Nevada Family Survived with Stones Warmed by Fire

The recent rescue of a family in the Nevada desert has captured the attention of wilderness enthusiasts and the general public.  My husband and I routinely travel solo in the Nevada desert so when, last Tuesday, a blip on my home page announced a search for a family believed to have been stranded for two nights in the Kamma Mountains, I immediately clicked on it.  And learned with heartfelt dismay that four young children were among the missing–and that nighttime temperatures were reaching to 20 below zero.  I remembered the first time my husband and I drove through the Seven Troughs region of the Kamma Mountains, awed at the snow-covered vistas extending for miles in every direction and wondering what would happen if we broke down.  The sun shone bleakly through the Land Rover’s windshield and the heater droned non-stop.  My husband always needs fresh air and the draft that blew through his cracked window stuck like a knife in the top of my thigh, despite my layered pants.

Charred Wood in the Nevada desert

I picked up the phone and called him.  He immediately agreed that we should go and join the search.  Although it is six hours from our California home to the Lovelock departing point to Seven Troughs desert wilderness, the drive seemed a minor inconvenience.  In my mind I began to assemble the particular gear that we would need for such a trip.

In the interim I placed a call to the Lovelock Sheriff’s department and expressed our interest in joining the search.  After a few questions, presumably to discern whether we were equipped, the dispatcher gave me the telephone number for the command post at Lovelock Community Center.  On that call I was told that they had as many searchers as they could coordinate at the time but that, if the search continued, I should check in again.

A few hours later, I discovered a news tidbit posted “one minute ago” that the family had been found.  Their Jeep had rolled down a gentle bank after hitting a patch of ice.  As details of the rescue emerged, it became apparent that everyone was safe, that no one had suffered even as much as a bit of frostbite.  Considering that the youngest was three and that two of the children were as young as four, this news was completely amazing (and brought me joyfully to my knees.)  Doctors who later examined the family at the hospital where they were taken to be checked out, reportedly described their condition as “miraculous.”

Besides God’s grace and mercy, the contributing factors to the family’s survival were strict adherence to wilderness survival rules.  Fortunately the head of family had considerable survival experience and followed these fundamental rules of wilderness survival:

1. Be prepared: James Glanton has said that he routinely carries in his Jeep: matches, lighters, magnesium fire starter and water.  After the accident he immediately built a fire for his family and at night he used stones heated in the fire to keep the children warm in the overturned Jeep.  In the extreme winter conditions faced by this family, fire and water were the two resources imperative for survival.  The shelter of the overturned Jeep was also critical.

2. Stay calm: By all accounts, the two adults, James Glanton and his girlfriend, Christina McIntee, kept their own fear in check and did a remarkable service to the four children by keeping them calm during their ordeal.  The searcher who located the family on Tuesday after noticing a child’s footprint in the snow and then observing tire tracks, reportedly viewed them at a distance through his binoculars and noted all six standing around the fire as if camping.

3. Stay with your vehicle: The two adults discussed whether one of them should go in search of help and they opted to stay together.  The “Stay with your vehicle” rule is based on the theory that a vehicle, due to its large inorganic mass, is easier to spot than a person wandering in the wilderness.  James Glanton reported in an interview yesterday that twice during their ordeal aircraft passed within easy sight of them yet did not spot them, in spite of the fact that he used the greenery he had placed near the fire to signal for help with black smoke.  This detail is a heads up to those of us who travel in the wilderness, to reevaluate our supplies and methods for the effective signaling.  My husband and I carry a large international orange nylon tent fly that we bought at a flea market specifically for emergency signaling of our location.  We’ve always thought that it would be impossible to miss, but after hearing this family’s story I will now continue to keep an eye out for other useful items and we will also add flares to our supplies for just such an occasion.

For those of us who travel in the wilderness, we need to take this opportunity to reevaluate our preparations, knowing that rescue is never a given and that missing it by mere seconds could quickly become a matter of life and death.

All winter roadway travelers should pack extra water, food and warmth that could help considerably in the event of a breakdown which could become life-threatening.

Wherever we are, no matter our trials, we can all take heart from the strength and courage demonstrated by this family who survived two nights in sub zero temperatures in Nevada’s Kamma Mountains wilderness.


The Gritty Side of Desert Travel

The Art of Desert Travel

27 thoughts on “Nevada Family Survived with Stones Warmed by Fire

    • To your first point, a resounding “Amen.” If I have given you even one thing to consider survival-wise when packing for a trip with your family, I am content. As for going to help with the search, if we were needed it would be impossible not to go. God equips each of us to help in our special way and in the words of James Glanton, it’s what we do.

