Snowbound: The Jim and Jennifer Stolpa Story (1994) - full transcript

Two thousand miles from home, Jim and Jennifer Stolpa (with baby Clayton) lose their way and are stranded in an endless wilderness of deep snow, battling for survival against the elements. Using only meager supplies and resourcefulness, the young couple struggles to keep themselves and their infant son alive in a frozen shelter while awaiting rescue. Realizing they won't be found, Jim ultimately strikes out on a courageous 50-mile mission, determined to reach help and return to save his loved ones in this exciting and moving true story. - stop by if you're interested in the nutritional composition of food
(waves crashing)
(seagulls squawking)

(gentle music)

(gentle upbeat music)

Come on, let's jog to the car.

No way.

I feel like I just gave birth yesterday.

He was sleeping.

Whenever we're moving, never fails.

Merry first Christmas, Clayton Stolpa.

(Jim and Jennifer laughing)

You know every time we walk here

I think about the senior prom.

Yeah, we only spent like 15 minutes there

before we came here.

Are you sorry? (laughs)

I still say we should have worn matching tuxedos.

(Jim and Jennifer laughing)

I love my presents.

Yeah, me too.

I love you.

Come on, there's no one around.

I, I always think it'll sound funny.

I show it, don't I?


But saying it is a really nice way to show it.

(Clayton cries)

Oh, well, someone's showing hunger.

Come on, better get going.

If we're late, Mom will call 911.

I'm trying.

(gentle upbeat music)

(birds chirping)

(car door clicks)

Oh, Jimmy, Jen, thank God.

I saw that rain down south

and I was sure you had an accident.

(laughs) Mom.

Mom, we beat the rain.

We're exactly nine minutes late.

Merry Christmas.
Merry Christmas.

(Jim laughs)

You're late.
Oh, yeah.

We stopped at the beach on the way.

Reliving old times.

Merry Christmas.
Merry Christmas.

How you doing?

You look great.
Yeah, you too.

So does that baby.

You've grown another six inches.



Yes, yeah.
Hey, Clayton.

Look at that guy.

(Muriel cooing)

And there's my little half sister

who's grown at least seven inches.

Wait a minute.

Look what I got you for a Christmas present.

Well, he's big.



(dog barking)

Hey, Pooh.

Hey, Pooh.

Ooh, they grow up fast.

You'll see.

Oh, it's great to see you kids.


Come on, give me that.

(Kevin chattering)

(Jennifer laughing)

Come on, come on.
Pooh, come on.

Come on, Megan.

Get in there!

I can't believe how big he's getting.

Is he still nursing?

Down to once a day.

He's got two teeth now.



But we're still nursing and I'm just loving it.

(Jim laughs)

I am almost five now.

Gee, I thought it would remind you of Pooh.

Do the satellites you work with,

are they spy satellites?

Do they have giant cameras?

Uh, Megan, it's a secret.

Megan, would you please go get Jimmy

some more cider in the kitchen?

Great idea.

Here, thanks.

Thank you.
(Jim laughs)

Have you given any more thought

to coming to work with me?

Even on Christmas day there's sports on radio, TV, cable.

Sports promotion is a good business.

Well, that's definitely part of our master plan.

And uh, whatever it is I'm working on in the army,

it's excellent training.

My God, another one so soon.

She's just weaning this one.

Not that soon.

I'm not pregnant.

We're planning two, Mom.

We have it all worked out.

Jim, you've been 21 for two weeks.

Jen's even younger.

You're babies having babies.

Oh, Mom.

I know, but kids are a big responsibility.

We're aware of that.

But we're young, we're not, we're not crazy.

We're not irresponsible.

I didn't say that.
We like being parents

and raising children, why is that bad?

It isn't bad.

And I'm not talking about irresponsible.

So what's the problem?
Well, I just think

you're too, is anybody answering that phone?

I guess I am.

Never hurts to take some time to grow.

Put some money in the bank.

No harm smelling the roses.

We want a big family while we're still young.

This is roses to us.

In my experience babies and roses

don't smell quite the same.

James scores his second touchdown.

He's caught six balls for 119 years.


Mom, what?

That was Uncle Clay.

Grandma had a heart episode.

Whatever that is.

Does the doctor say it's serious?

No, but he said the same thing about Dad,

and before I got there he was gone.

I, I never had a chance to say goodbye.

Kevin, I gotta get to Idaho right away.

I'm so sorry about Christmas

but I just have be with her.
No, no, that's all right.

It's all right, it's all right, don't worry about it.

You'll, you'll get there tomorrow,

and she'll tell you that you worry too much,

the way she always does, okay?

It'll be okay.

Grandma was so proud of when I enlisted.

Maybe we should go with, with Ma and Kevin.

It's only a 14 hour drive to Pocatello.

Yeah, right.

I was in the army too, remember?

And no sergeant would give you a pass for that.

Ma's just such a worrier,

I feel like I should be there for her.

Kevin's there, he's great.

She'll be fine.

So much rain this winter.

Maybe it'll end the drought.

You doing your diary?

There's a lot to catch up on.

Finally have a peaceful moment.

Read it.

No way.
Come on, read it.

Just read a little bit.

No, too many secrets.

(Jennifer laughs)

(horn honking)

Do you think we're too young to be good parents?

I mean both our parents had us young

and their marriages blew up, both divorced.

