Lost (Almost), in a Blizzard

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On Thursday my 18 and 13 year old son and daughter wanted to go snowboarding. We have had several feet of new snow recently. It was a pretty stormy and cold day, but with a 4WD truck and snow tires, we really did not have any trouble getting up the mountain. The fun started once we arrived.

They headed off to the ski area and I continued up the road. I love the outdoors, camping, hiking, backpacking, and, that day, cross country skiing. The weather did not concern me as I had been into that backcountry area many times before. I had numerous GPS waypoints on my receiver and knew the roads and trails very well. Still it was an exciting few hours in the wild!

First of all, because of the snow storm, I was alone. It was about 10 or 15 degrees with steady wind of 20 or 25 mph and gusts much higher. As you can see from the above picture, taken with the flash, I was dressed for the weather.

Here are a couple of pictures of the area I was in from a nice day.

And a couple of pictures of the same place on Thursday.

I was not able to ski as far as I wanted to, but made a loop of about 2 miles out, then a mile up into the woods to get out of the wind. Heading back to the truck, after about another mile, I felt something just was not right. So, I stopped to get my bearings. I fired up the GPS receiver to see where I was in relation to points I had marked on previous outings and could not believe the electronics was reading correctly. I had been heading in the wrong direction by about 90 degrees. Very unusual for me, but without any reference in the sky and hardly able to see 100 feet in the blowing snow, I guess it can happen.

Of course, I just changed direction and made it back fine, but it was a reminder of why I usually don’t go out alone in that kind of weather. I do have good survival skills and had the GPS and my portable HAM radio, but it was very cold indeed and I was glad I did not end up having any trouble getting out.

I am going back to the same area tomorrow, but it will be a nice day.

Update 1-1-2008: Here are a few pictures from yesterday’s outing.

There was someone else out hopping about on this fine morning!

It is so pristine and quiet out here after a new snow.

Happy New Year!

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Will Sig
1 JD Thomas

Sounds like a fun day, getting lost and all. Great photos!

When I read the subject line I got a shiver down my spine. I grew up in south Florida and Brian grew up in South East Pennsylvania. Florida is known for hurricanes, but we have warnings well in advance, and Pennsylvania gets the occasional blizzard, but we both were use to weather being a fairly benign factor in life that could be basically ignored. Also importantly, both areas are basically flat when compared to land out in the western USA.

A couple years ago, in late February, we took a trip to Las Vegas for a week. We basically used LV as a base camp and took a rental car out into the surrounding areas. We went to Death Valley, Hoover Dam, Bryce Canyon, and finally to Zion National Park in Utah. It was the Zion trip that taught us both a lesson.

I have a reputation, deservedly so, for creative navigation. I dislike backtracking or returning to places via the exact same route that we took getting there. We had a map that showed that if we went a little bit north of Zion we could make a loop back to the interstate and from there back to Las Vegas.

Part of that loop involved a shortish looking road (on the map) that would take us from one main highway to another. So far so good we thought. However, that map did not include elevations. When we were leaving Zion the temperature was around 60-65 with a light drizzle.

We made our way to the short connector road and turned onto it. Within a mile or so we saw a sign saying that between November and April cars should have snow tires on that road. We were driving in a rented white Mustang convertible and no snow was in sight so we decided to go on. Within a few minutes there was snow on the sides of the road. We thought it was lovely to see, and moved on. Within a few more miles the snow was towering above the road on both sides, the road itself has a layer of snow and cinders, and it was snowing lightly. The road was very curvy so mostly we could only see white in all directions. We considered turning around but there was really no safe place to turn around since the two lane road was now down to about 1 1/2 lanes due to snow encroachment on the sides.

We both checked our cell phones and found we had no signal. The snow started to come down more heavily and twilight was approaching so we could really not even see the road anymore. We slowed down to a crawl and kept moving. Luckily for us, at that point a huge orange pickup came up behind us and flashed its lights. We edged over enough to let him pass. He must have realized our predicament because he passed us and then slowed down to our speed and let us follow his tire tracks and tail lights back down the mountain.

Guess who doesn’t get to pick as many creative travel routes anymore?

