LOST IN JOSEPHINE COUNTY OREGON
By Betty Freauf
December 9, 2006
The saga known worldwide of the James Kim family ended tragically on December 6th when searchers discovered his body lying in the snow about one mile from his car after he’d seemingly gone in a circle as he struggled through dense underbrush for a number of days believing he could find help – an extraordinary example of his determination – a “lesson in love” as one commentator put it. The autopsy determined he died of exposure and hypothermia. He left his wife, Kati Kim, and their two daughters, Penelope, 4 and Sabine, 7 months, in the car on Saturday, December 2nd. At that point, they’d already been lost for seven days. A long-time local helicopter pilot, John Rachor, familiar with the area, spotted the wife and the two children two days later and radioed their position to ground searchers. One paper reported ever since a Montana camper salesman got stuck in the snow driving from Gold Beach to Grants Pass on Bear Camp Road in 1994 and was found starved to death in the spring, Rachor flies over that area when he hears of someone else missing.
The reason I feel compelled to write about this story is because my family was returning from north of San Francisco on Sunday. Due to an advertised delay on the Interstate coming home on Sunday, we chose to take the California coast highway north leaving that highway and heading east for the Interstate once we got into Oregon a few miles; however, the road we were on which was a few miles south of the logging road that the Kims chose was paved and well traveled. We’d taken it before and we did make sure we left early on Sunday morning so we would be through that curvy area before dark.
It saddens me to know we were eating in a restaurant in Grants Pass on Sunday while the Kim family, already running low on food, was stranded in a snowdrift since the evening before just a few miles southwest. I remember looking in the direction of that logging road and seeing all the trees never imagining a tragic event was unfolding in that area.
About the time we were leaving Salem, Oregon for California the day before Thanksgiving, there was a good chance that the Kim family was heading in the opposite direction to Seattle, Washington to visit friends for Thanksgiving and we may have even passed them on the road.
Three grandchildren were going with us. We arose at 4 a.m. and they grabbed their blankets and pillows and crawled into the warm van and went back to sleep for the next five hours. We knew it was a 12 -hour drive and we had planned to take a road we’d never taken before. Our California daughter travels it with her family and we were assured it was well traveled although very curvy but a shortcut to our destination. We wanted to travel that road in the daylight. We called 511 when we arrived in Grants Pass on the Interstate and were told the freeway over the Siskiyous was clear so it was full speed ahead. Had there been snow on the mountain, we would have taken a road from Grants Pass to the coast highway (the one we took home) and arrived just a few miles south of Gold Beach – the destination the Kims had planned to reach where they had motel reservations.
The snow can begin to fall rapidly even around Thanksgiving in Oregon and especially in the mountains. My husband and I were both born in “snow country” in Eastern Washington so we made sure we had sleeping bags, plenty of food and water in addition to keeping our gas tank reasonably full at all times and we got to our destination just fine. Oh yes, we did miss one turn and ended up on an even curvier road which tested the driver’s patience and we ended up south instead of north of the city where our daughter lived. It took us an hour to maneuver the bumper to bumper traffic but we arrived safely and hour longer than we had anticipated.
According to their credit card, the Kim family had their evening meal in Roseburg at 8 p.m on Saturday. They called the Gold Beach motel and told them they’d be late. Roseburg is an hour north of Grants Pass and then a couple hours across the mountain to the coast highway and Gold Beach. James Kim worked in a “techy” digital business in San Francisco called Cnet Networks so it is being speculated he used either Yahoo or MapQuest for directions that directed him to Bear Camp road once they realized they had missed an earlier and much safer exit from the freeway. Although paved a portion of the way, the single lane road with turnouts, blind curves and steep embankments should have been a clue they were going to get into trouble, they apparently did not heed the little voice deep down inside that said to turn around. Jamesandkati.com is the Cnet Networks website to leave messages. More than 5,000 messages have been left so far.
When our girls were about 12 and 10 decades ago, I decided we’d take a little trip north to the Puget Sound in Washington to visit an elderly couple. We stayed on the main, well-traveled road but at one point, there was a sign that suggested some type of a tourist attraction so I figured so long as we were in the area, we may as well check it out. I pulled off the road and suddenly a little voice inside me said, “Hey, do you know where this road goes? Do you have any idea what services are on it? And who may be waiting ahead to do harm to you and the girls?” I went only a short distance and decided this may not be safe and I turned around. This was before the satellite and all the “travel helps” afforded us today so I had to rely on common sense. Of course, when I turned around, a weed got stuck under the trim of the station wagon and pulled it loose and that was the first thing hubby saw when we got back home. Does this sound familiar to other wives?
Then in August of this year, we traveled to Eastern Washington – a trip we’d made probably 60-70 times over the years and for the fun of it, I took a MapQuest map with me. Well, to make a long story short, we’d still be lost had we followed the map and we were both born and raised in that area. I determined then these maps may not always be reliable. They take the shortest distance although the road may not always be the safest or best traveled so travelers BEWARE.
