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Three men found after night in mountains

Stuck in the snowy mountains southwest of Talent overnight, three cold but unharmed men told a search and rescue team they "could have done back flips and handstands" Monday morning when, on foot, they heard the rescuers' siren and ran toward it.

Brian Hannaford, 24, and Michael Ware, 26, both of Medford, got stranded Sunday afternoon in the mountains when their Chevrolet Suburban blew its transmission. They met up with an Eagle Point man, Tavis Green, 19, who was going to drive them out, but his GMC four-wheel drive pickup ran out of gas, said Lt. Pat Rowland, director of search and rescue for the Jackson County Sheriff's Department.

All had planned leisurely Sunday afternoon drives on back roads and told family where they were going, said Rowland. Family members searched unsuccessfully Sunday evening but didn't notify the sheriff's department until 5 a.m. Monday.

If notified Sunday, search and rescue probably could have found the men that night, Rowland said.

The three men met up after dark Sunday night. They had no food, water, maps, compass, global position system or working cell phones, Rowland said. They slept in the GMC and at daybreak siphoned gas from the disabled Suburban to power the pickup.

Also starting at daybreak, a team of 23 search and rescue volunteers combed the logging roads between Anderson Creek and Wagner Gap, finding the abandoned GMC at Four Corners (the intersection of roads 20 and 22 and the Pacific Crest Trail) at 10:05 a.m.

That's when Rowland and search volunteer Sheila McMahon sounded the siren on the Tahoe they were driving, alerting the three men, McMahon said.

They were headed south with the gas on Forest Service Road 40S16, in the direction of the Colestin Valley.

Rescuers drove the men to search and rescue headquarters in White City, where their families picked them up.

"It was a typical mission," said team member Cindy Mohar. "It could have been serious trouble. They (the two Medford men) were pretty fortunate they met the second vehicle. It was cold and wet up there."

McMahon said. "They were cold and hungry and were going to punch a hole in the gas tank of the Suburban to start a fire."

Rowland said people who get stranded should stay with their vehicles, which provide protection against the elements. Lost people are not charged for the cost of rescue, Rowland said.

John Darling is a freelance writer living in Ashland. E-mail him at jdarling@jeffnet.org.