NOTE: The following article originally ran in the Monday, Feb. 1, 1999, edition of the Albany Democrat-Herald.
Cold, wet and hungry as he was, Jack Barbre was never really worried. Even after getting stuck in the snow Saturday night in the mountains south of Mill City, he was pretty sure he and his friend John Grady would be able to get home eventually.
He was wondering, however, how they were going to get Grady's pickup truck out of the 4-foot snowdrift.
As it turned out, the Timber Linn 4WD Search and Rescue Team ended up being the solution to both problems.
It all started Saturday afternoon, when Barbre, 24, and Grady, 26, decided to go for a drive in Grady's 1998 Chevrolet 4X4.
They headed east on Thomas Creek Road east of Jordan and were atop Tom Rock, about 10 miles south of Mill City, at close to 5 p.m. At that point, however, they weren't sure of the best way down.
Grady, who was driving, chose a likely-looking road and headed down, only to find it blocked a short distance along. So he turned around and began searching for a new passage, eventually choosing one that already lay covered with a thick layer of snow. About a mile down, the three-quarter-ton pickup couldn't plow any further.
The pair had brought a shovel along, Barbre said, so they began to dig. After two or three hours of work, Grady was able to get the rig moving — but only about four feet, where it became wedged even deeper than before.
"The snow was buried up to the doors," Barbre said in a phone interview this morning from his Salem home. He and Grady took turns shoveling and sitting in the pickup truck to warm it up, but after about four hours of work, it became clear they wouldn't be finishing that night.
"We just couldn't dig it out. We were both exhausted. So we sat in the cab of the truck," Barbre said.
Neither man was dressed for the cold. Both were in jeans. Barbre had a sweatshirt and tennis shoes on. Grady was wearing a T-shirt, a denim jacket and a pair of military boots. They slept as best they could in the chilly pickup cab, waking up every 20 minutes or so to turn on the ignition and get the heater warming for a few minutes of warmth.
When dawn came, it started to snow so hard the two could barely see. It wasn't long before the new flakes began to fill the holes the two had dug around the pickup.
"We're down to a quarter tank of gas and it's snowing, and I don't know when it's going to quit, so we gotta get out of there," Barbre remembered telling Grady.
The two had seen lights at the bottom of the mountain the night before while they were digging, so they walked down the road in that direction. The snow slowed them down, as did a washout in the road that forced them to cross a rock-strewn ravine.
Barbre had served in the Air Force as a police officer, and Grady was a hull technician in the Navy. Both were accustomed to hard work. Neither worried that they would have any trouble hiking down the slope.
"We were in pretty good humor," Barbre said. "I was teasing him. I told him if he died or broke a leg or something, I was gonna eat him."
Still, it took more than five hours to hike the 10-plus miles to the area they had seen the lights, which turned out to be Mill City. By that point, the two were exhausted.
They stopped at a home and asked to use a phone, notifying Grady's mother in Salem that they were all right. Then they walked to a grocery store for something to eat.
Grady's father, Dick Grady, called the Linn County Sheriff's Office about 11:30 p.m. Saturday when the two didn't return home. Deputies searched the roads in the area until about 4 a.m. Sunday and had decided to call it off until daybreak. At 8 a.m., the sheriff's office put the Timber-Linn four-wheel drive team on alert. They responded but were called off the search shortly before they were ready to start.
The team, with a half-dozen vehicles and about eight volunteers, caught up with Barbre and Grady in Mill City.
They gave the men coats and coffee and bag lunches from the sheriff's office, then volunteered to retrace their trip to find the stuck truck.
The snow was even deeper by the time they plowed their way back up the hill to Grady's vehicle. One of the search and rescue vehicles became stuck in the process. Eventually, however, everyone's vehicle made it back down the mountain.
"Those guys really helped us out," Barbre said. "I told John we would have to wait until spring to drive it out."
"Believe it or not, it was a good time," he added. "The bad part is, we weren't really hot-rodding. We weren't up there looking for mud. We just turned on that road with snow and that was it."