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My long-time hunting partner, Bill, and I had been planning a hunting trip back up to Sherman Saddle in Idaho, above the Lochsa River on the Lolo Motorway. We would leave home one week before our sons would arrive. My son, Dan Jr. is a high school principal in Oroville CA, and Bill's son Jacob was a senior in high school.
The first week that Bill and I were camped at Sherman Saddle, it was warm and we did not see any elk. Dan Jr. and Jacob arrived in Idaho on Saturday night October 23, 2010. Dan Ramos 5a Sunday morning it started raining, turning to snow Sunday evening. The forecast predicted a snow of 3-4 inches and clearing Wednesday and Thursday, but it snowed off and on Monday, during the night, and by Tuesday, it was almost too deep to hunt. Tuesday we made the decision to pull camp on Wednesday morning and get out of there. We had not seen any elk for 10 days, and the weather report said Wednesday and Thursday it was not supposed to rain or snow. We went to bed knowing we were going to pack up in the morning.
It was 20 miles back to Saddle Camp and another 9 miles down to Highway 12 at the Lochsa. When we got up at 3-a.m.Wednesday morning, it had been snowing all night and there was a foot of new snow on the ground. Dan Jr. and Jacob loaded their gear in Dan's pickup, which had been parked in the same spot since he got there. I hooked up but was not able to pull the trailer out of the snow. Dan Jr. gave me some heavy-duty chains for my front tires. Bill and I took off out of camp, a steep climb out about 150 yards. We spun and slid but we made it to the top, to the Lolo Motorway, Forest Service Road #500 and turned east. Heading west would have meant going over Rocky Ridge, where the snow was likely to be even deeper. The next ½ mile was slow going. My ½ ton pickup just could not pull the trailer in the deep snow, about 18" deep. Dan Jr. was not having any better traction. We got to a small ravine and decided we would have to abandon our trailers. We got out our chain 10' 5/16 and a large towrope. Dan Jr. had a tow strap. We also had a good hand come-a-long. With no jack on the front, it was hard to move the trailer but we winched it off the narrow road. We unloaded the Polaris 4 wheeler off Dan's trailer. The trailer was next to a tree so we all tipped it up and cabled it to the tree. I took a picture of the camp trailer with the license plate showing. I really thought I would never see it again.
After leaving the trailers, we only moved 2½ miles more on Wednesday. I slid off the road with my rear end 3 times, got stuck once and had to hand shovel so many times we lost track of. I got stuck once where we had to jack up two wheels, and cut down a small tree to get blocks to put under the tires. We finally came to a place in the road that we decided this was as far as we are going, as the snow was already 2 feet deep. It was 4:30 in the afternoon Wednesday. We all knew I had brought my ACR Personal Locator Beacon on the trip. I showed it to Bill early in the first week when I was getting organized in the tent. We decided to sleep in the trucks and set off the beacon Thursday morning. We ate MRE's for dinner that evening and slept in the pickups. Dan Jr., Jacob, and I slept in Dan Jr.'s. crew cab, and Billy and his dog, slept in my pickup. Dan Ramos 2a Thursday morning I woke up early around 3:30 am, and at 6:35 am, I activated my ACR Personal Locator Beacon. At first, we had a red light, then a green light, and it would beep every so often. We did not know if it was working or not. (Later, I found out that the Air Force received the signal and called my wife back home in California at 6:45 a.m., only 10 minutes after I activated the PLB.)
During the morning we were saying today is Thursday and our families would expect to hear from us on Sunday and would not start to worry until Monday, four days later. I got in my sleeping bag and took quite a few naps during the day. The day went on. At 12:30, it had been 6 hours and no help in sight. We decided we would wait out the day and then examine the situation. At 1:10 pm Thursday afternoon, a USAF rescue helicopter appeared over the ridge. They had just come from another rescue of a father and daughter who had been stranded out on a hunting trip for four days. As the USAF medic lowered himself down, I said, "No one is hurt, we are just stuck." At this same time, four snowmobiles pulled in. They were forest rangers from Clearwater National Forest Search and Rescue. They had encountered snow as deep as three feet coming over Castle Butte.
The US Air Force 36th Rescue Flight team airlifted the four of us out and the Huey rescue helicopter dropped us off at the Grangeville Airport where they refueled for their return trip to Fairchild Air Force Base at Spokane, Washington. Shortly after, a second Huey flew in with Sergeant Brownell. He had brought Bill's dog that was left on the ground when the first Huey took off, and had retrieved Jacob's rifle that we left behind on the Polaris 4x4. About this time, the Clearwater sheriff got a call from the USAF in Virginia because my beacon was still giving off its signal. They had me open the PLB and disconnect the batteries to stop the signal. From the airport, we telephoned a good friend of ours, Guy Burke in Kamiah. Guy was great. He put us up for three days, fed us like kings, and contacted an experienced dozer operator, Melvin Lovebaugh, to plow the road back up the mountain to retrieve our rigs.
We arrived home at 4:30 pm Monday afternoon, November 1 at my house near Orland, California. Thanks to the Personal Locator Beacon and the US Air Force 36th Rescue Flight team, we all got home safe.
Thanks to the Personal Locator Beacon and the US Air Force 36th Rescue Flight team, we all got home safe.
Thank you to everyone at ACR.
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