Thursday, December 07, 2006

Sad Story..

James Kim died of exposure and hypothermia while looking for help for his family that was stranded in the middle of an un-traveled road.
I am sure you have heard or read about it. If not, the sfchronical (and here) does a good job to describe what happened.

It reminds me of the beautiful, but obviously treacherous mountains and roads of the Southern Oregon/ Northern California forests.
We were in the same area in Oct 2004, though took a somewhat different route – drove down from Portland, OR, took 18 West to the 101 going south. The day was wet and dark.

We drove on the scenic 101 from Otis to Florence. By the time we reached Florence, it was pretty dark, and we did not find it practical or prudent to keep driving on the 101. We looked up the maps, saw this road cutting back to I-5 meeting it in Eugene (126 East) . Lucky for us, it was a state highway and not some forest route. The Kims took a chance and tried cutting it to the coast to Gold Beach from I-5 from Grants Pass. They took the Bear Camp Road. The Gold Beach Maps and Travel info site has this about the Bear Camp Road:

“Regarding Bear Camp Road (also known as Merlin-Galice Road, Forest Service Road 33); This is NOT a highway and is not a maintained thoroughfare! Although on some maps it may appear to be a more direct route to Gold Beach, it's not a highway in any sense. It's a forest service road, closed in winter, and is mostly one-lane with no fog lines, no guard rails, no shoulder, and plenty of wash-outs, mudslides and potholes. Cell phones don't work in much of that area and after you pass the Agness turnoff, there is nothing but wilderness until you get to the other side of the mountain range at I-5.”

We, on the other hand, drove to Eugene, found the I-5 and kept driving south. Our destination was Mount Shasta in North California. So it was still quiet a bit of drive from Eugene. The night was wild – to put it mildly. The rains lashed at the car mercilessly. When we reached up the mountains – I thought that it hailed as well. It was the most scary drive of my life. While on the highway, the 18 whealers flashed their headlights at us – I still could never figure out why!!

We reached our hotel at about 2 in the morning. It was probably the longest day for me on the road – and air (we flew into Portland from Raleigh – an 8-9 hours trip!!) The road trip was about another 7-8 hours.
Through dense forest that probably didn’t see sunlight in years, through rain, and fog, through hail and most probably through snow, we kept driving towards our destination.

The next was the most beautiful, sunny day I have ever seen. Even though the weather services predicted another soggy day, the sun shone at the top of its glory!!
Everybody we met that day had a smil on their face. They were all happy we made it to Mount Shasta safely.

James made the ultimate sacrifice for his family! I am sure that anyone of us will do exactly what he did. It was just a bad decision, one mistake. On his day he would have shrugged it off the next morning, but not that day.
R.I.P James.

The beautiful Oregon Coast. Oct, 2004.

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