Gardnerville resident Jerry Jouret may never look at a croissant the same way again.
The 81-year-old was heading back to Gardnerville in a Ford Escape from Big Pine on Highway 168 on Feb. 24 when heavy snow started coming down.
“I lost track of the road and got stuck,” he said. “It started snowing and didn’t stop. There was no way I could walk out, it was up to my ankles.”
All he had in the way of fluids was a cup of coffee, but he’d stopped at the Vons and bought a dozen croissants.
“I had a margarine container,” he said. “I would scoop snow into it and put it on the dash, and the sun would come out and melt it so I could drink it.”
When he first got stuck, he tried to get some bushes under the wheels to try and get out but that didn’t work.
“I just stayed with the car and hoped to be rescued,” he said.
There was gas in the Escape and he was able to run the motor in the evenings and early morning.
“That helped for four nights, and then the battery died,” he said.
He stayed warm the rest of the time under a big towel.
“You just have to survive the best way you can and keep as warm as you can,” he said. “You have to be optimistic that someone will find you.”
Meanwhile, Jouret’s brother Joe in Missouri was marshaling as many resources as he could to look for his brother.
The Douglas County Sheriff’s Office posted the missing notice to their Facebook Page on Feb. 27.
Wife Sharon said people were praying for him from here to Florida.
The couple will celebrate their 57th anniversary on June 4.
Two days after the car battery died, rescue arrived in the form of a California Highway Patrol helicopter on March 2.
“They circled me three times, and I waved at them,” he said. “I knew they saw me. They went away to the east and came back not too long later and attempted to land for 10-15 minutes.”
However, the helicopter’s avionics wouldn’t let them set down on the road covered with a foot and a half of snow.
After making some adjustments, the crew returned and was able to land about 15-20 feet away from Jouret.
The co-pilot came to get Jouret as the pilot kept the helicopter running.
“The co-pilot held my hand as I walked in his footsteps, because the snow was so deep,” he said.
Jouret went to the Bishop hospital with dehydration, but was otherwise OK. He spent the next few days at his Big Pine house before catching the Eastern Sierra Bus and returning to Western Nevada.
The last survival training Jouret said he’d had was as a Boy Scout, but that didn’t go over heavy snow.
Looking back, he said having lots of water and a shovel or something to help dig the car out of the snow are some of the important things to bring on a trip.
“I’m glad to be home,” he said. “This was an excruciating experience.”
As for the croissants, Jouret said he is French and likes them.
“They do get dry after a while,” he said. “You need to get them wet.”
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