November 6, 2013

Wisconsin couple was down to "eight pieces of bread, nine 15-ounce bottles of water, half a jar of that jelly and then eight packets of oatmeal."

So they wrote goodbye letters to friends and family — out there stranded in the snow, because they'd driven onto the Beartooth Highway, where "their GPS led" them, even though it's closed from October to April, because of the weather.

31 comments:

Edward Lunny said...

So, what, the gps was driving ? Were they paying attention ? Don't you notice that the road isn't plowed and the snow is getting deeper ? They live in the northern tier of the country, it's not like snow is new to them. They were fortunate that their lack of commonsense didn't kill them. Geez.

MadisonMan said...

It's a mistake to trust your life to GPS. You should plan out your journey beforehand (heck, that's part of the fun!!).

mrs. e said...

Though they said they saw no signs indicating the highway was closed, I know I've seen maps with closure dates.

They're very fortunate.

Left Bank of the Charles said...

I wonder if the rancher who found them was also snowbound. Except that he had a well-provisioned house and a snow mobile.

The Drill SGT said...

what Edward said...

mrs. e said...

"Were they paying attention ? Don't you notice that the road isn't plowed and the snow is getting deeper ? They live in the northern tier of the country, it's not like snow is new to them."

Yes, they turned around when the snow was getting deeper, but got stuck. And it's not that snow was new to them, but they clearly didn't understand winters and snow in the mountains. I wouldn't call it stupid, I'd call it inexperienced.

C Stanley said...

Man, that is dumb. A road trip with oatmeal and jelly? Never travel without Pepperidge farm cookies.

RecChief said...

As people rely more and more on technology and "apps" on their smartphones, they seem to lose their ability to think.

Also, I have seen this with soldiers in the new army. All they know is the military version of GPS. You should see those people try to find their way from point A to point B with nothing but a lensatic compass and a relief map. Frightening where some end up.

chuck said...

it's not like snow is new to them.

It's not that genteel Wisconsin snow, it's that screaming, barbarian horde Wyoming snow: wind, drifts, bitter cold. Wyoming roads can be downright scary starting around late September. Always read the forecasts and head for town when the weather turns.

MarkW said...

Well, cases where people got into trouble following a GPS make the news. But cases where lives are saved by GPS (because nothing happened) obviously are not news. And cases where people could have been saved by a GPS are not identified as such. These women would still be alive if A) they had used a GPS for hiking or B) used a GPS for driving. They did neither and ended up dead:

http://nypost.com/2013/07/25/a-pregnant-woman-and-her-friend-got-lost-hiking-and-were-rescued-only-to-drown-hours-later-in-car-accident/

wildswan said...

I think you should always have really good paper map with wilderness area and road conditions if you want to enjoy the wilderness without getting into a mess. It isn't just scenic and natural, it's isolated and rugged. That said, things happen, and then there's good luck and bad. They had both but the good luck came last - fortunately for them.

wildswan said...

I think you should always have really good paper map with wilderness area and road conditions if you want to enjoy the wilderness without getting into a mess. It isn't just scenic and natural, it's isolated and rugged. That said, things happen, and then there's good luck and bad. They had both but the good luck came last - fortunately for them.

Chris said...

The story sounds sketchy or incomplete. They had to have been in Yellowstone when they got on the Beartooth, and it's hard to believe if the road was closed that it wasn't obviously closed.

At any rate, the drive isn't for the feint of heart, even in the summer. Lots of hairpin turns, and sheer drops. The pass will take you close to 11,000 feet above sea level, and it will be windy and cold. There are packs of snow year-round (though I hesitate to call them glaciers).

It a stunningly gorgeous drive, but not one that you want to do at night, in inclement weather, or when nobody else is on the road, who might assist you.

surfed said...

Driving into the that terrain at that time of year something a South East coastal person like me would do. Not. One thing they didn't try was a trick we use for driving on soft sand here on our beaches. We let about half the air out of our tires. You can cruise over anything with flattened tires. Back in the free wheelin' 60's when you could do about any damn thing you wanted to, we had dune buggies with split rimmed tires. Those tires allowed you to go anywhere any time. Except of course, back in time. Now if you pulled dune buggy stunts in the dunes you'd find yourself jailed as an eco-terrorist for destroying sand dunes, nesting areas, transgendered naked beaches, what have you. But I digressed.

Christy said...

I've noted here before that I encountered at an intersection in Sevierville, where as Wikipedia notes, the Foothills of the Great Smokies give way to the Tennessee Valley, a big lighted highway sign announcing YOUR GPS IS WRONG. Go straight to I-40. Of course, we don't get Wisconsin snow. At least not until this Maunder Minimum gets well under way.

great Unknown said...

