A dozen Valley teenagers had two cold nights and one close call, when they got snowed in over the weekend atop the Mogollon Rim.
The teens ranging in age from 14 to 18 set off from the Valley on Friday for a camping trip, including about five girls, according to Department of Public Safety Sgt. Terry Lincoln.
Traveling in a Dodge pickup and a Nissan Pathfinder, the teens turned off Highway 87 near Clint’s Well and camped about 400 yards off Highway 87 near Clint’s Well, said Lincoln.
But snow that started Friday night grew heavy on Saturday, prompting the alarmed and largely unprepared teenagers to try to drive back out on the highway.
Instead, both cars floundered and got stuck in several feet of snow.
Unfortunately, by the time the teenagers realized they were completely stranded, the Arizona Department of Transportation had shut down the highway as the snowfall thickened — cutting off the flow of potential rescuers.
Two of the girls had even somehow lost their shoes in their desperate effort to help push the two tire-spinning cars down the frozen, snowy road.
So the teenagers retreated into the vehicles to spend a cold, wet, miserable night on Saturday.
“They were wet and cold — all their clothes were wet, their blankets were wet, the whole deal,” said Lincoln, a 10-year DPS veteran.
On Sunday, one of the teens hiked out to the highway, where he flagged down a passing ADOT snowplow, whose driver called DPS.
Lincoln arrived a short time later. She said even at that point, the temperature was still below 25 degrees.
“It was a lot of snow,” she said, noting that she left her car at the highway and hiked into where the teens were still huddled in their mired cars.
The group then hiked back out to the highway.
“It was over my knees walking out,” said Lincoln.
From the highway, Lincoln shuttled them down to the Long Valley Café, where they got warm blankets and hot food and help from the Blue Ridge Volunteer Fire Department.
Lincoln said she left the group there to wait on their parents — so she didn’t get to hear that stammered call of explanation.
So what were a bunch of teenagers doing camping on a closed road in light gear in a big snowstorm?
“I haven’t got a clue,” said Lincoln.