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2 Anna

Hi Will, just becareful, we cannot afford to loose you. I think I will be treating myself next year with hiking GPS, as I always end up going totally opposite direction. However, aside of this when is not snowing the place is really nice. We don’t have luxury here for any mountains like that. Glad you had a good time, and wild adventure, and hope your next day was fun. Hope it is not to late to wish you happy new year, all the best, and see you next year. Anna 🙂

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3 Will

Your story hits close to home JD. Last year a family tried to do the same thing in the mountains here. It was on a road that I have used in the summer, but never would in the winter… even with my 4WD truck, snow tires and chains. It looked OK to them on a map, but exactly the same thing happened to them as you except nobody else came along. They eventually became stuck. After a couple of days of surviving in the car, the father tried to walk to help and did not make it. The mother and two children were rescued.

At the bottom of the above article, I put a picture of the signs that are now posted on roads like that as a result of the tragedy.

-Will

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4 Will

Happy New Year, Anna. I am pretty good out in the woods, but you never know what might happen. I do like it out in the full glory of all nature’s different moods. I inserted a few pictures from yesterday when it was very nice. I plan to be out in the woods in the same general area on Friday, but don’t know what the weather will bring yet.

-Will

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5 Alan

Where on the planet do you live, Will? (It looks gorgeous in your pics and I notice you mentioned to Tom that you can just barely see the Northern lights but I am putz at geography and can’t figure it out 😉

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6 Will

Yeah, I guess except in passing, the only place it is stated is in my about page. I live in Southern Oregon for the past 12 years. Grew up in New Hampshire which is just a bit north of here in latitude, but still below normal Northern Lights area. Thanks again for the EC credits.

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7 Bob

Awesome pictures, beautiful country Will! An excellent reminder that the weather can change in an instant, thank God for your GPS, love the sign at the end of your post, but I work in a mall I know for a fact the average person can’t read signs,lol.

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8 Will

It’s true about the signs. Even if we see them, we usually think they are really meant for someone else!

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9 skylar

Namaste’ Will wow! glad that had a happy ending, those pictures were AWESOME! I live in the wild literally and like to consider myself schooled on everything wild including if in a bad situation how to survive ;0) think *outdoor survival skills 101* but I used to never have a GPS on me on such outdoor excursions, but realized BEFORE anything bad happened it would probably be wise to do ;0) So it is part of the outing gear now. Again thanks for the way cool pics I had to double take cause it looks similar to canadian nothern country which I reside in, but no, in oregon eh? I have a few friends who live down there. Metta.

sky
http://awolfadventure.blogspot.com

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10 Will

Welcome Skylar! I have just been reading your blog and I am a bit, (very) jealous of the life you have made for yourself! To be able to have the wild outdoors as a constant in your life, you are indeed fortunate. Is that the area where you grew up also?

The photo at the top of your January 12th post is beautiful and looks much like our oldest dog Laya, 16 years old, who I rescued from a very bad situation when she was 6 months old. I have always called her a shepard mix, but many people and vets have told me that she is indeed a wolf hybrid. I can’t imagine why someone would breed a animal like that, but in her case, she does not fit the stereotype of a wolf/dog cross. She has been a wonderful girl, smart, gentle with everyone including kids, and just the happiest animal you can imagine. It is so sad that she is reaching the end of her days as she is irreplaceable.

I think you put together a great page, here, on your main site. I am just getting started exploring all your pages, but the way you write provides so much interesting information! You are indeed to be congratulated for the work you do and the life you have forged for yourself!

I hope that return to visit with us frequently!

-Will

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11 Chamonix

I love the road sign – it doesn’t leave any room for doubt. Personally I sometimes get motion sickness when skiing in total white outs which never helps with routefinding…

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12 soccer picks

Glad you had a good time, and wild adventure, and hope your next day was fun.

soccer pickss last blog post..Chelsea complete Deco deal

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13 TomTom GPS Price

Interesting story, and images as well. A blizzard is scary. It’s great that you have good survival skills and a GPS, now we’re able to read your interesting adventure.
.-= TomTom GPS Price´s last undefined ..If you register your site for free at =-.

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14 Will

Yeah and isn’t that sign something else? Amazingly even with it there, a couple ignored it and got stranded just last week. What were they thinking???!!!

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