They hail from Cornell, but think like big-city urbanites. They're surrounded by [perfectly clean] snow and they're concerned about how much water they had?

surfed said...

@Christy - I've seen that sign. Have a picture of it somewhere. Just drove through your area...mighty pretty terrain.

Freder Frederson said...

They're surrounded by [perfectly clean] snow and they're concerned about how much water they had?

First of all there is no such thing as "perfectly clean snow" in the Continental U.S. Secondly, eating snow is generally not a good idea--it can lead to hypothermia or frost bite. As an absolute last resort, maybe. Finally, snow contains surprisingly little water, especially at high elevations in semi-arid climates.

Seeing Red said...

Bring it in the car and let it melt.

Tibore said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tibore said...

I do agree fully with those forwarding the critique that they shouldn't have blindly trusted their GPS and should have added context to the judgement of their situation.

That said, stories like this open opportunities for GPS manufacturers and the states themselves. The manufacturers already provide traffic updates, weather notices, and road closures for populated areas. They need to find a way to extend that service to more distant areas, to roads - such as this one - far from the beaten track, but for which some information is known (such as seasonal closings; that doesn't even have to be a real-time update, it can simply be programmed into the GPS's software and display warnings at the appropriate times of the year). The states in turn can designate members of some organization (using this case as an example: The park rangers/conservation officers familiar with the area) to take on the responsibility of periodically updating that information.

Nowadays it should be trivial for GPS manufacturers to build such a setup into their products and services for those products.

Are there practical issues behind this? Of course; there always are. But the technology is not only in place, it's highly commoditized now. Nowadays, it's more a problem of applying & slightly modifying things that are already available - example: Modifying whatever "traffic updates" function exists to include weather related road alerts for these distant areas - than it is engineering things from the ground up. The only question is: How do the GPS manufacturers be enticed into adding such things?

Again: Added features in a GPS do NOT remove a user's responsibility to travel wisely. I would argue against trying to engineer them to save travelers from themselves. Rather, my point is that adding such info shouldn't be that big a hill to climb, and that's all I'm saying. Whether people would use these tools wisely is a whole other issue.

Tibore said...

And: HA! I'm already behind the times. Garmin's forum has a thread talking about a seasonal closings feature:

http://forums.gpsreview.net/viewtopic.php?t=27307

Can't find any equivalent discussion for Tomtom or Magellan products, but if one's got it and as long as it's not proprietary, it'd be surprising if the others did not.

tim maguire said...

I smell lawsuit!

great Unknown said...

re: Freder Frederson

In the mountains where they were, the snow is clean. As far as hypothermia, they apparently had enough heat in the vehicle to survive.

And snow is at least 99% water. Granted that the density of a given drift may be low, that's not an issue when you're surrounded by megatons of the stuff.

Amy said...

Having just got back from 10 days in CA in the mountains, I can totally see how this could happen. We were trying to get from Yosemite to the other side of the Sierras, and the pass we wanted was closed. We drove several hours south and tried another pass - stopped to ask at a ranger's station. He said the pass was closed and not to go that way - but I asked if there was a 'closed' sign and he said no. We detoured (and a 4 hour trip became a 10 hour one) but I can see how, if we hadn't asked, and 'tried it,' that could have been us. I have one of those aluminum foil emergency blankets in our backpack - wonder how it would have worked.

Rusty said...

great Unknown said...
re: Freder Frederson

In the mountains where they were, the snow is clean. As far as hypothermia, they apparently had enough heat in the vehicle to survive.

And snow is at least 99% water. Granted that the density of a given drift may be low, that's not an issue when you're surrounded by megatons of the stuff.

to get any real quantity of water you really have to pack the snow down hard.

metal wicks away heat. If you're going to be stuck out in the snow for at least 24 hours you're much better off building a snow cave and lining it with material from the car.

Deirdre Mundy said...

I can easily imagine this happening. My county is mostly national forest, and when you're in the national forest, the Magellan wigs out on you. Claims you're 75 miles away from where you are, tries to get you to turn on roads that don;t exist, etc. I've just stopped using it except in big cities, but....gps users should always bring paper backup.

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Peter said...

The short form would be:

(GPS + intelligence) > (GPS alone)

(GPS + intelligence) > (intelligence alone)

GPS is just a tool; you can't outsource your brains to it.

And certainly if you're in backcountry you should take maps with you, and a compass- and understand how to use them (which also requires that you always know where you are).

A GPS is a complex device that can stop working in an instant, batteries don't last as long as you expect, and it's probably easier to get lost than you think.

southcentralpa said...

To adapt one of my mother's favorite sayings: "If your GPS told you to drive off a bridge, would you do it??"

Strelnikov said...

Sounds like a typical vegan picnic.