Years ago, my then-husband and I worked on a remote ranch in northern New Mexico. In the middle of the worst blizzard in 12 years, he managed to get us evicted from the ranch. Driving out on the rugged, twisting dirt track in a two-wheel drive truck was an invitation to an accident. Sure enough, while creeping down toward a primitive bridge that crossed a creek bed after a hard right turn, a patch of ice sent the truck off the edge of the bridge.
We were okay, but the truck was stuck and we faced the task of walking 8 miles to the road that another 8 miles would take us to the state highway. Normally that wouldn't have been a problem, but there was already 12 inches of snow in the ground and more falling, and it was already past noon.
We had nothing: no winter survival kit, just the clothes we had on. I was wearing a fleece-lined nylon jacket with a hood, a turtleneck sweater, jeans and boots. I also had on a pair of gloves. My husband was wearing a down vest over flannel shirt and thermal undershirt, long-johns and jeans. He also had a hat and gloves.
We had no survival blanket, no energy bars and no way of communicating since cell phones didn't work in that part of the country. But we set off, because we certainly couldn't go back to the ranch. It took us several hours to reach the bridge that crossed over to the road to the state highway.
By that time I was exhausted, cold and wet. I was also in pain from what I later learned was a misaligned pelvic bone, as a result of a fall, that made long walks extremely painful. I didn't know how I was going to be able to continue.
Once we crossed the bridge over the river to the road out of the canyon, we had to decide which direction to head. We could turn right and go towards the state road and hope that someone would be driving by in the midst of a snowstorm and would stop and pick us up. If they didn't it would be another 10 miles to town.
The other option was to turn left and head towards the monastery located at the end of the canyon on this side of river.also an 8-mile walk. We debated the wisdom of either direction, but decided that the monastery offered the more sure help, while just reaching the state road was no guarantee of help.
By this time it was dusk, being around 4:00 pm in early February, and the temperature was beginning to really drop as night came on. My husband offered to stop and build a fire where we could huddle all night, but I just saw this as another opportunity for him to play Daniel Boone. I agreed that if we were still out after dark that we'd stop and build a fire, but I was really praying that a vehicle would come by on its way to the monastery.
About 30 minutes later, just as it was getting dark, a 4-wheel drive vehicle approached occupied by a couple of monks returning from a trip to town. They immediately stopped and invited us to get inside the vehicle and warm up. They took us to the monastery, fed us hot soup, and gave us a room in one of their guest cabins.
Now looking back, knowing what I know, I never leave home without a disaster kit in my car, and in the fall I winterize the bag with additional items. There is always a survival blanket and emergency food bars, but in the winter I add a heavy-duty blanket-poncho fitted with a hood and hand pockets. That would have been the ideal blanket to have on that cold, winter trek.
In addition to the emergency food bars, I also add a hobo stove, some fire starter, a small pan/cup and some packets of hot cocoa and bottled water. It would have been so helpful back then to have been able to build a small fire and heat up some hot cocoa. That along with the energy from the survival food bars would have given us the energy we needed.
In the winter, even if you live in town, you should have a winter survival kit in your vehicle at all times. Bad weather can strike anywhere and you do not want to be caught unprepared in freezing temperatures.