Thrifty Car Rental but rented by Claude Hite of Tampa Bay, Fla. was retrieved by the company, said Claude’s wife, Pat Hite, from Florida on Thursday.

It had sat in the woods for more than five weeks after being trapped behind the yawning washout.

Hite and a friend were rescued after the Hoh River road washed out, but the  car was left behind.

Hite was unable to return the car to the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, and the rental car company said it was charging him from $20 to $30 per day.

The Hites are still negotiating with Thrifty, but won’t know how much is owed until next week, Pat Hite said.

“We’re kind of waiting for the other shoe to drop,” she said.

“Nothing is in writing so I don’t have any idea.”

Hite counted herself lucky that the car was returned to its owners just a month after it was due, and not later.

She said a flatbed tow truck operated by the company picked up the car.

It was in decent condition, having experienced only a shattered rearview mirror, she and Rohde said.

“There was a rumor an elk got it,” Rohde said with a laugh, but dismissed that as far-fetched.

“Everything else is just fine. It hasn’t been up there long enough to get moldy.”

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