Tragedy in Southern Oregon
And, no this does not particularly relate to diabetes.
Last Thanksgiving season, we were visiting my mother in Brookings, which is on the southern tip of the Oregon coast, and driving to Dr. Parts' dad, in Grants Pass, which is almost directly east of there, but there is this annoying mountain range in the way. It was just the two of us, and our little dog, Snickers, who's about 25 lbs and short-coated.
Now, you must know that Dr. Parts drives a big ole' truck, a heavy-three-quarter-ton Dodge Ram, with a Cummins engine and a hemi and four-wheel drive. And Dr. Parts knows how to drive. He grew up in rural Oregon and has hunted and fished for most of his life. He used to have a CDL and used to make his living driving big-rigs. He knows how to drive.
He likes driving in the countryside (read: godforsaken wilderness with no cell-phone signals and no shopping). On this trip last fall, he wanted to find one of the less-well traveled routes over the mountains.
And he did. We were on the same route that the Kim family attempted to take this year. We were traveling in opposite directions; they were going west.
He headed up into the hills, and I started praying. Now, his truck is a high-clearance vehicle. And remember, he knows how to drive. We had filled the tank in Gold Beach. We were traveling to visit his dad, who, in his retirement, volunteers as a search-and-rescue worker for Josephine County and dad's wife, who is a no-nonsense nurse and former nursing instructor.
The day was beautiful, blue and clear. Up in the mountains, the road began to climb steeply. I kept an eye on the mileage. I cannot drive his truck, and I wanted to know, if I had to walk out (this was before the foot problems) whether I should go back or go forward. There was a dusting of snow. It was beautiful, like a Christmas card. We stopped in a grove of fir to give the dog a break. Okay, Dr. Parts peed against a tree, too.
We continued upward. The pavement ended and we were on gravel. The snow got deeper and covered the road. It was eight to twelve inches deep. The sky was now white-that is, about the same color as the snow. It was no longer picturesque to me. It's hard to describe how steep parts of that journey was, both to the left-going up- and the right-falling away- of the road. It was a little scary.
We had several changes of clothing. We had warm hats. We had emergency gear for the car. Even the dog had a coat. We had flares.
We did not have extra food. We did not have extra water. Brilliant diabetics! We rarely have lows, so it was dismissed as no big deal, but, we didn't know how long this trip would take us, or where our next fast food / roadside store / lunch opportunity would come.
We encountered one family on ATVs. They were up in full snow regalia, searching for a Christmas tree. We arrived at a Y in the road. There was a warped plywood display with a faded map stapled under plastic. Dr. Parts got out and studied it. I looked for directional signs. This way to Gold Beach. This many miles to the nearest phone. This many miles to McDonalds. There weren't any signs.
The second half of the route was harder. I really didn't like it when our vehicle was making what seemed to be the first tracks in the snow this season. Or was it this century? Hard to tell up there.
After clearing the peak, eventually the snow disappeared. At that point, on our journey, the road was one-lane only. I think they split the east-west traffic, to avoid having to pass other vehicles, so the Kims may have been on a different road. The road we were on was gravel & packed dirt. It was narrow and, in parts deeply rutted. A vehicle with less clearance might have become high centered. In several spots, large rocks (read: boulders that a human would not be able to move by himself) had fallen into the road and had not been cleared. At least we were out of the clouds and the sky was blue again.
My heart leapt when we saw the first home down in the valley below us. We hadn't fallen off the roadway. No one had been injured. We would make it back to the city and cell phone range. At last there was pavement to drive on and a beautiful section along the Rogue River.
Oregon has great beauty in it. Occasionally, it remind us, that nature is a very powerful force and humans are much less powerful when in its grip.
We finally got to Grants Pass and to our relatives' household. We explained that our route had taken us much longer than we thought (probably twice as long as the mileage on the map might have caused us to guess-you can't drive fast on a narrow, windy, gravel road with steep dropoffs in the mountains). They asked a few questions about our route.
"You went which way?" They exchanged glances. You could tell from their eyes and expressions that they were worried. Mrs. Dad blurted out, "People die up there. Every year."
Here's a map from the Oregonian, from earlier coverage of the search for the Kim family. The drive from Gold Beach to Agness is beautiful and paved. The rest of the route, from Agness to Galice, requires preparation.
Dr. Part's Dad went on to talk about their search-and-rescue team's recent training in the mountains, although it was south of the route we took, in the area where the Biscuit fire was, some years back. He talked about cars and bodies that would only be found years after they had disappeared.
I am so happy that three members of the Kim family survived. I am so happy that they were found.
I am satisfied that Mr. Kim's body was found, and found relatively quickly. He died trying to ensure that his family survived. This is one of the duties of a parent. He fulfilled it in the highest manner, in my opinion.
I wish for comfort and healing for the families and friends affected by these sad events. I hope that they remember loving words exchanged. I hope that they remember his courage and bravery in attempting the difficult feat of walking out to seek help.
They have my condolences and my prayers as they walk through their journey of grief.