LUCIN, Box Elder County – A Cache County couple spent a night stranded in the West Desert, north of the Great Salt Lake, after their truck became stuck in the mud. They were rescued by a Union Pacific maintenance crew and the Box Elder Search and Rescue team.

Lots of people have said there’s nothing to see in the West Desert of Box Elder County. For those who visit it, though, it’s more about what you feel.

“It is remote, but people just like to get away from it all,” said Chief Deputy Dale Ward with the Box Elder County Sheriff’s Office.

Ward said he enjoys his trips to the desert when he’s not working.

“Quite frankly, you get out in the west desert, you don’t have any cellphone coverage, so the phone can’t bother you,” he told KSL.

However, he said he also knows the lack of cellphone service can also be a problem.

“Above all, you need to understand that you probably aren’t going to have cell service in a lot of remote areas in Utah. You can’t rely on that cellphone to get you out of trouble,” said Ward.

This past weekend, a Logan couple decided to take a scenic route to Wendover through the West Desert but got stuck in the gooey salt flats Saturday near the Hogup Mountains.

Their cellphone didn’t work.

“They came down the East Hogup Road,” said Ward, while pointing to a map explaining where they were on the west side of the Great Salt Lake.

As Matthew and Abigail Adams continued to drive south, the conditions of the dirt road got worse because of washouts from flooding two years ago.

When their tires started spinning, they tried to put the pickup truck into four-wheel drive. However, the four-wheel drive didn’t engage.

“We tried to unstick the truck, but on salt flats by the Great Salt Lake you end up just getting stuck deeper,” Abigail Adams said in a written statement to KSL. “We hiked around for a little and realized we were in it for the long haul. We spent the night trying to dig the truck out with baseball bats and pieces of wood that we found. As the sun began to set we had to think of how to settle in for the night.”

The Adamses had some water, snacks and extra clothes to stay warm.

The next morning, they came up with a plan for Matthew to walk around and look for cellphone coverage.

“Being diabetic and with minimal resources, I figured staying put would be best,” said Abigail. “We also knew we were very far removed from civilization. We were hoping for a patch of cell service, a water spigot or a passerby along the way. He left at about 6 a.m. I covered the car windows to keep out of direct sunlight and waited. During this point, I searched for more firewood and things to burn. I tried engaging 4WD like it would magically start working and then waited for my husband, hoping we would be reunited and that we had not just said goodbye.”

Matthew walked nearly 10 miles but didn’t get find any cell coverage.

Nearly four and a half hours later, he returned to the car and they came up with another plan for him to walk another 2 miles to the Union Pacific Railroad line that ran across the Lucin Cutoff of the Great Salt Lake.

“Abigail took her lipstick and wrote help on this feed bag and then they attached it to an umbrella,” said Chief Deputy Ward.

The plan worked.

Even though he didn’t see any passing trains, two Union Pacific Railroad Maintenance workers saw him and helped the Adamses.

“They pulled us out and we went on our way. We met up with search and rescue near Kelton, they refilled our tires and gave us more water,” said Abigail. “The gentlemen at Union Pacific had given us their sandwiches, canned pears and plenty of water as soon as they came upon our camp. When Deputy Ward… offered me more, I was certainly not going to turn it down.”

Ward said the Adamses did everything right. They had some water, food and extra clothes.

Most importantly, they told friends and family where they were going, when they were expecting to get there, and the general route they were taking.

Even though they didn’t follow that exact route, it gave search and rescue teams a starting point.

“This one ended really well,” said Ward. “Often they don’t.”

The Adams family is back home and doing well.

“Here are a couple things I learned/realized,” Abigail wrote. “I am so thankful for my husband! We were both calm during the whole ordeal and our communication was very in sync. He worked so hard to get us out and did not let physical and mental exhaustion overtake him. 4WD is a good thing to check before getting stuck in the Salt Flats. I am glad I let my mom know our game plan before setting out. She mobilized the troops for us and had those utility workers not come by, Search and Rescue was not far behind. And one thing that is critical to survival? Always over pack water!”


Alex Cabrero, KSL TV

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