We've got a tiny apartment, no money,

a car that barely runs.

Age and money have nothing to do with it.

It's about commitment and that word, that L word.

But if we don't give them the very best possible start,

are we hurting them?

I couldn't bear that.

(horn honking)

It'll be okay.

(gentle music)

(computer whirring)

(group chattering)

Private Stolpa.

Yes, Sergeant.


Work on that isolator.

(door clicks)

It's Stolpa.


Your mom just called from Idaho.

Grandma died.

I'm sorry.

Oh, no.

How's she taking it?
Not too well.

By the time she got to the hospital it was too late.

(sighs) Same as with her father.

The funeral's on Thursday.

Um, they'd like you to be a pallbearer, if we can go.

That's a thousand mile trip our car won't make it.

Well, Jason just showed up here.

Um, he wants to stay with us.

I could probably get him to lend us his truck.

Hold on.

My grandmother just died in Pocatello, Idaho,

uh, my mother's not doing too well.

I'd love to be with her.

Your shift ends at 7:00 am, solider,

after that take five days leave.

Thanks, Sergeant, I appreciate it.

Uh, yeah, uh, when I get home in the morning let's take off.

(birds chirping)
(traffic humming)

(horn honking)

(car door clicks)

Hi, I'll be right down.

(car door bangs)

(thunder rumbling)

Hey, Jason.

Hey, Jim.
How ya doing?

Not too bad.

Sorry about your grandmother.

Yeah, she was a great lady.

Listen, thanks for lending us the truck

and taking care of Pooh.

Oh, it's no problem really.


Sure you don't wanna change or sleep?

We shouldn't push it.

I'm fine.

I'll change when you drive.

(Clayton giggles)


Did you pack my dress uniform?


I promised Muriel we'd swing by their house

to pick up the dress clothes for the funeral.

Okay, and I've taken

my drums out and I've put in the mattress

that way you can take turns driving

and sleeping and beat the rain.

And I've got chains just in case there's any snow.

Oh, I forgot the other sleeping bag, I'll just go get it.

Just toss it down, huh?

He's so helpful 'cause he moved out of my dad's house.

He wants to move in with us.

(thunder rumbling)

We've got no room really.

Oh, well, we have to, he's family.

Jim, I know he's my brother

and I know how hard it can get living with my father,

even so with the baby and your work schedule-

We'll manage.

We'll, we'll put him on the couch, okay?

(rain pattering)

Ah, more rain, incredible.

Hey, yeah, right here.

Play with Pooh a lot, okay?

Got it.
And take in those clothes.

Hey, there's pizza-

In the fridge.
Happy New Year!

No parties please.

Have a good one.

(car engine revving)

Now the California Drought Center

reports that the before the seven year drought is over

we're going to have to see a lot more of those storms.

And here's one that's on its way, in fact-

No, we're just about to leave your house.

Yeah, we borrowed a truck.

It's reliable.

Of course we have chains.

She's my grandmother and I wanna pay my respects.

I know Jimmy, but she'd dead,

and you being here won't bring her back.

They say, "It's a really bad storm."

Mom, we're from Milwaukee, I know how to drive in snow.

If we leave now-

No, you can't drive through the mountains

in the dark in the snow. (crying)

My God, I don't wanna go to three more funerals.

Let me talk to him.

Jimmy, wait, wait for morning, okay?

Give 'em a chance to clear the roads.

You'll still be here early Wednesday.

Your mom never had a chance to say goodbye,

let's not upset her anymore.


All right, bye.

The seven year drought is over,

we're going to be seeing a lot more of those storms.

(gentle brooding music)

(birds chirping)

So this storm has dropped up to 20 inches of snow

in some areas of the Sierras.

Now as this storm moves off to the east

look what we have right behind it out over the Pacific.

Yet another major winter storm will drench the Bay Area.

The CHP Hotline says I-80 will be closed

through the mountains but will reopen

at noon with chains required.

If we leave now we'll be first in line when they open.


You don't wanna go?

Just wish we could afford to fly.

(Jim chuckles)

I know your mom's upset and you wanna be there for her,

I love that about you.

Just Kevin's there and even Muriel says, "Don't come."

And it might be tough on Clay.

Look Clay sleeps whenever the car's moving.

Jen, you and Clay are my family,

there's a problem we turn around.

But Mom's so upset I, I feel like

I need to be there for her.

I'm from Fresno not Milwaukee.

I've never driven in snow.

I don't even drive in the rain.

I'll drive in the snow, okay?

(truck engine roaring)

(dog barking)

(upbeat music)

(traffic humming)



(Clayton coughs)

(Clayton cooing)

♪ Standing alone and helpless ♪

♪ At the crossroads of my life ♪

♪ I looked around to the east and the west of me ♪

♪ No one passing by ♪

♪ Then I looked up to the heavens ♪

♪ And I saw a bright light shine ♪

♪ And something stirred inside of me ♪

♪ And I knew there would come a time ♪

♪ Only the stars can see forever ♪

♪ And I can see them smile when we're together ♪

♪ Well, someone else may swear their love is true ♪

♪ Only the stars can know the way that I love you ♪

♪ Bow-bow-bow ♪

(Jennifer laughs)

This is the only song we danced to at the prom.

(laughs) Remember Jason playing it

on the steel drums at our wedding?

♪ Heart could hardly ♪

Is that what he was playing?

