ROSEVILLE, Minn. (WCCO) —Snowmobiling is a way of life for the Jenney family of Albertville, and the family cabin in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula near White Pine is the perfect setting for winter recreation. Snowfall in that part of the country comes early and often, providing for wonderful trail riding.
But when B.J. and his father, Ben Sr., got their machines stuck in the soft, powdery snow, they were miles from anywhere.
“We just started walking,” B.J. said. “We figured we were on our own, and we’re just going to walk out of here.”
In waist deep snow, such a walk is exhausting. B.J. shot a cellphone video of his dad struggling in the snow along a creek bed. It was part for demonstration and part fun.
But the fun ended when darkness set in.
“You could see a little bit from the glare of the snow and a little bit of moonlight peeking through the clouds. But it was pretty dark and pretty cold,” B.J. said.
Overnight temperatures in the Upper Peninsula dipped to between 20 and 30 below zero.
In the rugged backcountry near the Porcupine Mountains, B.J. sent out three text messages to relatives asking for help. But it wasn’t long after that when he discovered that his cell battery had died.
“I wasn’t sure. It said they sent. But you never really know, I only had one bar – it’s hard to rely on that,” B.J. said.
It wasn’t long before their perspiration from so much physical activity began freezing. But the father and son fought off hypothermia by staying moving all night and stopping only occasionally to rest under a tree.
Still, they both wished they’d dressed in heavier clothing and had taken along more energy bars and water.
“I had two layers under my jacket…so we were decently warm but not near warm enough for how cold it was,” B.J. said.
Finally, on Monday afternoon, the two stumbled upon some fresh snowmobile tracks on the creek. They would later learn they were tracks left by Ben Sr.’s brother who had been out Sunday night looking for the two.
“We started walking along the tracks and then walked around the corner of the creek and there was the DNR,” B.J. said. “It’s quite a feeling…they’d come for us and we were safe.”
The father and son were taken to a local hospital where they were treated for minor frostbite, hypothermia and dehydration.
B.J. said the next time they go for a trail ride they’ll pack more water, food, and dry clothes – just in case.