About a month ago, on a Sunday afternoon, a carpenter named Jeremy Taylor took a back road as he drove from the gas station toward his home west of Sunriver. Jeremy lives alone, except for his dog Allie, and fortunately for both of them, they were together that day in Jeremy’s 4-runner. Little did they know at the time that on snowy forest service road #40, they were linked as friends in the most dangerous moment of their lives.
Jeremy was accustomed to taking that road home through the Deschutes National Forest, but as everyone from central or eastern Oregon can attest, this has been a snowy winter. The depth of the snow was more than Jeremy had bargained for, and as darkness was setting in, his SUV got stuck in a drift. He tried to drive out of it, but without success. So he made a wise decision, and settling into his car for the night, he curled up inside his sleeping bag with Allie to keep both of them warm.
Unfortunately, it snowed heavily that night, and by morning, Jeremy’s rig was buried three feet deep. He couldn’t even open the doors at first, but eventually, he was able to struggle outside. He relied on his wits as best he could, by tearing apart his ski rack and using the pieces to create a makeshift pair of snowshoes. Then he and Allie tried hiking out.
But after they had gone about a mile, they were both exhausted. Allie, who is probably part border collie, was floundering in the deep snow, and one of Jeremy’s improvised snowshoes broke. Once again, Jeremy had to make a tough decision, and he chose to carry Allie and work his way slowly back to his SUV. By the time they got there, neither of them had much strength left.
For the next few days, the best Jeremy could do was to start his car occasionally to keep him and Allie warm. Although he had a gallon of water in his car, the only food he had was a handful of hot sauce packets from Taco Bell.
Meanwhile in the outside world, Jeremy’s friends had noticed that he was nowhere to be found. He hadn’t shown up at work, which was out of character for him. Some of his neighbors and friends noticed that his SUV was not outside his home. Day by day, questions evolved into concern and worry, until that worry spread hundreds of miles to Jeremy’s friends in more distant places.
In Jackson County, where Jeremy had lived and worked for many years before he had moved up to Sunriver, his close friend Jesse had become so concerned about his buddy’s disappearance that by Thursday morning, he decided that he wanted to go up to Deschutes County to look for him. Jesse called my oldest son Gabe that morning, and Gabe, who is also a good friend of Jeremy, offered to leave his trucking brokerage office to drive up with Jesse. Two other buddies, Chris and Brian, decided to join the search party. This gang of friends took time to gather some supplies and then headed off in Gabe’s car that afternoon.
By late evening, their group had arrived at Jeremy’s house, which happens to be owned by Jesse’s aunt. She was able to let them in with her key, and when they found a space heater running, they felt convinced that Jeremy had not intended to be gone long when he had left his house on Sunday.
Here again, these guys made smart choices. Each was prepared to help by doing what he could do best. Gabe was the one with the car, so he shuttled people and ran errands. Jesse is a social media whiz, so on Thursday night and Friday morning, he joined several dozen local outdoor groups, such as snowmobilers, skiers and mountaineers, to post photos of Jeremy, his SUV, and his dog Allie.
Chris is a drone pilot, and on Friday morning he began flying his drone in the forest area not far from where Jeremy was actually lost. Brian is the most fit outdoorsman of the group, so he joined up with Matt, another of Jeremy’s friends who had flown in from Montana, to hike in snowshoes up a mountain butte to see if they could spot Jeremy or his elusive SUV with binoculars. John, another of Jeremy’s buddies from Sunriver, created his own communications center to keep everyone apprised of new developments.
By early Friday afternoon, a snowmobiler came upon Jeremy and his 4-runner, and he notified the Deschutes County Search & Rescue squad of their location. Gabe’s crew of friends were out looking for Jeremy near forest service road 40 when they heard the good news, and the sheriff asked them to keep that road’s entrance blocked so that the rescue team could get Jeremy out. When the S&R unit brought Jeremy and Allie out on their snow machine, their buddy’s first question for them was, “What are you guys doing here?”
A few hours later, what they were doing was sharing lasagna and beer with Jeremy in his home, where he modestly fended off reporters at his door. The internet and Taco Bell might tell you that hot sauce kept Jeremy alive for five days, but don’t believe it. What saved him was common sense, a full tank of gas, a gallon of water, a warm sleeping bag, an SUV that became an emergency shelter, and some very devoted friends, including his dog Allie.
John McColgan is the proud husband of a woman who used to do Search and Rescue, and the father of four wonderful adult children, who have some awesome buddies.