What would you write to your loved ones if you thought you were about to die? A Wisconsin couple spent some time thinking that over before they were rescued last Sunday night.
According to the Billings Gazette, Mark and Kristine Wathke left Yellowstone Park on their way to Miles City, Mont., on Oct. 28. The Google Maps app on their phone instructed them to take Highway 212 over Beartooth Pass, but what it failed to tell them was that the road had been closed since September. At 10,000 feet in the mountain pass, their Kia Forte became stuck in snow around 5 p.m. Out of cell phone range, and mired in near-blizzard conditions, calling for help wasn’t an option, and neither was walking. So the Wathke’s spent the next few days living off some groceries in the car, huddled in piles of their clothing.
By Sunday night, Nov. 3, they were down to eight pieces of bread and half a tank of gas. They didn’t believe they would be found alive, and began to write notes and make a recording to say farewell to their loved ones.
The mercury dropped to 7 degrees below zero that night, the coldest it had been all week. “We were like, ‘Alright, we’re going to die,'” Kristine said. “And then Monday morning dawned a couple hours later, and Mark thought he heard an engine.
“Mark…was like, ‘Kris! Kris! Kris!,'” she said. “We saw him coming up the road and I was just crying.”
Local rancher Troy Barnett had decided to check the highway after hearing about the missing couple who had left Yellowstone earlier in the week. He quickly found the car and the couple, rescuing them on his snowmobile. This story has a happy ending, but only by a perilously thin margin. The Wathkes’ story is also a great cautionary tale. Here are a few lessons I was able to glean from it:
– If the weather or other conditions get too rough for your vehicle, turn back.
– Make sure someone is aware of your plans and routes, so you won’t be missing for a whole week.
– Never fully trust directions from a phone.
– Have cold-weather sleeping bags in your vehicle in winter.
– Don’t scale snowy mountain passes in a Kia.
Can you think of any others? Let’s hear them in the comments.