Some Maps Advise Dangerous Route Through Oregon

Today's Seattle Times reports that CNET Editor James Kim and his family, who became stranded while traveling from Grants Pass to Gold Beach in Oregon during harsh winter weather, were on a route that's recommended by some online and in-car mapping services.

Yahoo and MapQuest offer Highways 199 and 101 as the preferred route. A Google map search, however, suggests the Bear Camp route, part of a web of Forest Service roads used mostly in summer.

Authorities suspect that the Kims may have chosen the Bear Camp route via a map search, but Jackson County Sheriff Mike Winters said Monday night that could not be confirmed.

Though paved, the Bear Pass road has blind curves, steep embankments, is single-lane in places and can be treacherous regardless of the season.

"That's not good," said Chris Dent, who manages the river section for the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service. "It's not a safe route, particularly at this time of year."

Another story quotes James' wife Kati Kim on how they ended up on Bear Camp Road, which is called "NF-23" on Google Maps.

Lt. Gregg Hastings of the Oregon State Police said a detective interviewed Kati Kim, who said they had intended to take Oregon 42, the usual route from Interstate 5 to the south Oregon coast, but missed the turnoff, found Bear Camp Road on the map and decided to take it instead of turning back. ...

They went the wrong way at a fork in the road and were 15 miles from Bear Camp Road when found, Hastings said.

A web site has been set up for the Kim family. James Kim remains missing this afternoon.


Looks like they found him. What a nightmare for all concerned. I now officially regret not being a boy scout.

I was a Boy Scout too, and I did things like outward bound "for fun" and lived in severe winter areas where I had to work before sunrise in super-low temp conditions.

Frankly, this guy was a nutcase. It would have scared the be-Jesus out of me to be on a unlit, unraveled road. I would have gone back out of fear of darkness alone! I heard this guy moved rocks out of the way on the road.

I would have hunkered down, stayed near the car and kept it in operating condition, the fatal mistake he made was burning his gas, depleting his battery and burning his tire. I wouldn't use a bit of my "escape resources." Before I would have lit the "easy fire," I would have gathered a bunch of brush and burnables and also attempt to construct a bonfire pyre.

I would have never gone down in elevation as navigation goes form nearly impossible to impossible. No ambient light, no small planes flying towards an airport, not being able to see the sun, and denser woods mean no moss clues - not that you would get that many there.

They collected berries to eat, but wouldn't eat them for fear of being poisoned - I'm no ranger, but I know a few types of foliage that is edible in a stretch. What berries or other plant food sources grow in the pacific northwest that one could eat? I would guess not much?

With water (should be easy to find potable water, especially with lots of precipitation and snow), one should be able to go 14 days or so on scraps of various things that can be foraged.

I think the mother and children rescue was a total miracle, but I wrote him off when they were found. A person moving just one mile vastly increases the search area.

I think this teaches a valuable lesson. I never liked Google or Mapquest maps, they are always wrong and I used my own routes around the city, why would anyone trust them in the deep woods of Oregon? Empirical evidence shows they suck in an urban setting, why would that improve in a rural one?

Lesson 1 - online maps, technology is fallible.

Lesson 2 - never burn your escape chariot. Scuttle the ship as a last resort, not as the first order of business. First order of business is shelter.

Lesson 3 - unless you can move towards something identifiable in a meaningful way where you can maintain your orientation, stay put and search in a small perimeter for combustible things and create and keep a fire alive at all times.

Lesson 4 - searches generally occur during the day, so make noise and smoke then.

When attempting something stupid like this guy did one should consider:
Blankets per person
Hatchet with hammer
Wool socks, gloves, snow pants, thermal long johns, bright orange water impermeable parka, & more
Several methods of ignition including water resistant matches, and kindling etc.
Full tank of gas, extra gas
Tire chains
Full size spare, lug wrench and jack
Hand crank radio (places like sell neat stuff that could be useful)
CB radio
Emergency flares
several cans of spray paint / marker paint - going in circles in the woods is easy without a marker system
Bowie knife
Ideally a light bolt rifle like a Remington 799 chambered in 7.62x39 or .223 rem with piles of ammo
Food and water, with water containers able to be used for water collection, and at least one metal water canteen that could be put over a fire to boil the water
Dry fuel camping stove with hexamethylenetetramine fuel pellets
Various small knives and utility knives
Twine or lashing
Whistle and smoke signal
Iodine tables
and a working compass.

Fire and shelter is the first priority. If you are doing things like burning gas, battery and tires you will kill yourself faster. Look for things that you can sustain doing over days and weeks and save the car for a day where you think you can make it back.

Gee, Mick, your compassion is overwhelming. Kim did what he thought was right in a terrifying situation with two small children.

I understand why James Kim left. It must have been excruciating to watch his wife and children grow weaker as their food ran out, day after day went by and help didn't come. I'd leave under the same circumstances to save my kids.

Yeah Mick, hindsight is really great, isn't it? I grew up in the area so all I can say is that the roads are EXTREMELY confusing, like a maze. Also, that area is near one of the largest wilderness areas in the country. I'm not sure how you fault online maps, google earth does a pretty accuate job of the area (and it's from Josephine county data). So, unless they went to the county to get their maps, they couldn't have done better than an online map.

Until you've been in the same situation and fared better, Mick (and that includes having to protect a wife and two little girls, not just yourself) you get NO "told you so"s. None. Whatsoever. What a jerk.

In Mick's defense, I don't think it's terribly reasonable or useful to get snippy with him when he's hoping to prevent further mayhem by promoting some basic survival rules. I wouldn't expect meaningless sympathy if I had managed to off myself through ignorance, nor would I want it. I'd hope my mistake could be a lesson to others. Defending ignorance and/or incompetence out of a warped sense of respect for the dead is silly.

I second the motion. Yes, a man is dead. The best way for this to be prevented is to call it like it is (was), BAD JUDGEMENT. We all do it. Thousands of people die in car crashes every year and the press and media still call them accidents! This as if there was no way to avoid the crash. They are almost always the result of poor driving habits and reckless behavior. May be if the news man said some idiot crashed and killed several other idiots who were following way too close on highway 101 today, we might have a chance of taking the comment to heart and perhaps be a little more careful. These days nobody takes responsibility for anything, therefore nothing can be learned by MISTAKES, ours or anyone elses.

It must have been horrible and James must have been desperate. He thought trekking out it was the right thing to do in a desperate situation--he was a city guy, and in the urban setting we have lost a proper terror of nature. However, the chances of surviving in street clothes in the snow are almost none-hard enough if you are adequately prepared with warm clothes and the proper tools and knowledge.

The advice I learned growing up in Wisconsin: Don't leave the car--you will get wet and loose heat a lot faster. Stay put, conserve heat and food and energy--don't leave the road. Throw some spare water and clothing and boots and a bright-colored flag in your trunk.

My biggest wonder is why they didn't turn around when the road turned into dirt--with a baby I would have thought they would have been more paranoid (cautious).

Still, they did their best. It is so sad.

Mick offers some good advice that should be heeded by people who drive in wilderness areas, but there is no need to be disrespectful of a dead man, especially when he died so recently. The feelings of his relatives and friends, who are still suffering, I'm sure, should be respected.

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