Stranded couple thanks local BLM rescuers

Stranded couple thanks  local BLM rescuersJanice and Pres Meyers recount their rescue by Bureau of Land Management rangers based out of Ridgecrest on June 19. Rangers braved the mountain road and sheer cliff exposure at night to help the couple recover their wrecked truck camper. The entire account can be found online at boondockercamping.com. Here are the highlights.

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By JANICE MEYERS

News Review Contributor

Our 4x4 truck camper was losing traction going up a shale section of road in the Inyo Mountains. Pres had driven us many miles through a steep canyon with breathtaking views of the Sierras across the Owens Valley from where we planned to camp to celebrate our 44th wedding anniversary.

Pres tried to back up the truck to find better traction when the shale gave way and we slid off the road, picking up speed heading backward and sideways. The rig then rolled onto the driver’s side and I braced for us to continue rolling down the rocky slope. However, the rig stayed put on its side as it came to rest.

We looked at each other to see if either of us was hurt. I was hanging from the passenger side by the seatbelt. Our belongings in the cab had all crashed onto the driver’s side in a heap.

Just then we heard Pres’s phone ring. What!? Thank you God, we have cell reception in this remote wilderness. We were so relieved to know we could call for help.

Our first challenge was how to get me out of my seatbelt without my body slamming into Pres. I could not find a good foothold and rolled down my window to hang onto the door frame. There was no way I would be able to open the heavy door away from me.

Pres braced his arms up to help me and I wiggled to take the pressure off of my seatbelt so that it would release. I popped out, slipping into the back seat behind Pres.

Pres decided our best route of escape was to kick out the windshield. It gave way after several strong kicks from his slippered feet, and he quickly squeezed past the broken glass. He grabbed the broken edge to make more room for me to get out and in the process cut his hand making it bleed. Otherwise, we had no serious injuries.

Once safely out of the truck we could see that a sturdy pine tree had stopped our rig from rolling further down the mountain. I felt shaky, but gratefully impressed that we had been saved.

It was about 6 p.m., and we faced darkness descending in a few short hours. We grabbed essentials for the trip.

It was 6 miles to Cerro Gordo — too far for me to walk in high elevation and expect to get there by nightfall. I did not want to leave our truck in case we had to spend the night.

Pres walked on ahead. After he reached a CHP dispatcher, who declared an officer was on his way, he called and told me to start walking. The steep trail seemed to go either straight up or straight down.

I met up with Pres and he encouraged me to continue walking out a far as we could to aid our rescuers.

We would lose cell reception when descending and needed to walk out to where we knew there was a very large turn around with no confusion of trail intersections that would give us a good overlook with reception.

Shadows deepened on the mountain. I turned to watch the sun descending over the majestic Sierra snowcapped peaks, picking out Mt. Whitney. Beauty encompassed me.

When Pres called the dispatcher again, she informed us that the CHP did not have a 4x4 vehicle available to reach us and advised to prepare for spending the night on the mountain.

At this point, I was exhausted and it was too far to go back to our truck. We were not dressed for the weather and had run out of the food and water we carried with us. We were exposed to the elements and I had visions of mountain lions or bears stalking our scents. I started to chide myself at leaving the truck and started to feel angry and anxious.

Then, I reminded myself of the miracle of our situation. A tree stopped our truck from rolling off the mountain and we both had walked away with no serious injuries. We may have to spend a miserable night, but we would survive. I made a deliberate choice to stop those negative thoughts and to focus instead on the gift of having each other on this day.

Pres called to let the dispatcher know I was not able to continue walking. The Bureau of Land Management Rangers had been contacted, and were driving from Ridgecrest, equipped with a utility terrain vehicle, to look for us.

By this time it was 8:30 p.m. and growing darker. The dispatcher assured us we would not be left overnight on the mountain top. My heart was thrilled, knowing we would be rescued. However, we were concerned that our rescuers to be driving over rough road on such a dark night. We prayed together for God’s protection over these heroes.

