James Kim family missing. Could they have taken the infamous Merlin / Galice road ?

Most recent updates from this blog are HERE 

Update 6 is here and is later info than below

I heard about the missing Kim family [ more recent Kim family missing] over at Techmeme [police information is here], thinking it’s unlikely I could offer any reasonable insight but it appears they were heading from Portland to Gold Beach on the Southern Oregon coast, an area with which I’m very familiar.

Online and printed mapping is sometimes problematic here in Southern Oregon and there’s a road that appears on many maps as a “shortcut” to Gold Beach. But in fact in winter it can be treacherous and often closes with snow. It’s the Merlin to Galice to Gold Beach route. Cell phones don’t work in this mountainous remote area along the Rogue River valley and the coast. A few folks have been lost (many more just scared out of their wits in bad weather) along this tricky route through the Siskiyou National Forest.

The troopers are probably examining this possibility (I’d say likelihood), and hopefully they’ll find the Kim family soon safe and sound.

Update: I called the Galice USFS District Ranger office and it appears the news had not reached there yet. They are advising against that route due to snow drifts that may not be cleared and confirmed that the route is not regularly patrolled. I’m going to follow up more on this angle shortly.

Update II: I just called the Northern Police dispatch number listed below and they did not seem well informed about local road situation, but indicated that the (Southern?) dispatch is following up. I’m going to call the Gold Beach ranger district to make sure they are aware of the situation. TuTuTun lodge, where the Kim’s were staying, is along the route I’m talking about (Via Lobster Creek bridge to North Bank Road) making it even more likely they may have taken the dangerous Bear Camp Road “shortcut” which has many logging road turn offs.

Update III: Gold Beach district said they’d heard of this on the news but I could not reach the road engineer or District Ranger to find out if people had checked extensively up there.

I fear this is a case where spreading the word won’t help much – rather a search of the many logging roads off of the Merlin to Gold Beach route is called for here.

Update 4: Update: As of 9 a.m. PST Friday, investigators said they were narrowing their search to Oregon’s Highway 38 as the family’s most probable route to their destination of Gold Beach. The Kims last spoke to an innkeeper there by phone about five hours before they planned to arrive.

Highway 38 seems less likely to me than Merlin Galice road, but I don’t have enough info to know if the police are using more than just intuition about the route. 38 is not nearly as hazardous as Merlin Galice / Bear Camp route, is travelled regularly, and unless they drove into the river there’d be signs of a crash. Without local info Kim could have correctly concluded that I-5 to Merlin would be faster than going via 101, and could also have (wrongly) concluded that the Merlin Galice route was short and safe.

Update 5: Leslie at CNET tells me that the SF Police are aware of Bear Camp as a possible location and appear to be searching in that area as well, which is good. I’ve contacted a friend in Gold Beach who will help spread the word as well.

Update 6

From the news report:

James Kim is a senior editor at CNET and hosts the web site’s popular Crave blog.

Police said friends and family knew them to usually keep in daily contact.

According to Det. Angela Martin of the San Francisco Police Dept., the family had lunch with a friend in Portland on Saturday between 2-3 p.m., then left to travel to Gold Beach on the southern Oregon Coast.

According to San Francisco Police, the family made two phone calls to a Gold Beath hotel that afternoon, the second call at 5:45 p.m. On that second call, the family reportedly asked the hotel clerk to leave a key outside since they would be arriving late that night.

That phone call was the last reported contact with the family. The Gold Beach hotel did leave keys out for the Kim Family but the keys were still there the next morning.

According to the Kim’s cellular phone provider, the phone was last used after the lunch in Portland. Calls to the Kim’s cell phone later Saturday went straight to voice mail.

The Kims were driving a 2005 silver Saab station wagon with California personalized plates of DOESF.

Anyone with information is asked to contact Oregon State Police Northern Command Center Dispatch at 800-452-7888, or the San Francisco Police Department Missing Persons Unit at (415) 558-5508.


12 thoughts on “James Kim family missing. Could they have taken the infamous Merlin / Galice road ?

  1. Pingback: James Kim Family Missing

  2. My gut feeling is the same. The Galice route looks shorter, more direct, but it is notoriously deadly. With the cold front which moved in over the weekend it is likely they may have been caught off guard. I hope they are all well, and that someone finds them ASAP. (This route has a sign which states that the road is NOT maintained nor patrolled during the winter)

  3. I just learned about this story today and I think it’s great that you’ve actually taken the effort to contact the officials who could help in this situation. Reposting the news all around the internet is one thing, but in a geographic situation like this, knowing whom to call and alert is even more important.

    Best wishes.

  4. Thank you for bringing this whole Galice-BearCamp-Gold Beach possibility up. Unfortunately, they are in a station wagon with very little food, no heat (like that motor home last winter). My immediate thought was that they took that infamous route. My husband and I tried it a few years ago, right after the Biscuit Fire. The road was closed and they detoured us on a logging road for at least 20 miles – it was a clear day, early Sept., we had a 4 wheel drive… and yet, it was still creepy. Just too isolated and sheer cliffs. If the Kims took the original route (now re-opened), it still must be harrowing during inclement weather. The thought of those poor people stranded out there because the maps and road signs just do NOT tell people …”FORGET IT.” This is the same route that we had a family lost on last year – and we had given up hope about them as well. Unfortunately, the Kim Family does not have a motor home with heat and food for a week. They need to CLOSE THAT ROAD from November to March. Why they leave it open is a mystery to me.

