GPS routes couple to a snow-bound 2-day ordeal

John Rhoads and Starry Bush-Rhoads
Starry Bush-Rhoads and John Rhoads

Many of us are abandoning paper maps in favor of GPS receivers. But sometimes, to a GPS unit, a road is a road.

A couple attempting to drive from Portland to Reno relied on their new GPS receiver and became stuck in 18 inches of of snow on a U. S. Forest Service road in the Fremont-Winema National Forest near Thompson Reservoir outside the small town of Silver Lake, Oregon (map).

John Rhoads, 65, and Starry Bush-Rhoads, 67, allowed the GPS unit to select the “shortest route”. But the shortest route is not always the quickest or the safest route.

On Christmas day near Silver Lake, Oregon the GPS directed them to turn right onto USFS road 28. They followed that road and some other spur roads for about 35 miles until they got stuck in the snow after trying to turn around and retrace their route.

For two and a half days they tried to summon rescuers on their cell phones but had no service. They stayed warm by putting on extra clothes they had packed for their trip and by starting the engine and running the heater on their Toyota Sequoia SUV every few hours. They also had plenty of water and food, including lunch meat, salami, and nuts.

On Sunday, December 27, after two and a half days, atmospheric conditions changed, and they had a weak signal on their cell phones. When they finally talked to a Klamath County 911 dispatcher, their GPS-enabled cell phones relayed their location. A deputy Sheriff found them and pulled out their Toyota with a winch.

Klamath County Sheriff Tim Evinger said:

GPS almost did ’em in and GPS saved ’em.

HERE is a link to a video segment from ABC’s Good Morning America about the couple’s ordeal.

UPDATE at 1:55 p.m. December 29

The same thing has happened to another couple, this time with a baby, also in Oregon and also on a USFS road.

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Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, he continues to learn, and strives to be a Student of Fire.