Sunday, December 10, 2006


Been feeling a bit down this week. Part of it stems from something very sad that happened here in Oregon just after Thanksgiving. You may have caught it in the news. A family of four traveled up to Seattle for the holiday came. Afterwards they headed back down I5, planning to head over to the coast from Grants Pass in southern Oregon. They never made it. The wife and daughters were found after about a week. The husband was found two days later. He tried to hike out and find help for his family, he didn’t make it. He managed to hike sixteen miles, on the ground. And ended up about a mile from his family at the bottom of a river canyon about a thousand feet lower down than he started. There was an excellent story in the Oregonian that brought it all together. You can follow this link to the story.


It'll probably take awhile to work through it, but I think it's worth it.


I’ve been following the boards. Turns out there are a lot of people out there who know next to nothing about good old Oregon. I'll be honest I know next to nothing about some of the other states except that Texas is very hot in the summer, Florida gets a lot of hurricanes, that sort of thing. I won't bore you with the entries on the boards. The good ones were good and you can imagine the worst ones.


Some of the entries were down right insulting either to us, the victims or both. So, being me, I tossed in my two cents worth.


First a topographic map of merry Oregon.



Anyway here's my two cents worth.


This seems like a good place to post some things about Oregon.


By size Oregon is the ninth largest state. If you folded Maine down towards the rest of New England you could probably put the the whole thing in Oregon and have room left over. We've got counties bigger than some states. Over 90,000 square miles most of it mountains or high plateau over four thousand feet above sea level.


But, by population we're number 28 with about 3,400,000 people and about one third of us live in the northern part of the Willamette Valley around Portland. There are fringes of fairly level ground along the coast, along the Columbia west of Portland; the Willamette Valley is the largest section of fairly flat ground in the state. That’s that little green triangle up at the top of the map. There isn't very much of it, is there? Then there's the freeway corridor heading for Idaho. As you can see there is almost none of that nice green color down in the southwestern corner of the state where the Kim family went missing.


Folks, the rest of the state is mountains or high plateau. We have the dubious distinction of having the hardest seaport to reach, Portland. The Columbia Bar is nicknamed the Graveyard of ships.And the name is well earned. And we have one of the most treacherous sections of the whole interstate highway system at Siskiyou Pass on the California border, at 4,000 plus feet and it loses over 2,000 feet of elevation in about seven miles on the Oregon side with some sections of nasty curves. Several of the highest peaks in the Siskiyous are over seven thousand feet. About the middle of that little green square I put in is where Grants Pass is and straight over is Gold Beach. As you can see, this part of the state is seriously rough country.


The southwest corner of the state has the south end of the coast range, the Siskiyous and the Klamaths. Once they'd traced the Kim's to Grants Pass, which way did the go? Head for the coast? Head for the wildlife refuge at Klamath Lake? Take a side trip to the Mount Ashland ski area? I'm just trying to say that this is one area in my home state that I would not want to get lost in. From what I've read it's hard enough to run SAR in any conditions on fairly flat ground. Trying to run one in this country would be a nightmare. Once you figure out they might have headed for Gold Beach on the coast then what? If it's say 40 miles to the coast and forty miles to the state line where in that 1600 square mile haystack is the needle you're trying to find. 


The mom and kids were found by a local who really knows the country and just happens to have a helicopter. Maybesomebody's guardian angel was pointing him in the right direction because he just had a feeling, but it took him at least three trips over two days and the fact that Mrs. Kim was waving a pink umbrella. I think he'd run into trouble on that road himself and got to wondering what if?  


I guess I'm trying to say is that living or traveling in Oregon is a little like porcupines making love. It can be beautiful, but sometimes you have to be careful.


Anyway, thanks for coming along for the ride.


toonguykc said...

I try to think what I'd do if I were Mr. Kim.  I probably would have gone for help and suffered the same ill fate.  Life sucks sometimes.  It just does.


lisaram1955 said...

I was so sad when they found Mr. Kim dead...  I think we all hoped against hope that he had holed up somewhere safe.  

The whole affair was and unnervng reminder that much of our state is still remote wilderness.   And not a good place for someone who is not a highly skilled outdoorsman to tackle.  Lisa  :-]

tenyearnap said...

I will never "get used to" mountain roads. I guess maybe no one should take them for granted. -Cin

hope5555 said...

I've been following that story, too.  I'm sure it hit you more, emotionally, since it was so close to home.  I must say, I can hardly read the newspaper anymore, I just don't have a thick enough skin for all the tragedy.  Anyway - go to a comedy, look at something pretty, do something to cheer yourself up, OK?

hestiahomeschool said...

Oregon is one of the few states I haven't visited (back in my horse showing days we traveled a lot...I've seen fairgrounds in most states). I've always thought it looked beautiful and clean.
That story broke my heart, but all mountain areas can be dangerous. Our Appalachians are not as high as your mountains, but still, people die there every year...usually from falling off cliffs, though. People never seem to realize that when they warn you that the sides are unstable that they MEAN it, and every year some people get killed.

We keep a firelog and extra blankets in the van, but I knowthat in a real emergency that would not help us for long.

lightyears2venus said...

We followed this story closely.  Tragic.  The wife and children are still in my prayers this Christmas.  The Arizona wilderness claims it's share of lives every year, too (illegals, hikers, and even urban dwellers out for a walk and unexpectedly encountering a rattler) as do other western states.  Beautiful but can be deadly--the porcupine analogy is apt.
I enjoy geography and appreciate the great overview.  When I quickly visited a few days ago, I thought I saw something about Mt. Hood, but don't see it now.  Maybe Lisa?  I'll check over there.  Anyway, I got my calendar today (clearance table--last one of 'On The Porch' which I spotted before, but refuse to pay $12--counting my lucky stars) and February is a shot of Mt. Hood from a porch overlooking Trillium Lake.  She is snow-clad, the sky is overcast, and her reflection in the lake breathtaking.  I'll enjoy it all through the month.