Author Topic: This Side of the Mountain  (Read 8356 times)

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GRAHAM_RANCH

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This Side of the Mountain
« on: Jan 19, 08, 10:02:03 AM »

GRAHAM_RANCH

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This Side of the Mountain-Part Two
« Reply #1 on: Jan 19, 08, 10:04:11 AM »
The member of the posse used his gloved hand to rub film of grime off the hiker's log book. The last entry written therein was ironic in a way, "What won't kill me will make me stronger." 20 year old Jodi Lynn Zaitchick had written her last entry before the search and rescue efforts sadly turned out to be something else. It was December 3, 1983 and at the bottom of a three hundred foot ice chute, Jodi and 35 year old boyfriend Jerry Duran were found.

"I'm looking forward to going to town tomorrow and buying some goodies and making this ridge line bearable", read Jerry Duran's own log book. It was dated December 2nd. The couple was attempting to do something that was never done before; hike the entire Pacific Crest Trail during the winter. They started their quest in late October in Mexico. Despite the cold season's icy, snowy and wet flood conditions that persisted in the San Gabriel Mountains, the couple's intent was to do it. It had never been done before, simply because it was to dangerous. The San Bernardino Sheriffs had found the log book at the couple's campsite, which was about one mile from where their bodies were found. Ill prepared for such bad weather, they were already fatigued from battling bitter winds and weather as they started down the mountain towards Wrightwood to pick up a better tent that had been mailed to them. It was on December 3rd when the young couple left their campsite, and kicking up the ridge was a terrible stormy day that included 100 mph winds and hard driven rain, sleet and snow. Between the Blue Ridge crest and Wrightwood to the north, was upper Heath Canyon and an unexpected 300 foot ice face of a cliff.

"We might make history, "wrote Jodi Zaitchick in one entry, "no one has made it end to end in winter." Her entry turned out to be prophetic. When the expected Christmas phone call to Jodi's parents in New York was never received, her worried parents telephoned San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department. For almost a month winter storms had come and gone. Winds ruffled a flimsy tent in a quiet campsite as personal effects were coated with mist, ice and a fine film of grime. It was around Christmas vacation when Lt. Robert Ryan  took control of the command post in Wrightwood and the drone of a helicopter could be heard flying over Blue Ridge and the Wrightwood area. Despite the aerial search, nothing of the hikers or their campsite could be found. Nine posse units and search and rescue were called in and the determined ground search to locate the couple began. The couple's campsite was finally located on a trail on the east side of Wright's Mountain. "We decided to camp while we can. The wind is blasting rain and ice into us. I burnt myself out. My legs are starting to hurt. Shoulders too. Short of breath." Jerry Duran, Dec. 2nd entry. Three hours after the campsite was found, the couple's bodies were discovered in upper Heath Canyon.

Those that remember the rescue attempt of twenty-five years ago, cannot help but reflect on the fact that the couple was so ill prepared in hiking the sharp ridges and narrow canyons during winter season. Being prepared with the right clothing, equipment and prior planning made all the difference in the world when hiking on this side of the mountain or the other side of it. Things can turn ugly at a moment's notice...even during a sunny day. We may have are the plans thought out ahead of time, but sometimes it seems that the mountain really holds the agenda of what is going to unfold for us on the ridge line. News reporter and editor Susan Gates wrote of the fate of the young couple many years ago. With this sad note, she ended her piece by sharing, "And so what failed to make them strong...killed them."  

This a piece of Wrightwood history
Terry G.

 

Wildman

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Re: This Side of the Mountain
« Reply #2 on: Jan 19, 08, 01:45:04 PM »
You bring back memories.  We were all amazed that the everyone on board was ok and talking with Palmdale tower.  It was snowing to beat the band.  They were in pretty good shape, all things considered. 

The plane crash incident was the first television news interview that I ever did.  It was with Stan Chambers from  KTLA.  The piece was shot on the early portable versions of videotape that had come out recently.  Last year, I did an interview with his Grandson, Jamie.

GRAHAM_RANCH

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Re: This Side of the Mountain
« Reply #3 on: Jan 19, 08, 06:42:08 PM »
According to retired John C. Graham, Chief LASD, "The plane only struck the treetops and the tree limbs, like gentle arms, settled the plane to the ground. The plane's damage was not great."

 

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