And I fear that is what happened to the Kim family and suddenly, Merlin, Oregon, where NewsWithViews.com is headquartered, was being flashed all over the world. It is a suburb north of Grants Pass. Although they have a post office, it is so tiny my Oregon Blue book doesn’t even give the population but hardly dullsville USA because a number of patriots are very active in local Josephine County politics. NewsWithViews website along with the US-Observer.com an alternative newspaper to the long-time established hometown liberal, biased, political correct good-ol-boy newspaper The Daily Courier, keeps the pot stirred up exposing what one activist calls “alleged government misdeeds” as they work towards restricting the power of county government good-old-boys. It’s never a dull moment in Grants Pass/Josephine County, Oregon and if more communities would unite to fight the “powers that be,” maybe our country could be turned away from the United Nations Regional Administrative government under which we now moan and groan and back to Constitutional government where individual responsibility and our sovereign rights could be restored.
Josephine County runs the gamut from the sublime to the ridiculous including a preposterous story about a man being arrested for saving a stray chicken, and where the Christines lost their 5 children to Oregon's Child Services also made national headlines, to the environmentalists and their “spotted owl” codswallop which has done great damage to the area shutting down many acres for potential logging. One man sells a little timber off his place that carries a tag from the Rogue Institute for Ecology and Economy certifying it was logged with respect for the environment. Yes, folks, we’re not talking about vegetables or fruits grown organically, we’re talking about “environmentally correct lumber” which helps you to understand why the cost of housing has gone through the roof.
In our current world wide web planet we can wake up in the morning basically an unknown and within hours our story is material for a Hollywood movie. The Kims were probably not the only ones that got lost that weekend which ended in a tragic ending. In fact, our local news reported that earlier a young man had been lost for two weeks but he stayed in his pickup rationing his limited food and gas and was eventually rescued alive.
Why the national media chose to run with the Kim story may be because there were two small children involved and how the parents survived the first week by the mother breast feeding her two girls, how they burned brush and tires from their car to keep them warm. Wouldn’t you think the black smoke from the tires would have caught the eye of someone?
More young people will continue to get in trouble when they throw common sense to the wind and depend entirely on their cell phones, MapQuest, Global Positioning System (GPS), “On Star” and other mechanisms. I determined in 1998 when I read in the April Reader’s Digest about a son and a father who became lost while hiking in the southern Rockies. The father said he immediately went to work with his map and compass to determine where they had gone off course. His son, an electronics engineer, produced from his pack a hand-held Global Positioning receiver. “I know exactly where we are,” he proudly announced, after carefully locking the instrument on four satellites high above the earth and checking his map. “We’re on that mountain over there!” Now I’m uncertain this was a true story or a joke but I never forgot the story and I determined then to never completely trust these new instruments. I’m still trying to learn the computer!!
Did the Kim automobile have a GPS or “ON STAR” in their SAAB? One clue was when a cell-phone company discovered a text message had pinged off a tower near Glendale and hit one of the Kims’ cell phones that searchers had a better clue of where the family might be. With something like 24 satellites in orbit, it was once reported in the year 2000 that the locator accuracy could be pinpointed down to the size of a tennis court whereas in the early stages the GPS needed the size of a football field. Perhaps the “experts” failed to take into account a small car in a snow bank in the middle of a forest and the Kim family was in error believing these new “techy” gadgets could keep them safe.
Our individual thinking abilities are being drained from us. One of the most recent gadgets advertised on TV is helping us find our car in a parking lot by speaking into the instrument called “The Lil’ Reminder” the lane number when we exit and then retrieving the information when we try to find our car later. Whatever happened to making a note on a piece of paper to help us remember. No paper? Write it on your hand or arm. No pen? For a woman, try some lipstick or better yet, try the memory that the good Lord gave each of us.
Another gadget shows a man walking down a sidewalk with an instrument that tells him where to turn. His friends take the gadget from him and he’s lost! He can’t make any decision on his own. High-powered technological instruments may be good in time of war and they may also be useful to us as individuals but please don’t discard common sense.
I was born in the era of hand signals when we were driving. The directional signals on automobiles and “finger signals” came along later. I’m also not a “risk taker.” If I were a man I’d probably wear a belt and suspenders. I don’t care to have others risk their life to save me when I do something really, really stupid that puts me at risk. And what about the cost to those who do the rescuing? I deplore government interference into our lives to try to keep us from doing something foolish, but perhaps all “risky” entertainment should be licensed and the fees put into a fund to pay for the rescues when something does go wrong.
In the case of the Kim family, I don’t think they were taking a risk. They simply believed in technology that failed them. I’m still trying to figure out in my mind why James left the road and went into a dense-underbrush drainage area that led to the Rogue River. There were many tears shed by total strangers when they heard the unfortunate news about James. We all had faith he’d be found in time. It was a sad ending to what started out as a wonderful Thanksgiving weekend. My heart goes out to Kati and the children and a special thanks to the many hours rescuers on the ground from Jackson and Josephine County accumulated in trying to find James as well as the operators of three reported helicopters hired by the Kim family.
Please note: After drafting this article it was called to my attention that Josephine County undersheriff, Brian Anderson, who viewers saw so emotional on TV recently ran for Sheriff and lost to Gil Gilbertson for allegedly saying "F**k the public, they get what they pay for." Gil will take office January 2007. So perhaps not everything we saw on TV and read in the newspapers was as it seemed afterall.
© 2006 Betty Freauf - All
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Betty is a former Oregon Republican party activist having served as state party secretary, county chairman, 5th congressional vice chairman and then elected chairman, and a precinct worker for many years but Betty gave up on the two-party system in 2004 and joined the Constitutional Party.
After drafting this article it was called to my attention that Josephine County under sheriff, Brian Anderson, who viewers saw so emotional on TV recently lost to Gil Gilbertson this past November.