(Jennifer laughs)

♪ When your love came my way ♪

♪ The best ♪


♪ And the thick and thin ♪

♪ Taking it day by day ♪

(Officer chattering)

All right, stop right there please.

Sorry, folks, the road over

at Donner Summit's closed until noon tomorrow.

But the hotline said, "It would open at noon today."

There's too much snow.

I'm afraid you'll have to turn back.

Is there another way?

We have to get to Idaho for a funeral.

I really don't know.

(police radio chattering)

(truck engine roaring)

Have a good day.

I got Clay's formula, subs, and sodas for us, and a map.

Now the man inside says, "The I-5 north is clear."

Whether you can then turn east

to get across the mountains nobody knows.

Hey, if the passes are closed

we'll be at least that much closer to Idaho,

but if we stay here until noon tomorrow

then we'll miss the funeral.

Well, what's the worst that could happen?

We have to spend a romantic night in the Country Inn

cuddling beside a roaring fire place.


(Clayton giggling)

(upbeat music)

(Clayton cooing)

Okay, S.

Did I say S already?

You said S.


T as in Tom.


I'd like to buy a vowel, Pat.

One T, okay.


An A.


(tires skidding)
(ominous music)

Jim, Jim.

You okay?

(gentle music)


Your chains are a real tight fit,

that's why I had to use the lift.

It should be fine.

Um, we're headed to Pocatello, Idaho.

Do you know if any of these mountain passes are open?

Well, these passes up here are clear.

Stay on 299 through Alturas, then get over to the 140

that joins up with I-80 at Winnemucca.

and you're looking pretty good.

Okay, wait, wait, 299 to, oh, okay the 140 to I-80.

Great, thanks.

Maybe we should call Mom

and let her know we're detoured and running late.

I wouldn't.

Remember how upset she got yesterday about us driving

through the mountains at night?

Yeah, that's right.

She'll stay up all night worrying.

Come on, kiddo.

(gentle music)

(tire thudding)

Oh, we just went through Cedar Pass.

Why are we stopped?

It's the last mountain.

Once we're beyond the mountains, I can take off the chains,

make better time.

It's the middle of nowhere.

There's someone.

It's not nowhere.

Look without the racket and the bumps

you'll be able to get some sleep.

(truck door bangs)

So we passed Cedarville almost an hour ago, so let's see.

Hey, we're in Nevada already, all right.

Hey, look only 20 more miles to Highway 140,

that's the road to Winnemucca.

We'll be in Pocatello for breakfast.

(gentle music)

(ominous music)

(truck thudding)

What was that?

Some snow drifted on the road.

We're okay.

(gentle brooding music)

We've gone way over a mile of snow, it's not plowed.

This can't be, this can't be,

we're on 299, a major road going to Route 140,

which is a major road.

It'll open up soon.

(truck clanging)

Come on, don't stop.

Don't stop.


(truck thuds)

(truck engine roaring)

I can't believe this.

(tires skidding)

(tires skidding)

(tires skidding)

This is major road, how can it not be plowed?


(truck door clicks)

(truck door bangs)
(ominous music)

(foot thuds)

Someone will come by.

(foot thudding)

Help us dig out when it's light.

Jim, Jim, Jim, let's wait for morning.

Someone will come by.

(truck door clicks)

(truck door bangs)

(window blowing)

(fingers scraping)



It's cold again.

(Clayton grunting)

Okay, come here.

Come on, honey.

Come on.

(starter whirring)

(truck engine roaring)

Three quarters a tank of gas.

We'll be warm until someone comes.

(hand tapping)

No tracks on the road except mine.

God, how could I let this happen?

How could I be so stupid?

You're not stupid, you're stubborn.

When you set your mind on doing something

you're not easy to stop.

(Clayton grunting)

When we get to Idaho we'll laugh about it.

(gentle brooding music)

Want some formula?

(truck door clicks)

Come on.

(truck door bangs)



(Clayton cooing)

Let's try it, okay?

(Jim panting)

Down here.

I'll reattach the chains, we can drive out.

(truck door clicks)

(truck door bangs)

(handle clicks)

(gate clicking)

Here hold this.

The tires got no traction on the ice

so I can't drive onto the chain.


The chain's too tight to fasten like this.

We're gonna have to jack up the wheel

so we can put the chain underneath the tire.


There's gotta be jack in here somewhere.

Check over there.

(Jim sighs)

(Jim scoffs)

(truck door clicks)

Hi, are you staying warm?

(Clayton cooing)

He's the best solider in the family.

(truck door bangs)

Jason, how can drive without a jack?

He doesn't need one.

He's not stupid enough to get stuck like this.

Why did I take the chains off?

How I get us stuck out here?

(fist thudding)

Jim, Jim, we both put us here.

You gave me chances to say stop and I never did.

You would have called your mother

if I hadn't said not to.

She and Kevin could tell the police exactly where we are.

Now they won't have a clue.

(gentle brooding music)

Your hands are so cold.

Your feet must be too.

Let's warm up inside, and try again later.

I gotta get us out of here, Jen.

Later when we're not freezing.

(air blowing)

They probably called while we were out last night.

I, I realize it's not that late

but, but they woulda called.

Well, that's the kind of kids they are.

That's why we're concerned.

I, I understand that.

Uh, uh, uh, all, all right.

All right.


According to the Idaho, Nevada,

and California highway patrols

they haven't been in an accident, arrested, or hospitalized.

