NORTH: HUNTER'S ESCAPE HITS OBSTACLE

November 27, 2012 

Editor's Note: Sun-Star hunting columnist Mike North recently found himself in a precarious situation, trapped on a mountain in Plumas National Forest with a failing cell phone and snowstorm overhead. He detailed his adventure in two parts beginning Tuesday, and we resume today with help on the horizon.

Part 2: Mountain of issues

Thirty minutes later, a Jeep Rubicon appeared and headed down trail toward me. The beefy, four-wheel-

drive rig equipped with a winch was a welcome sight as it approached.

As the Jeep pulled up to me, the driver asked, "You raking leaves?"

"I wish," I replied.

"You must be Mike," said the driver, before he identified himself as a Plumas County sheriff's deputy who shared the same name. He was there with the four-man, two-vehicle search and rescue team that had just ensured the lost hunter made it back to his cabin safely -- truly a gift from God.

Turns out, after hearing of the situation from my dad, a buddy of mine who made the hunt with me the year before called the sheriff's office and relayed to them the GPS coordinates of my camp that he happened to write down while he was there.

The team used the Rubicon, a large F-class Ford truck and tow winch to yank me out and down the sloppy road to the bottom of the mountain.

Folks criticize our sheriff in Merced for his "toys," but after benefiting from the equipment used by the deputy and volunteers in Plumas to get me out of a nasty situation, it's clear that these aren't toys, but tools aimed at saving lives.

Once I was on the paved road, I split off from the team with a thank you and a handshake, and drove down the highway through a heavy rain.

With low visibility, I was driving 50 mph in a 55 mph zone when I came around a bend to meet a boulder in the road about as big as the cab of my truck. Without time to hit the brakes, I narrowly avoided it, but the rest of the rockslide smashed up my left-front tire.

Apparently, the mountain wasn't ready to let me go.

I pulled over on the muddy shoulder, which was obviously too soft for me to change my tire with the small jack I had in the back seat.

Without cell service, I was stuck again.

But no more than two minutes passed when I heard a loud crash.

A CalTrans worker,who was patrolling the road that night with his scraper, hit the same mess I did and knocked off his right-front tire.

As he climbed out of his rig, I explained my situation to him and told him we might be able to help each other.

With my tire deflating and the rim bent, I drove him to his Caltrans station. He let me pull into his garage and helped me put my spare tire on.

Once I got home, it felt good to be there and out of the snow. It's amazing just how comfortable four walls and a roof can be.

You never know what to expect on a hunt. My experience last month drove that message home.

Since then, I've been looking around for a four-wheel-drive truck.

I'll be back on the mountain next year, and I'm sure there'll be more surprises in store. Hopefully, a big bear is one of them. I'm due.

Reporter Mike North can be reached at (209) 385-2453 or mnorth@mercedsunstar.com.

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