Travel smart in winterAbout 10 years ago a couple teenage girls from the small north-central town of Saco, Mont. went for a drive outside of town. In spite it being the middle of winter, they didn’t bother to even put on coats. Several miles outside of town they got stuck in a snow bank. One of the girls tried to walk to seek help; the other stayed in the car. Both perished before anyone could rescue them.
By: Bernie Kuntz, Outdoors, The Jamestown Sun
About 10 years ago a couple teenage girls from the small north-central town of Saco, Mont. went for a drive outside of town. In spite it being the middle of winter, they didn’t bother to even put on coats. Several miles outside of town they got stuck in a snow bank. One of the girls tried to walk to seek help; the other stayed in the car. Both perished before anyone could rescue them.
It amazes me that residents of places like Montana and North Dakota, who obviously should know better, take such unnecessary risks in winter. The girls in the preceding story probably would have survived if they had just been properly dressed.
My next door neighbor, a woman in her 60s, was born and raised at Turtle Lake, N.D. She spent most of her life in that state and in Montana, yet twice a month she drives the 100 miles one-way to Helena, dressed like she is going to the office. My wife Laurie scolds her for this, but I doubt this woman will change her ways.
We never travel anywhere out on the road in winter without our “cold weather bag” — an old Marine Corps seabag stuffed with parkas, a wool blanket, cold weather caps and gloves. (If you are bringing youngsters on a winter trip, don’t forget appropriate clothing for them too!) The seabag is easy to move to whichever vehicle we might use for winter travel.
It is also wise to have plenty of water in your vehicle along with non-perishable food such as jars of nuts, jerky, trail mix, or hard salami. I have an old cooler in my pickup that contains jumper cables, a tow strap, extra motor oil and a few military MREs (meals ready-to-eat). I also have a long-handled shovel or two in the vehicle.
On a road trip, unless I am going to Canada, I always have a handgun in the vehicle. Just today I saw in the news where a trio of teenagers outside of Kansas City robbed several people who were stuck along the roadway. The teenagers themselves were stuck! Not too smart … they were arrested by police.
A cell phone is also a good idea to have along, but many times in Montana and Wyoming, at least, you will find there is no cell service.
Getting stuck is always a nuisance, and sometimes can be traumatic if you are not prepared. One time about a dozen years ago I was elk hunting with a couple guys in the Gravelly Mountains of southwestern Montana. We were in Brian’s Suburban, and he was racing along a remote road that goes over the crest of the range. He drove over a rise and suddenly plunged into an enormous snow drift that blocked the road.
Brian didn’t have a single shovel in his Suburban, which was sitting, half buried in the huge snowdrift. We had plenty of food, water and good clothing but we were marooned. We worked for three or four hours, scraping away snow with some container lids, but were getting nowhere. We were discussing whether to walk back down to the valley floor — a distance of more than 10 miles — or wait for help — when two guys in an old jeep came over the hill. They winched us out and wouldn’t take anything for their trouble.
Here’s another story — in December 1982 I took my new fiance, Laurie, up to Como Bluff north of Laramie, Wyo., for some rabbit hunting. I had hunted the place many times before and was looking forward to a pleasant afternoon of hunting. We drove on a two-track just east of the bluff, snow in the wheel tracks, on a road I had traveled before, when suddenly both wheels on the right side of the pickup dropped into a washout and left us high-centered! To my horror, I discovered that since my previous visit, the right track had washed out of the road, it was now filled with four feet of snow, and I had driven right into the trap! With no way to get the Hi-Lift jack under the vehicle, I announced that we’d have to walk to the highway.
Which is what we did … six miles, if I remember correctly. But we had food and water in our packs, we were young, tough and in love. I flagged down a guy on the two-lane highway who said he was an unemployed coal miner from Sinclair. He drove us back to my pickup and pulled us out for $20. Everything ended well and everyone was happy. The same good fortune may befall you if you have the proper clothing and gear when you travel in winter.