They're, uh, they're just late.

So they won't even look for them?

Their procedure is to not even take a report

until someone's missing 72 hours.

They say, "They get lots of calls like this in bad storms."

Phone and power lines are down.

People pull into rest stops, and motels, or shelters.

Once the highways reopen people show up.

(Muriel sighs)

It's gonna snow for days.

(tires skidding)
(wind blowing)

(tires skidding)

(truck door clicks)

Okay, take the wheel.

(truck door bangs)

(chain clanging)

Okay, gently.


(truck engine roaring)

(Jim grunting)

(tires skidding)

Whoa, whoa!

Okay, uh, go in reverse.



(truck engine roaring)

Go, go, go, go!


We're making progress.

You okay?

(chain clangs)

(Clayton whimpering)
(chain clanging)

Okay, now ready?


(truck engine roaring)


Come on.

Come on.



(chain clangs)
(chain whooshing)

Don't stop!
Keep going.

Straighten out!

Turn into the skid!

Turn into the skid!

(brooding music)

(fist pound)

Now we're really stuck.

Jen, it's okay, you, you did your best.

We'll get some sleep tonight.

Try again tomorrow.

Well, the sign for 140 was two miles back, right?

So we know it's 18 miles ahead and it's a major road.

I could leave at first light tomorrow, walk the 18 miles,

flag down a car or truck and have help back here by dark.

18 miles in snow?

What about the last town we drove through?

Cedarville, it's like 40 miles back.

And that is a long walk.

I, I couldn't get help back here for two days.

Let's wait here together.

Mom and Kevin will worry, they'll search.

Not here.

We're way north.

We might not even have enough food to last

until someone comes to save us.

We have fruitcake, coconut cookies, and chips.

We can ration it.

It's Wednesday and that means

it's all you can eat night at Howie's Barbecue.

Steaks, burgers, chicken, ribs,

and Howie's giant salad and surf bar.

All you can eat, so what are you waiting for?

(button thuds)

Maybe Howie delivers.

I wish we had a car phone. (laughs)

Hello, Howie.

(Jennifer and Jim laughing)

Bring it all.

(Jim and Jennifer laughing)

(Clayton whimpering)

(Jim laughs)

How's his formula?

One can left.

If you've almost finished weaning him,

can he still get milk?

I don't know.

Might as well try.

Look we both had basic survival in bootcamp.

The rules are don't panic and stay together.

We need to stay together.

(brooding music)

Dear Diary, well, we're still stuck here.

At night while the motor runs for heat

we flash the headlights in Morse code

hoping someone will see our SOS.

Another storm has hit.

When it's not snowing the wind howls.

Walking is impossible.

We hope to hear on the radio about a search for us.

We're sorry we missed Grandma's funeral.

Our thoughts are with her.

We hope no one dwells on us too much on us missing.

We will get out of this.

We're just not sure how yet.

Tonight is New Year's Eve, big celebration.

We toasted with melted snow

and spent the night on the mattress in back.

(upbeat music)

No way.

(phone ringing)

Watch out, watch out.

Hand me the phone.

Happy New Year!

Uh, no, Jim and Jen won't be back 'til Sunday.

This is Jason.


Oh, Jennifer's brother.

Steel drums at the wedding.

Jason, this Kevin Mulligan, Jim's stepfather.

Have you heard from Jim or Jennifer?

Uh, no.

Weren't they supposed to be meeting you in Idaho?

They, they never arrived.

They haven't been seen since Tuesday morning.

We're on our way home to get a search started,

but now we're caught in Winnemucca by another storm.

Called there just in case they, they come home

and left a message on the machine.


I can't believe it.

They're just supposed to cruise up I-80.

I know, I know.
What is he saying?

Would your parents have heard from them?

No, they're both away for the holidays.

Look, do you know anything about the truck they borrowed?

Yeah, it's mine.

Two, one, Happy New Year!

(horn blowing)
(upbeat music)

(group cheering)

(door clicks)
(wind blowing)

It's a red Dodge Dakota pickup with a camper shell.

Here's the year, the license, the ID number.

I need your credit card numbers.

If they've gone for joy ride it may help us to locate them.

Officer, that's not-
What, no.

Hey, hi.

Happy New Year's. (laughs)

(police radio chattering)

(chuckles) Uh, can you hang on for a minute?

Yeah, thanks.

Jimmy was trying to get

to my mother's funeral in Pocatello.

Here's his picture, and this is his wife, Jennifer.

We think they tried another route

to Idaho when I-80 closed.

My wife is very upset.

If you knew Jim,

you'd know he'd try anything to be there for his mother.

All right.

I need you to sign there.

When will you begin the search?

On New Year's Day with everyone working

a snow emergency all week.


Look you're talking about hundreds of square miles

of practically empty terrain that they may be in.

What, what are you saying?

No search, no airplane, no helicopter?

Procedure is I log the report on the computer,

top brass is back on Monday,

and they'll evaluate the situation then.

We had to wait three days to file this,

now you're gonna bury it

until our kids are out there a week?


Our kids may be dying!


(police radio chattering)

(phone clicks)

Hi, sorry about that.

(gentle brooding music)

He's so helpless.

What if he doesn't get to see his first birthday?

I think my mom was right,

you know about being too young and irresponsible.

You said, "You could never bear to hurt a child,"

that's exactly what we're doing.