From our rocky perch we could see the distant lights of Keeler and scattered mining operations. The stars were spectacular with no moon. I picked out the Big Dipper and was in awe of the celestial showcase overhead. Pres started to softly sing an old familiar hymn and I joined him, singing harmony.

The night air grew colder. Finally, we could see lights far below, hoping it was the Rangers. Many minutes later lights flooded a large slope as they moved in closer now at almost 11 p.m.

We left our perch to walk down to a large turn around area. Using our cell phones as flashlights we shone them through our clear water bottles. Seeing our lights, the UTV driver slowed to make a sweeping turnaround and stop.

In front of us was a four-seater vehicle from which two large men wearing helmets emerged. Their shirts were marked “Police” and they looked equipped to take on any danger that the Inyo Mountain range could offer.

We were warmly introduced to Jim and Jason, BLM rangers to the rescue! They kindly questioned us to be sure we were not seriously injured and asked where our wreck was located, stating they expected to find us still a few more miles up the road.

Jeff, the CHP officer, was waiting to meet us. He was ready to drive us to the hospital if we required medical attention. We assured him we were okay and just wanted a place to rest and find a rental car as we were now stranded. We thanked our rescuers for giving us the best anniversary present ever!!

Jeff drove us down the steep mountain dirt road and informed us that there were no car rentals in Lone Pine. Ridgecrest or Bishop, both a good 70 miles or more away, was the closest option.

Knowing that the Rangers would be returning to Ridgecrest, we asked if we could hitch a ride there with them. Jim was hauling the trailer in a large pickup truck with a backseat and volunteered to take us.

We enjoyed getting to know more about our hero and new friend on the drive. Jim dropped us off at the Clarion Inn at 2 a.m. Avis car rental was located on the premises, so we were all set.

From the bottom of our hearts, we are so grateful to be safe and well thanks to the men and women who work hard to serve and protect.

We have enjoyed exploring the backcountry for over 40 years, with this being our first wreck. Thanks to our rescue, we will have more years to explore and enjoy our public lands.

When Jim dropped us off at the inn he gave us his business card in case we needed anything before heading home. Our achy bodies enjoyed a shower and getting some sleep.

The next day, we were delighted to have hot coffee and a hearty breakfast at Kristy’s.

We passed through historic Cerro Gordo on our way back to the crash site. In the daylight, we could see where the hotel had burned to the ground just a week or so before.

We headed up the mountain, showing me how far we still would have had to walk out if the Rangers had not come to our aid.

My heart felt sick when we saw our beloved rig lying over on its side. Pres and Jason saw fresh tire tracks, knowing someone had driven by our broken truck camper.

Many of our belongings were missing. We were left to assume that the tire tracks belonged to some folks who decided to take the easy route to reach valuables.

Regardless, we were grateful to get anything at all back.

Despite the sad circumstances, I was having the adventure of a lifetime.

We loaded up our rented car and headed for home with grateful hearts for the BLM Rangers. On the drive back we got a phone call out of Lone Pine asking if we needed a tow. We laughed and replied that our rig was not in any place a tow truck could reach.

Jim, the caller from Miller Towing, went on to say it was his guys that had made those fresh tire tracks and had come across our ruined rig.

They had picked up the items we found missing and had them in safekeeping for us! Yay, another blessing! Jim went on to say how the folks at Miller Towing knew they could extract our rig and would be happy to work with our insurance.

Well, the ending to this story just keeps getting better! Thank you Jim, Jason and Brandon of BLM. Thank you Jeff from the California Highway Patrol. Thank you to the dispatchers fielding our SOS calls. Thank you John and Jim from Miller Towing – our truck has to wait until after July 4 to send a crew to get it out … yet another adventure to tell.

Pictured: The rear view of Pres and Janice Meyers’ vehicle, which slid off the road in the Inyo Mountains. — Courtesy photo

Story First Published: 2020-07-03