  5. Hi koko – I’ve experienced that feeling up on that road as well (in summer) and you are right that they don’t have anything like an RV situation. I was really hoping they’d find them today. I just hope they exhaust the area on the east side of the mountains between Agness and Glendale. There are TONS of logging roads up there and it would only have taken one wrong turn to be lost up there.

  6. I went all the way through on that road (east to GP) just as the Blossom Fire was underway summer ’05. There was a detour at the time that split traffic onto a logging road. Great drive…in the summer! It’s my favorite part of the USA, I’d say.

    It’s a shame when city people don’t respect wild country, and even worse when they put their kids in danger. This guy messed up so much that it plays out like Gilligan Does The Rogue.

    – Failed to properly assess change of route after missing turn.
    – Passed several signs warning of snowdrifts making the road impassable.
    – Failed to make a simple phone call to check road conditions.
    – Low on fuel, food, and water. NEVER drive through a remote national forest without having several days worth of sustenance and warmth.
    – Left vehicle, which is usually not the best move.
    – Left road to bushwhack through rugged terrain, which is almost never the best move.
    – Removed clothing.

    A better move would have been a brightly-colored distress sign fashioned from the contents of the vehicle and luggage, plus some nice tire fires in the daytime. Doing that, they likely would have all been found safe.

    Never forget that tragedies are often the result of a chain of bad decisions.

  7. Hi Spungo-

    How are things where you are? Inside? Warm? Eaten in the last few days? Good. Those factors allow you a kind of clarity that James Kim was lacking in his last week. In spite of this, he made some good decisions (in spite of a few bad ones that you helpfully point

    To me, this story is about a father who

  8. (cont)

    …(in spite of a few bad ones that you helpfully point out) in his last few days.

    To me this story is about a father who’s love for his family led him to do something so physically challenging that most of us would have given up long before he did.

    You say, “A better move would have been a brightly-colored distress sign fashioned from the contents of the vehicle and luggage, plus some nice tire fires in the daytime. Doing that, they likely would have all been found safe.” But isn’t that exactly what they did, from what’s been reported in the media? After 7 days and no response from the searchers, wouldn’t you have questioned whether it was going to work? Wouldn’t you have started thinking about other options?

    I expect I would have.

    So Spungo, I’m glad you’re safe and warm and have the advantage of hindsight and clear reasoning. Please don’t forget that James Kim did what he did without the benefit of those advantages. What he did, as far as I can tell, is quite incredible. We should all be in awe, even while we try to learn from the story.

  9. Hi, It’s me, Boo!! You Know your daughter? I just Thought I would leave a comment and say thanks for doing all your stuff about the kims… I guess everybody’s sayig that.
    and, wow, I actualy live in he same house with you! what a kwinky dinker! Am I actualy putting too much ”personal info”? See ya, dude.

  10. After the tragedy of the Kim family I find it incredulous that there continue to be no signs on this road that warn of the driving conditions. I just took this road in an attempt to get to Gold Beach. While there was no snow, it was trecherous and remote. Only until I had driven some twenty miles did I realize how unmarked and dangerous it was. I was unsure whether to retrace my steps or continue on.
    I flashed on the Kim tradegy and suspected I was on the same road, which turned out to be true. Signs need to be posted that this turns into an unmarked, unlined, trecherous road. There will surely be more loss of life on this road in the future without warnings. The first 20 miles appear innocuous.
    The culprit here is the state/county for not posting clearly what is ahead.

  11. I’m extremely late to the discussion, but I’ll participate because it’s intriguing nevertheless.

    I read one poster’s comment about the Kim family tragedy on a different blog site, but I think it makes a lot of sense.

    The Kims thought they prepared for a fairly ordinary and simple road trip, and that’s it. They obviously we’re not prepared for the snow, nor did they bring emergency supplies.

    As they made there way up to Portland, I don’t think Gold Beach was in their original plan.

    I believe they didn’t have much experience driving from a lower elevation to a higher one in winter.

    People note that the Kims were unprepared having enough survival gear, tools, and supplies in their car. These items are crucial to survive the cold. I agree that lack of cold weather supplies is a major mistake, but again, the Kims were ignorant city folk concerning cold weather. It was possible to survive without these items in general if they hadn’t done the following things. I believe these are the core blunders they made:

    They missed the route 42 exit.

    The Kims didn’t turn back to route 42.

    They didn’t see, missed, or ignored snowdrift signs.

    James Kim called the Gold Beach
    lodge back and booked the reservation after that hotel warned
    him their place is difficult to find and the drive may be too lengthy
    for that particular night.

    Kim didn’t fill up his car with a full
    tank of gas.

    When they got to the fork in the road, they decided to travel down an unfamiliar road that goes nowhere. With enough space in the fork, why didn’t they turn around and head back toward
    Merlin then?

    James Kim walked off the main road into a ravine along a river when he was seeking help on foot. He also walked for too long and too far away from the car.

    I’m sure there are other major blunders that I didn’t list. James Kim did wait in the car many days before seeking help outside. Rescuers never came. Dewitt Finley, who also died on Bear Camp Road, never left his car while waiting for help. Sitting in a car with crying and hungry children, I understand why Kim took a chance outside. He was so desperate that he trudged in the cold too far and too long which ultimately ended his life.

    The Kim family seemed to have an aversion to loss or “getting there-itis.” To them, the goal of arriving at Gold Beach appeared to be much more important than anything else, including ignoring their past mistakes on the trip. They were impatient. If this is true, then it is possibly the biggest tragedy of all.

    I assume losing money on the swanky hotel suite was probably not a concern, but the couple’s “failure ” to reach Gold a Beach on time probably bothered both of them a lot

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