(Clayton grunts)

Oh, Jen, I'm so sorry.

Okay, listen.

Dear, Diary, May 12, 1990.

My senior prom, that supposedly momentous event in my life,

I stayed all of 15 minutes.

Somehow when Jim and I got there

we only wanted to spend time with each other.

We walked all night on Santa Rosarita Beach

talking mostly about our families,

neither of which is exactly "The Brady Bunch".

He said, "This corny quote from "The Godfather" movie

was his philosophy of life."

"A man who does not spend time with his family

can never be a real man."

His Brando is really bad. (laughing)

But what a father he would make.

Is that the way I should think about my best friend?

I wonder if you've never been in love before

how do you know how it feels?

I know how it feels now.

You're a wonderful father.

And we'll get out of this.

You should have never asked me to the prom.

I was afraid you wouldn't ask me.

I would have, eventually.

Can babies walk when they're one?

Some can.

Well, on Clay's first birthday if he can

let's take him for a walk on the beach, okay?


(wind blowing)

(starter buzzing)

(ominous music)

(starter buzzing)

(Jim grunting)

(engine whirring)

Oh, God, thank, God, heat.

We have heat, Clay.

Jen, we can't rely on the truck anymore.

Today may be our only chance to get help.

It's clearing up.

I know I can walk the 18 miles to 140,

and have help back here by dark.

No, we already discussed it.

Clay's got this much formula left.

We are almost out of food, Jen.

We're dying here.

So it's either sit here and die

or else try and save ourselves.

Then we're all going.

I can have help back here by dark.

There's enough gas.

What if you're late, and the truck won't start tonight?

We'll die here without heat.

I can walk 18 miles.

When I was outside trying to dig us out

I could feel my feet freezing.

When I walk I could get frostbite,

but you don't have to, you should stay.

There's enough gas to run the engine all night for heat.

A lot can happen to either of us.

Whatever happens I want it to happen together.

I wanna go with you.


(gentle brooding music)

Saturday, January 2nd.

To our families, if you are reading this we must be dead.

We tried so hard to make it to Idaho.

Obviously we picked the wrong way.

We had chains on but took them off

hoping we would get there sooner

and you wouldn't worry so much.

We didn't call you to tell you where we were.

Again, we thought you'd worry.

And you would have been right.

There's no excuse for us being stranded here,

just our own mistakes.

Maybe we are too young and irresponsible

because we are Clay's parents

and we got him into this mess.

(Clayton cooing)

And he does not deserve to die.

He is a wonderful, innocent child,

who we know will grow up to be a good man.

So God, please, you will not regret it

if you take us and spare him.

We are walking to Route 140.

It seems like the shortest, best way to reach help.

But if you're reading this we didn't make it.

We apologize a thousand times

for all the pain and worry we caused you.

We ask that you please don't grieve for us.

(truck door bangs)

We found true love with each other and Clay,

and how many people are lucky enough

to ever experience that?

Our last request is to Momma Mulligan,

please take in Pooh or find a good home for him.

And please bury us all together as a family

enclosing in our coffins a hand full of sand

from Santa Rosarita Beach.

(gentle dramatic music)

(wind blowing)

How ya doing?

Never better.

Is that all we've walked?

(Clayton crying)

He sleeps when we move and cries when we stop.

Oh, you got your hands out of the socks I used for mittens.

You're hungry aren't you?

(Clayton crying)

The last of the formula,

might as well use it before it freezes.

We left an hour ago, we've gotta pick up the pace.

How are your feet?

Cold, tingling.



Clay, honey, sorry to rush you but we gotta go.

(gentle brooding music)

(Jim grunting)

(dramatic music)

Hello, anybody home?

I'm on hold again.


I sliced the hotdogs your way.

Precisely down the middle.

Megan, you always go to Terri's to eat her hotdogs.

Please eat.

You're not.

(door bell ringing)

I know, sweetheart but I want you to.

Stay put, Muriel, this is what I'm here for.

(dog barking)

Okay, I'll tell you what,

you have piece, I'll have a piece.

(dog barks)

Pooh pig, Pooh.

Hi, I'm Jason.

I thought I'd see if I could help.

Yes, it is in the computer.

I know it's in your computer,

but the computer can't fly in the air to look for them.

Sir, we'll call you at this number when-

As soon as we-

I'll be here.

Thank you.
Thank you.

(phone thuds)

Still no search.

He says, "They'll see, procedure."

Here's their procedure watch football.

Sports, the opiate of the masses.

Oh, yeah, that's your thing.

I'm, I'm sorry.

(Kevin sighs)

As you can see we don't quite know

what we're doing here yet.

We need to light a really big bonfire under someone.

Maybe if I knew some cops.

(dog groaning)

Oh, for the love of.

Where's my head been?


Promotion, I can light a fire under anyone,

radio, TV, newspapers.

Damn if it wasn't a holiday weekend

we could, we'd rent a studio and do a video.

I could do a video right here.

I did the wedding.

Remember after the drum solo?

This one?

Well, it's possible,

but I know we've got better than that.

The wedding picture.

How about something in street clothes?

Oh, there's one.

That, that's possible.


We can use the baby.

(gentle music)

Baby lost in blizzard.

The kid's got the headline.

The press will go nuts.

Got another VCR?

And patch two of them together and we can edit.

In the other room.

