Stranded man documented last days on calendar, police say
Jerry McDonald's last entry documenting the days he was stranded in Oregon's Cascade Range appears to have been made April 15.
May 17th, 2011
01:20 AM ET

Stranded man documented last days on calendar, police say

A man who was found dead in a remote mountain area in Oregon apparently was stranded there for more than 60 days by heavy snow - information gleaned from brief notes he made on a homemade calendar, authorities said.

Jerry William McDonald

A U.S. Forest Service crew found the body of Jerry William McDonald, 68, in his pickup truck Thursday in the Willamette National Forest and the Cascade Range roughly 70 miles southeast of Portland, Linn County Sheriff Tim Mueller said.

McDonald - who Mueller said was transient, estranged from his family and wasn't reported missing - arrived at the spot on February 7, according to a makeshift paper calendar that McDonald kept of his travels, the sheriff said.

He stayed there for the rest of the week, apparently to camp, with nothing noted on the calendar except his location - Horn Road - and a running count of the days he’d been there in corner of each day's box, as was his habit, Mueller said. But on the space for the 14th, McDonald wrote, "heavy snow," and "snowed in."

"He had too much snow to push out" with his four-wheel drive pickup, said Mueller, adding that the area, at an elevation of 4,000 feet, had been hit by "storm after storm" and likely would have been impassable.

From February 14 onward, McDonald would note most days’ weather conditions - including periods of more snow. He wrote "dig o." on Feb. 15-17. On March 2 were the words "trapped" and "snowed in on 14th."

His last entry appears to have come on April 15: "Horn Road," "rain," and "68" - the number of days he'd been at the location.

A preliminary investigation and autopsy indicates McDonald's death was consistent with starvation and/or hypothermia, the sheriff's office said.

The pickup was drivable and had chains on all tires and a quarter of a tank of gasoline. Investigators said it appeared McDonald used a jack to put rocks under the tires in an attempt for traction, according to the office.

McDonald had a sleeping bag in the canopied rear of his pickup; cold-weather clothing and boots; buckets with which he apparently collected water; two rifles; and more than $5,000 cash, investigators said. He also built a small fire area.

He had no cell phone or GPS device. Investigators found no food or food containers, but McDonald may have burned food wrappers in a fire, Mueller said. The March 16-18 entries say "No Fo 1," "No Fo 2" and "No Fo 3," which Mueller says may indicate when McDonald ran out of food.

McDonald was only 3 miles from a state highway and 4 miles from a restaurant. Mueller said there may have been good reasons why McDonald didn’t walk away, but he can't be sure.

"He had the ability, unless he had some physical impairment we didn't pick up on," Mueller said. "When the snow gets to a certain depth, it gets hard to see where the road used to be. We'll never know if he attempted it, but he never noted anything (in the calendar) that he even tried."

McDonald's calendar had a couple April entries that weren't related to his predicament: "Motor vehicle registration expires" on the 12th and "can camp at Powers for 20 d." on the 18th. It's not clear whether he wrote those while he was stranded.

Though McDonald didn’t have a permanent home, the truck was registered in Unity, Oregon, the sheriff's department said.

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soundoff (149 Responses)
  1. human

    I can't imagine what he went through.No more suffering.

    May 18, 2011 at 3:21 am | Report abuse |
  2. tahoesuz

    BLT I have to agree with you all the way, people are disgusting when they make jokes and have no compassion for someone like this man who fought gallently for his life. Just over a week ago a Canadian woman was found in far eastern Nevada after being snowed in for 6 weeks or so. She stayed in the truck and her husband went for help, using a GPS for direction. He had still not been found and she survived because she stayed with the vehicle. Many rescue people say staying in the area you were originally lost in whether you have a vehicle or not gives you alot better chance of being found. A person walking is also not as easy to see as a vehicle is from the sky or land seach. This man did the smartest thing he could, unfortunately no one even knew he was missing or reported him lost. I sincerely hope this dear gentleman is at peace and in a place where he finally has the unconditional love that he was unfortunately missing in this life.

    May 18, 2011 at 4:51 am | Report abuse |
  3. moral

    A life was lost. Can there be some respect? May he rest in peace <3

    May 18, 2011 at 3:17 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Anthony Armen

    JimMNH very good point, I wonder if this is that "Change & Hope" we were promised. Poor Mr. McDonald, but at least he will not have to witness the rest that will follow.

    May 18, 2011 at 6:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • CNNerator

      For the STUPIDEST most IRRELEVANT post!

      May 30, 2011 at 1:15 am | Report abuse |
  5. Stu

    A lot of folks have said he was dumb for not just walking out, especially after two weeks. I'd like to know how much walking you'd be capable of managing after two weeks without food.

    May 22, 2011 at 1:59 am | Report abuse |
    • CNNerator

      He apparently had food for a month. He MUST have brought food – he went CAMPING.
      READ the article, THEN comment!

      May 30, 2011 at 1:13 am | Report abuse |
    • Jo

      CNN, that has no logic to it whatsoever.

      June 7, 2011 at 6:33 pm | Report abuse |
  6. iamthefreman

    So sad for his family. Ok, one joke...... He died on April 15th.. He didn't want to pay his taxes !

    May 24, 2011 at 4:19 pm | Report abuse |
  7. cam

    Never, ever get lost or stranded in Oregon. But if you do, make sure someone knows where you were going. Oregon state authorities are notorious for their incompetence at finding lost people.

    June 1, 2011 at 4:27 pm | Report abuse |
  8. jb

    I hate to mention this isolated, not on friendly terms with anyone, person gives me the creeps! I would be keeping his DNA to match up with any missing persons, body's found, children...

    June 10, 2011 at 2:59 pm | Report abuse |

      Whenever "you hate to mention something" that is usually a signal for you not to do so; it is similar to growing up & not acting on every impulse you feel. The man may be dead but his family is not or have you forgotten? What you wrote will be terribly painful to them if they see it. (Thank God your feelings are not shared or found humorous.)

      June 14, 2011 at 11:56 pm | Report abuse |
  9. JENN

    This is a very sad story. What a horrible way to die. He leaves a calendar in memory of him. I know if i was his relative I would cherish that forever. But I would have also reported him missing. RIP Mr. Macdonald.

    June 13, 2011 at 6:59 pm | Report abuse |
  10. liz

    very sad

    June 14, 2011 at 12:26 pm | Report abuse |
  11. john v

    I am also getting old with not a friend in this world( probably my fault) and also estranged from my family for many years (over being upset I wanted an abusive step-dad to just say I'm sorry before he died) and all I have since my cat died is my angel on earth Wife,who loves me un-conditionally and if she ,God I pray does not, dies before me, I would be all alone and Die alone like this poor man. I agree with a poster who says to test his dna against fed crime records,cause he could verywell been a bad man, But he could have just given up on that road thinking of his family that he lost and died all alone. I hope that isn't me someday and he died peacefully. ( unless he was a bad man hiding from his crimes) Thank You for reading my post .

    June 15, 2011 at 4:52 pm | Report abuse |
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