Texas couple rescued from Bear Camp Road

GALICE — A Texas couple kicked off Josephine County's find-the-tourist-in-the-snow season Saturday when they had to be rescued after their pickup became stuck in snow along the infamous Bear Camp Road in the Siskiyou Mountains.

Lured to the route by their Global Positioning System, the couple Friday bypassed several warning signs and eventually got their pickup stuck sideways in 3 feet of snow in the narrow road about halfway between the Rogue River outposts of Galice and Agness, according to the Josephine County Sheriff's Office.

After spending a chilly night in their truck near the road's summit, 29-year-old Travis Frazier and 19-year-old Christiann Palmer were able to use a cell phone to call for help and were rescued without injury.

"They came out of Portland looking for a shortcut to the coast and their GPS gave that route," Josephine County Sheriff Gil Gilbertson said.

"We've tried to get the map companies to stop doing that."

Their encounter was eerily similar to that of the Kim family, whose much-publicized fatal stranding almost four years ago to the day occurred on a Bear Camp spur road.

"It's hard to guess how many we'll get this year, but we're ready," said Sara Rubrecht, the county's search-and-rescue coordinator. "Every year is different.

"But I can tell you that it's more helpful for us when it snows a lot early," Rubrecht said. "It's when there's a little bit of snow when people get in trouble."

Saturday's rescue was a reminder that Bear Camp Road, also known on maps as Forest Service Road No. 23, is not a shortcut to Gold Beach during winter months. Even four-wheel-drive trucks can get stuck in the deep snows that are common there, Rubrecht said.

While several signs warning motorists to be wary of snow conditions are posted along the road, one sign warning drivers that they could die in the snowdrifts there has been stolen, Rubrecht said.

"I think it's hanging in somebody's bedroom," Rubrecht said.

That sign was erected in 2006, after members of the James Kim family missed their planned route to the coast via Highway 42 on Nov. 25 of that year and instead chose Bear Camp Road, where their vehicle became stuck in the snow.

James Kim died from exposure after striking out on foot for help. His wife and two daughters were rescued on Dec. 4, in part through the tracking of cell-phone pings.

Frazier and Palmer, 19, had a cell phone with them as they headed up Bear Camp Road off the Merlin-Galice Access Road on Friday evening, police said.

Their pickup became hopelessly stuck along the mostly single-lane route around 9 p.m. and they spent the night in the truck, police said.

They telephoned authorities shortly after 8 a.m. Saturday, Gilbertson said.

They told rescue crews they were about halfway between Galice and Agness, Rubrecht said.

Rubrecht said a test of their cell phone pings, however, suggested they were several miles away off Lower Grave Creek Road — the same area where the Higginbotham family spent 17 days in a snow-stuck motor home in 2006 watching the search for them on television before two members of their family hiked out to find rescuers.

When the Sno-Cat reached Frazier and Palmer at 12:24 p.m., they were in about 3 feet of snow and it was still snowing hard — but they were very close to where they told rescuers to find them, Rubrecht said.

"Those people gave pretty good directions," Rubrecht said. "That doesn't happen very often."

The vehicle was moved out of the roadway but it was still stuck Monday, Rubrecht said. The couple spent the night in a Grants Pass motel and planned to retrieve their truck this week, she said.

Reach reporter Mark Freeman at 541-776-4470, or e-mail at mfreeman@mailtribune.com.

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