We can up link your video from a TV station to a satellite

and beam it all over the west.

We are in business.

You got a computer?

Hold on.

Just hold on.

(gentle brooding music)
(wind blowing)

Jen, there's a sign.

How's Clay?

Still sleeping.

So which way?

I don't know.

This map doesn't show a Hell's Creek or a fork in the road.

Okay, we've been walking 10 hours, we must be almost there.

To the left there's nothing for two miles at least.

To the right it could be just over that hill.

Sign says, Hell's Creek to the right,

and there's no sign for 140,

maybe 140's not to the right, maybe it's left.

Look all I know is I can't go much farther

if we choose the wrong fork and don't reach 140 soon.

Let's do this we each go down a fork and dig to the surface.

Maybe one's just dirt

and then we'll know the other's the main road.

Good idea.

(gentle brooding music)

(snow crunching)

This way's dirt.


Lots of gravel.

(Clayton crying)


(Clayton crying)

Jen, there's no time.

But he's hungry.


Oh, his mittens.

Clay, Clay, please keep your mittens on.

His hands are so cold.

It'll be worse for him

if we get stuck out here in the dark.

If we go now he'll fall asleep.

I don't think he's getting any milk from me anyway.

Jen, we've got to pick a fork now.

A gravel road's better than dirt, isn't it?

So gravel must be the main road to 140.

Sounds good.

(gentle brooding music)

It's Kevin Mulligan.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, way too long.

Listen, I'm sorry to bother you at home.

I know I'm tearing you away from the game

but I need a favor.

I'm faxing something to your news department.

We're also buying satellite time,

and want your station to take our feed.

No, no, no, it's not promotion.

It's my kids, they're missing in the snow since Tuesday.

We're all locked onto the satellite.

Transmitting in five, four, three, two, one.

US Army Private James Stolpa, his wife, Jennifer,

and their infant son, Clayton

have been missing since Tuesday December 29th.

They were last seen leaving Castro Valley, California

driving a red 1988 Dodge Dakota pickup truck

with a black camper shell.

Their destination was Pocatello, Idaho.

If anybody has seen any of these people or this truck,

please call the Stolpa Rescue Hotline at 1-510-555-4341.

(gentle brooding music)

Just to the top of hill, Jen.

It's probably right over this hill.


We can't.

We gotta keep going.

I have to, please.

Shouldn't we be there by now?

Maybe we took the wrong way.

We didn't.


Shooting stars, do you see them?

Yeah, yeah.

Maybe it's a sign.

Go, please let it be a sign for us.

Do you see that?


It's 140.

It's gotta be 140.

We gotta get there, Jen.

If we rest we might not wake up.

Now before Clay cries, we can do it.

It is a sign.

He's watching over us.

(gentle upbeat music)

(Jim panting)

Last hill.


(both groan)

(Jennifer groans)

No more hills.

We made it.

I hurt so bad.

It's right down there.

I gotta check Clay.

I don't hear him.

Did he cry last night?


We were moving.

But he hasn't eaten since,

(ominous music)

and we're not moving now.

Why isn't he crying?

He hasn't eaten, he must be hungry.

He always cries when we stop moving.

He's sleeping.

What if he's not?

What if, what if we made it and he didn't?

Will you look?

Will you look?


Wait, no, not here.

No, I can't see.

Please, please.


(Clayton crying)
(gentle music)


Oh, my God, Clay, Clay.


Clay, I love you.

Hi, Mommy's gonna feed you.

(Clayton crying)

And we're all going down there.


And I'm gonna get you a real bottle.

Yeah, yeah.

I'm sorry, honey.

Shh, shh.

We're almost there, it's okay.


Jen, come here.

(Clayton crying)

Oh, it's okay.

(Clayton crying)

There's no road.


(dramatic music)

We took the wrong fork.

We're lost.

(wind blowing)
(brooding music)

It's so beautiful.

How can it be so beautiful?

What was that light we saw?

Where is it?

I don't know.

We have to go back.

The stars and lights were a sign.

He gave us a sign.

How could he send

us the wrong way?

How could he?

Our baby is dying.

Jen, stop it.

Look, it is not up to God, or Kevin,

or the police to rescue us,

we have to rescue ourselves.

We cannot panic, we've got to keep our wits.

If we do then no one is going to die, okay?

Jen, Jen, look at me.

Look at me, okay?

This is what being a mother and father is all about.

We brought our son into this world

and his life is in our hands.

Nobody owes us.

And we can save him together.

We can.

I just wanna quit.

I know I'll die but I don't care.

I care.

(Clayton crying)

Imagine me being in the army defending the USA.

You took point most of the night.

Follow you anywhere, solider.

(Jennifer yells)
(suspenseful music)




Clay's okay.
You okay?

Clay's okay.

He's okay.
Shh, shh.

You okay?

Here, come on.

(groans) I want to.

Come on.

But my feet won't go.

Okay, we'll, we'll stop and rest.

We'll find a place.

(Clayton cries)

Wait here.

I think I see a place, I'll check it out.

You okay?


Jim is in excellent shape.

He's a solider.

And Jennifer was a solider until last year.

We have every reason to believe they're still alive.

What are the police and highway patrol

doing to find your kids?


You can't mean nothing.

They have entered a missing persons report

on to their computer system.

In my opinion considering

the resources they have it's nothing.

Look, uh, can we go off the record a second

so I can be straight with you?


