FOR GENERATIONS, the young people of Vanderhoof, British Columbia, have raced through the night down Blackwater Road, their four-wheel drives kicking up gravel as they spin onto a rutted track scraped through the evergreen woods surrounding Hogsback Lake. By day, this small park is a peaceful spot for a picnic, a paddle, or setting off to hike a stretch of nearby Telegraph Trail. After dark, Hogsback’s shoreline offers a great place to throw a party.
On Friday, May 27, 2011, Madison Scott, 20, threaded her hand-me-down 1991 F150 between fir trees and parked in a grassy clearing at the edge of the lake. With long ginger hair, green eyes, a big smile, and a spray of freckles across her pierced nose, Maddy radiated life. A 2009 graduate of Vanderhoof’s Nechako Valley Secondary School, she stood a sturdy five foot four and 170 pounds, and had played ice hockey and rugby.
Growing up in Vanderhoof, a small (pop. 4,800) mill town punched square on the sawdust belt of this rugged Canadian province, Maddy was a real northern B.C. girl. She’d dress up for a dance but was also comfortable atop a horse, dirt bike, or snowmobile. She could handle a socket wrench and had recently begun an apprenticeship as a mechanic in her father’s shop.
Maddy’s softer side showed a passion for photography. She focused her camera on birds, flowers, friends, and especially her younger sister. During one long exposure, an uncharacteristically serious-faced Maddy posed on a bleak snow-covered field. She set off the flash, then walked out of the frame, leaving a haunting image of her body dissolving into the night. In the winter of 2010, one of her cousins commented on the photo on Facebook, saying, “I don’t like ghost stuff.” Maddy responded, “Haha, you’re a baby!!”
The day Maddy drove to Hogsback Lake, a windy front had blown itself out by early morning, but it remained unseasonably cool and overcast, never breaking 50 degrees. The forecast called for it to drop into the low forties that night. Still, Maddy planned on camping at the lake with one of her girlfriends after the party. She climbed down from her truck and staked out her two-tone blue nylon tent. Then, dressed in a black T-shirt and capri jeans, she joined the fun.
The clearing filled with about 50 people, all from the Vanderhoof area, a mix of 18-to-25-year-olds with a few oldsters mingled in. No one who attended wants to publicly say what went on, partywise. In general, folks say it was what happens whenever young people gather in the woods at night—the same thing their parents had done when they, too, hung out at Hogsback Lake decades before.
The party rolled deep into the morning. Maddy’s girlfriend reportedly went home early after hurting her knee, but Maddy decided to stay and camp alone. The latest anyone admits to seeing her was around 3 a.m.
All the next day, Saturday, Maddy’s truck and tent sat in the middle of the park’s most trampled spot. On Saturday night, there was an even bigger gathering at the same clearing, with as many as 150 people partying all around Maddy’s campsite. No one, though, says they saw her.