'20/20' Exclusive: Kati Kim on Her Family's Harrowing Ordeal


Driving into the night, the Kims made the first of several fateful errors. To get to Gold Beach, they needed to take Route 42 via exit 119. They missed it.

One mistake turned into two: Instead of turning around, the couple decides to take another road that Kati Kim spotted on a map.

"We felt like we had gone too far past our turn to turn around," she said. "According to the map, there was a very clear-cut route to the coast."

A Treacherous Road

Unbeknownst to the Kims, they had chosen a remote and notorious cross-country path called Bear Camp Road. At its highest, the road's elevation is between 4,000 and 4,500 feet. It is not maintained and it doesn't get plowed, according to Sarah Rubrecht, a search-and-rescue coordinator.

"Bear Camp Road is infamous for people who don't know the area to take in the wintertime and get stuck," she said.

Believing they would hit the coast soon, Kati Kim fell asleep. An hour later, she said, she woke up to a worrisome sight.

"We were driving very slowly, and it was then that I realized that we were on some mountain roads," she said.

"I said 'James, this isn't right. We've been driving for a really long time already. Did we miss a turn?' and he said, 'No, I don't think so,'" she said.

However, amid the snow, James Kim had missed a turn: At a fork in the road, he failed to see a sign for Gold Beach and chose to head right. He chose wrong.

Believing he was on the road to the coast, he had, in fact, turned on to a logging track. And for reasons that may remain forever unknown, a steel gate that should have been locked, blocking this path, was left open.

Stranded in the Mountains

Utterly lost, the Kims tried using their cell phones to call for help, but they found they had no service. James Kim decided to put the car in reverse easing his way to a lower elevation where there might be more of a signal.

"He opened his door so that he could see better the side," Kati Kim said. "There was a huge drop on one side of it -- huge -- and it was night time so we couldn't tell how far the drop was. ... It was terrifying."

Eventually, they stopped the car at a fork in the road where, she said, "at least we were on solid ground."

With their gas gauge and the snow falling, the Kims decide the safest thing to do was wait for daylight. They survived the bitter night by idling their engine to keep warm. The next day, they ate food that they had brought with them, as they studied their maps and waited for help.

"We were just waiting to get found, at that point, and we were certain somebody was gonna come find us," Kati Kim said.

No one came.

The family spent their second night huddled together in the back of their Saab, where James Kim had folded the seats down to make room.

They listened to the radio, which brought foreboding news: Storms were passing through the area. The Kims also had another worry: black bears.

"I remember seeing bears out there," Kati Kim said. "I remember seeing bears that looked like they were scaling a mountain going straight down a cliff.

"I got the baby out of her seat and I zipped her up into my sweater," she said. "I knew that bears are scared of loud noises. We were repeatedly honking the horn, honking the horn all night...We were scared to death!"

The following day, Kati Kim left a note explaining the family's situation on a nearby loggers' gate while James Kim hoped to draw attention to the family by writing S.O.S. in the snow in large letters.

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