BATTLE GROUND, Wash.—
On Monday, Michael Rudolph, 44, and his son Aaron, 9, left for a day-long hunting trip in eastern Clark County. They were expected to return around 7:00 that evening, but never showed up to their home in Battle Ground.
The family contacted the Clark County deputy’s office, who sent search-and-rescue crews to find the Rudolphs. Their search continued until Tuesday afternoon, when the family received a text from Rudolph assuring them that they were fine and would be back that evening.
Michael explained that the truck had gotten stuck in the snow on a forest service road in western Skamania County, and he was unable to dig it out before dark.
“It was then my training kicked in,” said Rudolph, who is a civilian employee with the U.S. Coast Guard who trains fishermen in safety and survival.
“We made a plan and determined that we have enough gas to turn on the truck for five minutes every 30 minutes. That would leave us enough gas to stay there for two nights.”
Although the two had limited cold weather gear, they wrapped themselves up in spare blankets and listened to audiobooks on Michael’s cell phone, studied Aaron’s new survival book, and took turns reading the Bible to pass time.
“He would do pretty much anything it takes to get us through it,” Aaron said of his dad.
The Rudolphs spent four hours Tuesday morning digging the truck out from a foot of snow. Michael used a hammer and saw to chip away at the ice and Aaron cut down a small tree to use to push snow from under the truck. They lined tree branches on the ground to give the tires better traction.
“I know there’s some adults that couldn’t have gone through what we went through with that,” said Michael. “[Aaron] was such a trooper and he was so helpful. It was hard work and he hung right in there.”
The two were on the road by 1:30 p.m. Michael called his fiance and mother as soon as they reached service range to let them know they were safe and headed home.
They were reunited with their family by 4:00 p.m. Tuesday.
“For us, this was a spiritual experience and we focused on the task at hand, which was getting out,” said Michael. “I really appreciate everybody jumping in after we were reported missing.”