A few details on the Kim family ordeal from one of the local papers, the Medford Mail-Tribune. Some of this sheds light on how the Kims wound up where they were and might explain why James Kim left the road to bushwhack through incredibly difficult terrain :
From a story online today headlined “Tragic Ending“:
“Authorities said that over a period of days, Kati Kim recalled more and more them details that allowed them to piece together her husband’s final days. …
“… After stopping for dinner in Roseburg on Nov. 25, they headed south on Interstate 5, intending to cross the Coast Range on Oregon Highway 42.
“Kati Kim told searchers that when they realized they had missed the turnoff, they looked at a roadmap and found a direct route that went from the little town of Merlin over the mountains to Gold Beach. They did not consult their two laptop computers for an online map.
“After leaving the freeway, the Kims drove past a gas station, pizza parlor and coffee shop. On the way they passed at least three yellow signs warning that Bear Camp Road to Agnes and Gold Beach might be blocked by snowdrifts. The road is paved but one lane, originally built to haul logs out of the Siskiyou National Forest.
“Driving higher through the snow in their all-wheel-drive silver Saab station wagon, the Kims came to a fork. A fourth yellow sign warned of snowdrifts blocking the way if they took the left fork to Gold Beach. They took the right fork, not knowing where it went.
“Kati Kim told searchers they got stuck in snow once, managed to get turned around, then decided to stay put because they were low on gas. With almost no food or water, the family waited a week, running the car to keep warm at night, then burning the tires. When the small supply of baby food ran out, Kati Kim nursed her daughters.
“James Kim left the car, and then the road, and bushwhacked five miles down the steep canyon, covering about seven miles through rough country, but ending up about a mile as the crow flies from the car.
” ‘It seems superhuman to me to cover that amount of distance given what he had,’ said [Josephine County Undersheriff Brian] Anderson.
The story quotes Randy Jones, a local helicopter pilot who leads aerial seach-and-rescue efforts for local agencies and helped track James Kim:
“Jones said Kim apparently walked along the road for four or five miles. Then, his tracks crossed paths with a big black bear headed downhill across the road. Jones speculated that Kim headed down the steep ravine to avoid the animal, which appears to have followed him.
Kim hiked several more miles in the Big Windy Creek drainage.
“Those were the toughest miles anyone could traverse,” Jones said. “I doubt any human has ever walked in there before him.”
He described the rugged territory as “virgin wilderness,” with old-growth trees towering more than 200 feet high, heavy brush, fallen logs and boulders, as well as cliffs walling the creek in some areas.
Searchers working their way down the drainage Tuesday discovered a spare pair of pants that Kim had left in what they hoped was a sign for them. From the air, teams spotted a collection of clothing and Jones helped coordinate lowering a Jackson County SWAT team deputy 200 feet down a rope to collect them.
“Those were not there Monday,” Jones said. “He was still on the move Tuesday.”
And last, this short snippet from today’s San Francisco Chronicle:
“In the end, Kim’s circuitous hike took him to within a mile as the crow flies from the spot where he had left his stranded family in their car. Rescuers said that if he had continued down the road in the direction he was driving when the car became stuck on Nov. 25, he would have reached a lodge and almost certain safety.”