    • This is one of the nicest compliments I have received Melissa, thank you. I thought of you at one point while writing this post–if I recall correctly, do you not live in an area which has extreme winter weather? Merry Christmas to you and your cherished ones and warmest wishes for a blessed New Year.

      • No extreme winters here, fortunately. I’m in western Oregon. We even have camellias blooming now, with crocus not far behind. Christmas blessings to you and yours as well.

  1. I have always had the highest admiration of those who live close to the land and who knows the earth and ways of survival out in the elements. Reading this post it dawned on me in a brand new way of the way of life, the landscape and terrain of this magnificent wilderness that I know so little of. And yet knowing that you spend so much time out in the desert and that this is your world, it suddenly became that much closer and more relevant to me. And with it came a growing respect for you and all those who love and honour this wilderness as much as you do. I share in your joy and blessed relief of the safety of the Glanton family. With much love to you and yours this blessed Season. God bless, Sharon

  2. A smashing post Vivian. It really does demonstrate when travelling in the wilderness or even locally when snowstorms are forecast, it’s so important to have a few essentials in the car with you. A timely reminder. Thanks for posting! 🙂

    • Thank you so much, Chillbrook, I love that you enjoyed this post! Stay safe and warm while you are out and about on your photographic journeys (and may I add that I am thoroughly inspired by your Digital Lightroom Competition)! My husband and I extend to you our warmest wishes for a wonderful Christmas and a Happy New Year!

    • p.s. Although I said Merry Christmas, I haven’t forgotten about our talk long ago about the God issue. I’m just always thinking in the kindest of ways that I will one day hear from you that He has touched you. :-)xo

  3. Pingback: A Wilderness Survival Weekend | the happy naturalist

  4. So happy to hear that they are okay. It also reminds me to start thinking of things to take with me on the increasingly longer hikes I’m taking.

    Also, Vivian, I want to wish you and your family a Christmas filled with love, light, and laughter. –Julie

  5. I also followed that story from here and wished that I could have helped in the search. I rejoiced when the family was found safe and give credit to the things they did right in a survival situation. Quite frankly too though I was furious with that man for getting them all into that predicament in the first place. There is no excusing that kind of carelessness and poor judgement when there are those involved who are so vulnerable.

  6. Oh, I will confess that when I first heard the ages of the children in this party, I felt angry with the parents as well! But I forgave them because I recalled all of the times my parents or grandparents took us out for a winter Sunday drive in the Maine woods where I grew up. They were joy-filled excursions and one of the ways I learned to love traveling in the wilderness. Was it irresponsible on the part of my parents or grandparents? Certainly there was risk involved but I would be reticent to make such a judgment despite that that was pre-global warming and it was not at all uncommon for nighttime temps to fall to 40 below. Had we broken down, we would surely have been stranded much like the Glantons.

    The Glantons live on the edge of the Nevada desert wilderness. They took the children out to the mountains to play in the snow. If I were going to say anything about that decision, it would probably be to suggest that it would have been wise to follow one additional rule of wilderness survival: leave a detailed travel itinerary with someone you trust and adhere to it strictly. Had they done that, the rescue would have presumably taken place much sooner.

    • Dear Izzy, Yes, we are all so grateful for the Christmas miracle and the safe return of the Glanton family. My husband and I have ourselves just returned home from spending Christmas with his family and I could not have been more moved or delighted to find your note! Many blessings for the holidays and the new year, Izzy, and many thanks for the light you bring to this world. Hugs, Vivian

  7. I found your entry as suggested reading for one of my recent posts about a survival training weekend. Glad I did! This is a very cogent summary of what the stranded family did right, and what we should do in a similar circumstance. In North Texas I far more often deal with excessive heat than with cold, but the lessons are still the same. Thanks for posting.

    • Thank you for including my post in your reference materials. We are also challenged at times by heat in the Nevada desert. A few years ago my husband and I broke down in the same remote region of Pershing County where the Glantons were rescued. Daytime temperatures that week exceeded 100 degrees. It is vital in wilderness survival to prepare for all possible scenarios.

  8. Whoa! That was a real eye-opener. Having been going to the wilderness for the major part of all my holidays, never once have we gone prepared for a situation like this. This is something that I will definitely think about the next time we plan a trip.
    So glad that the family made it through without a scratch. Thank you so much for sharing their story!!

    • Sumithra, it is so nice to hear from you. I adore your blog and your stories of wilderness travel. Please do consider taking inventory of how you might prepare for an unexpected upset in the wilderness. Happy Trails and Happy New Year! -Viv

  9. Sound advice. My years of wandering through the wilderness areas of North America has proven over and over that an ounce of prevention can save the day… and that our best survival tools are our minds and common sense. –Curt

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