Cut video on it.

I'm cutting camera.

We're talking about hundreds

of square miles in the mountains.

It's going on six days.

We all know these kids can't last much longer.

And for the love of.

(gentle music)

I cannot get anyone to search.

Somebody hears this maybe we'll get some action.

Well, they're hear it.

Uh, Mr. Mulligan, if officials aren't helping

in the search for your kids

perhaps the millions of people in our viewing area can.

What can average citizens listening out there do?

(wind blowing)

(Jennifer grunting)



I'll covering the opening with the garment bag.

(Clayton crying)

I know.

Did you see a license number?

No, but the color was red.

Did you see any people?

Was anybody there?

And where exactly was the truck?

(group chattering)

Somebody saw the truck.

(wind blowing)

(lighter clicks)

Come on.

This will light it.

Clay needs it.

He's had the same diaper on for two days

and that's the last one.

That's my life.

Jen, if we can't start a fire

there's not gonna be a lot more to write about.

We can finish these and light the bag.

(Clayton crying)

Dump it out.

(paper tearing)

(lighter clicks)

All there is is this lousy brush.

I've gotta get more.


(gentle brooding music)


(Jim grunts)



It's clear.

You okay?


So what do we got here?

A red Dodge pickup stranded in snow on Route 6

approximately 10 miles north of Bishop.

Bishop, Bishop's way south of Reno.

That doesn't make sense.

To go south to then go north to Idaho.

Jim would drive to Idaho by way of Mexico if he had to.

I'll call CHP.

Steve call the local sheriff down there and check on this.

You got it.

Here take him.

I got him.

(Jennifer groans)

You okay?

I'm trying.

(Clayton crying)

Can you stand?

Help me.

Come on.

(Clayton crying)
(Jennifer groaning)

Here, here, we'll sit, we'll sit.

We'll sit.

I need more time.

I'm trying.

I know you are.

(gentle music)

Jen, I, I feel strong.

I think I should go and bring back help.

I think we're too lost to ever find 140.

The closest help we can be certain of

is all the way back in Cedarville.

I could follow our tracks back to the truck tonight.

By tomorrow night I can,

I can do the 40 miles to Cedarville.

I can have help back here by Wednesday.

And if we rest another day, just one more day,

I'll be better, I swear.

What if you're not?

We don't have any time left.

You promised you wouldn't leave me.

If you want me to stay I'll stay.

But if I leave for these three days I think we will live.

If I stay I think we'll die.

It's okay.

(Jennifer whimpering)

I know there's not much food

but you should keep it.

You gotta keep strong for Clay.

I'm not doing him any good.

Yes, you are, don't say that.

He slept so much last night.


Look you have got to keep yourself

and him alive until Wednesday.

You can do it.

Knowing that is what will keep me going, okay?

(Jennifer crying)

Come on, come on.

It's okay.


It's your birthday today.

Five months old.

Some party, huh? (laughs)

I promise when I come back on Wednesday

I'll bring a bottle for you, a humongous bottle.

You're gonna be the man around here for a while,

so just hold on.

And take care of your mom, okay?

(wind blowing)
(footsteps crunching)

I'll leave this shirt as a marker for when I come back.


Two days!

I'll be here.


Clay and are gonna make it.

I love you, Jimmy.

I love you too, Jen.

(gentle music)

(Jennifer crying)

He said it, Clay, out loud.

Hey, Jen!

On Clay's first birthday

we're still going for that walk on the beach, right?



Yes, we are.

(car door clicks)
(police radio chattering)

(man chattering)

(car door bangs)

Bringing fresh battery pack.

I'll try and get, uh, some footage

of the sheriff while he's coming in.

We've had calls from Auburn, Downieville,

even as far south as Bishop.

People have seen either them

or the truck.

We called the local sheriff's but not one has checked out.

Keep tracking those leads.

We need all the help we can get.

Lieutenant, we know these kids.

We know they're alive out there,

and they need all the help they can get

from people with helicopters and aircraft.

Mr. Mulligan, I pledge to you

we're going all out on this now,

but seven days is a long time to be stuck in the snow.

So why are you just starting to look?

(gentle brooding music)

(group chattering)

That's my smart girl.

(wind blowing)
(brooding music)

(metal thudding)
(birds chirping)

Are you starting to search yourself

because you thing CHP is just going through the motions?

CHP is doing a fine job now

but they need all the help anybody can give.

There's hundreds of square miles of mountains,

where are you gonna search?

Or are you just creating a photo op?

We'll put up posters everywhere,

talk to people who might have seen him.

Look, I'll use the phone,

I'll use this truck my buddy lent me,

I'll use anything I can to help find my kids.

That includes using you.

Is there something wrong with that?

(brooding music)
(wind blowing)

(snow crunching)

(Jennifer groaning)

(Jennifer crying)

(Jennifer crying)



(Clayton crying)

Okay, they've thawed.

(Clayton crying)

Frostbite, they've thawed.

(dramatic music)


Clay, Mom will be right there, Clay.


They'll freeze. (voice echoing)

(brooding music)

(gentle brooding music)

Mom's trying not to hurt you, okay?

She's just trying to feed you

like she's a mom bird and you're a baby bird, okay?

Take the water, Clay, please.

