- Associated Press - Saturday, February 22, 2014

BOISE, Idaho (AP) - What keeps three kids, ages 7 to 10, going for nine hours and 19 miles trudging through snow on an otherwise deserted mountain road?

“The cheeseburger and fries and a soda was motivation enough - and getting home to Mom,” said John Julian of Boise. “Especially getting home to Mom.”

Did the kids get that promised burger meal? “Oh, yes.”

But it was a long time coming.

Julian, 38, and his friend Will Murkle, 34, took their children for a drive near Arrowrock Reservoir on Saturday to spot wildlife, enjoy mountain scenery and generally “get out of the house,” Julian said.

Julian’s Ford Explorer was rounding a curve on Slide Gulch Road when it slid on the ice beneath the snow cover and wound up in a snowbank. They tried repeatedly to get back on the road, but the rig was stuck. They had no cell service.

It was about 2 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 15. Some 33 hours later, the men and their kids were home safe - after spending a long, cold night in the SUV and walking all day before reaching an occupied home with heat, food, a kind family and a land line they used to reach their worried relatives.

Murkle’s parents, who were searching for them elsewhere in the area, came to pick them up and drive back to Boise, getting home about 11 p.m.

Family, friends, law enforcement and others in four counties had been on the lookout for the Boise families since they failed to return Saturday as planned.

Murkle is still happily amazed by what happened.

Julian sounds weary when the topic comes up.

“I’m really just burnt out from talking about this, to tell you the truth,” he said, then gamely answered questions.

Julian retrieved his Explorer on Monday, and a handily timed holiday gave the kids a day off from school.

Neither man plans a repeat drive to the Boise County mountains soon, but when they do, they’ll bring plenty of emergency supplies, Murkle said.

The three children - 10-year-old Megun Murkle and Isaac and Samantha Julian, ages 7 and 8 - had warm coats, but their fathers just had sweatshirts, Murkle said. They had no blankets to stave off the cold, and their only food was snacks they brought along for the kids.

Overnight lows in Prairie that night were 34 degrees, the National Weather Service reports, with a high of 37 Sunday.

The men ran the engine for a while to use the Explorer’s heater, Murkle said, but the vehicle ran out of gas. Trying to get out of the snowbank had used up much of their fuel, he said.

The men expected someone to come along and find them, he said. That didn’t happen, so they hunkered down in the Explorer for the night. About 8 a.m. Sunday, they headed out. The kids were in good spirits.

“I asked them, ‘who wants to spend another night?’ and my son and Megun both raised their hands,” Julian said.

By the end of the walk toward Prairie, the children’s enthusiasm for their adventure had definitely worn off, he added.

Still, they did well on the 19-mile trek, stopping for about 15 minutes after every hour, Murkle said.

They walked on the road, which was snow-covered, but the lighter children fared better than their dads because they didn’t break through the snow as often.

The kids enjoyed seeing plenty of elk and mule deer, he said, but they were afraid they might run into a bear.

“We told ‘em, ‘they’re sleeping at this time of year,’” Murkle said. “We saw wolf tracks in the snow, but the kids thought they were dogs, so it didn’t worry them.”

The men figured a truck or ATV or something - anything - would happen upon them and either give them a ride or send help, he said.

“I was absolutely amazed,” Murkle said. “We figured someone would come along at any time, but it never happened.”

“I was surprised we had to walk the whole entire distance.”

In the late afternoon they finally came to a cabin, but no one was home. They saw another house down the hill and headed there.

It was about 5:30 p.m. when a family let them into their home. The woman dried the kids’ socks and shoes and made them hot chocolate and macaroni and cheese.

Murkle said he doesn’t remember the kind woman’s name, but “we’ll definitely go back there and bring her a thank you basket.”


“I’ll wait until the snow melts.”


Information from: Idaho Statesman, https://www.idahostatesman.com

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