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Missing woman: Tree-hunting misadventure 'really surreal'

An Oregon couple hunting for a Christmas tree in mountains near the California border spent two days stuck in more than a foot of snow before freeing their all-wheel drive vehicle and returning home this morning.

Jennifer and Keith Lee told Jackson County sheriff's deputies their Subaru got high-centered on a remote road leading into California on the south side of Mount Ashland.

“It was like something you see on TV news,” Jennifer Lee said. “It was really surreal — not like it was really happening to us.”

The couple had taken blankets and water bottles, but they didn't have much food, she said.

“Neither one of us had any appetite, believe it or not,” Jennifer Lee said.

This morning, she said her husband put rocks under the wheels of the Subaru and managed to maneuver it to hard ice in order to free it.

“We got up at about 5 a.m. and he said we're not staying here another night,” Jennifer Lee said.

She said they called home as soon as they got into cell phone range but nobody answered. When they heard about the search on the car radio, they called 9-1-1 and talked to Jackson County sheriff's deputies.

Jennifer Lee said the couple had two maps and knew exactly where they were, but had no way to communicate.

The couple got home in time to see their four children, ages 8 to 18, off to school.

“There were definitely lots of tears of joy,” Jennifer Lee said.

Like thousands of Oregonians each year, the Lees bought their Christmas tree permit from the local national forest office and headed into the mountains.

The couple first went tree hunting Monday but didn't find what they wanted, so they set out again Tuesday after the kids went to school. Jennifer Lee asked a friend to pick up their 8-year-old daughter.

The first question the youngest child asked the couple was whether they got a prize silvertip fir, which grows at high elevations.

“We did get the tree,” Lee said.

The search began Wednesday with a helicopter, Sno-Cats and ATVs for Jennifer, 38, and Keith, 36, who also got stuck briefly last year while getting their tree.

- The Associated Press


Medford tree hunters stranded in a larger map

Madeline Lee, 8, huddles up against mother Jennifer Lee today at the family's Medford home. Jennifer and her husband, Keith, left, spent two nights in their car in the mountains after getting stuck in the snow during a Christmas tree hunting trip. - Bob Pennell