(Clayton grunts)

(water dripping)

(brooding music)

(wind howling)

(Jim panting)

(body thuds)

(Jim grunting)

(footsteps crunching)

(truck door clicks)

(truck door bangs)
(Jim shivering)

(key clicks)

All right, come on, heat.

(starter whirring)

(Jim grunting)

Come on.

Jim, it's Tuesday now.

The sun will be up soon.

We've almost made it half way until you come back.

(coyote howling)

I worry about falling asleep.

Maybe some animal will come in or maybe I won't wake up.

So I flick on the flashlight.

The coyotes sound so close.

I'd like to keep Clay awake too

just to be sure he's okay, but he's so tired.

I'm sure Kevin and Muriel are searching by now.

But I know there's not much time left.

I'm scared.

It hurts so bad, not my feet, they're frozen again.

It's seeing Clay like this.

♪ Only the stars can see forever ♪

♪ And I can see them smile ♪

(coyote howling)

♪ When we're together ♪

♪ Though someone else may swear their love is true ♪

(gentle music)

(brooding music)

(fire crackling)

They're on TV.

I see these kids about a week ago, uh, buying map,

asking about an alternate route across the mountains.


Listen, if you have no objection,

I'd like to leave a flyer here.

Thanks a lot.

Appreciate it.

They've been missing since last Tuesday.

Could you show this to friends, relatives,

anyone who might have seen 'em?

Another gas station, another diner,

another convenience store.

Anything to find their loved ones who have been missing

since last Tuesday.
Thank goodness.

If you have nay information-
Did they say

the phone number?
On the missing Stolpa family

please contact the Stolpa Hotline at 510-555-4341.

(phone ringing)

(group chattering)

Mommy, I want to see.

It was over, Megan.

Someone must have seen something.

We'll, we'll get a call.
Muriel, it's Kevin.

(car door clicks)

(birds chirping)




They ran Joe Tirado's report again on the noon news.

I don't know suddenly it seems so-

We know they're strong.

What about CHP?


They say, "There's a big storm coming

and they won't be able to fly much longer."

Muriel, I don't have anything new to feed the press today.

(brooding music)
(Jim panting)

Is this the first aid class? (voice echoing)

You are? (voice echoing)

'Cause, um, I'm new here too. (voice echoing)



You're not mad I wanted to leave the prom are you?

I don't know I just, I just like walking with you.

(body thuds)

To have and to hold from this day forward,

in sickness and health, to love and to cherish,

till death do us part.

(laughs) Oh, my God, he looks just like you.

He's so beautiful.

But Kevin's there and even Muriel says, "Don't come."

It might be tough on Clay.

(ominous music)

(coyote howling)

Stay away.

Shut up!

Stay away!




You're alive, Jen.


Jen, Jen, you're alive.


(brooding music)
(wind blowing)

(Jim panting)



Wait, wait, wait!






My wife and child are out there in the snow,

please help me.

They're dying.

I found him on the road.

I thought he was a cow off the range. (chuckles)

He says, "He's been in the wildlife preserve for eight days

and his wife and his baby are still there."

Have him?

The kid going to Idaho.

The whole world's looking for him.

Well, I'll be.

Get a hold of Doug Farley,

and bring the big loader with you.

We're going up there.

And, uh, call Cedarville, get an ambulance.


Okay, Don.

I got that.


Well, it's gonna take a few hours to reach 'em

even without a blizzard.

And we gotta get you to the hospital in Cedarville.

There's a blizzard coming?

This afternoon or tonight.

Well, then we gotta reach them now.

Isn't there a med, medevac, a helicopter, something fast?

Even if there was with a blizzard coming

they couldn't fly all the way up here.

Fella, you ain't flying to that.

But they're dying.

They're dying.

Yeah, well, doing the best we can.

Why don't you just sit on down here,

and show us on this map where they are.

Come on.

(brooding music)

(wind blowing)

You do know there's a blizzard coming.

Once we get 'em we still gotta get them to the hospital.

Well, you got a better way I'm all ears.

I'm going back.

I can go.

Listen, son, since Saturday

you've already walked 30 miles in deep snow.

It's an honest to God miracle you made it this far.

Yes, but I know the way.

I know I can make it.

There's a problem, we'll radio to you at the hospital.

In your condition you'd only slow us down.

Blue sweatshirt on Hell's Creek Road

on the ridge above in a cave?

A cave, yeah.

Listen, last night I heard Jen's voice.

I know she's alive.

I know they're both alive.


(phone ringing)

(phone beeps)


Yeah, Joe.

Jim's alive.


And, and Jen and the baby?


Yeah, oh, God bless you.

Thank you.

Cedarville bingo.

Northeast California, the Nevada border.

Way up there.

How's Jen and Clay?

I just got a call from Joe Tirado, got it off the wires,

the found Jimmy!

He's alive.

Oh, he's alive!

Jimmy's alive!

(group cheering)

Shh, I can't hear.

And, and, and Jen and the baby, how are they?

Well, the report only mentions Jim.

Well, Joe's trying to find out

but it's so isolated up there.

What now?

You take him to the closest hospital.


Cedarville, California.

We'll get there as fast as we can.

I'll ask CHP to fly you there too.

Muriel, I know, I know it sounds bad

but we both know Jimmy.

If he could possibly save them he would.

I'm gonna keep these phone lines open.

I love you.

I love you too.

He was alone.

They weren't with him.

(group chattering)

(tractor engine roaring)

(monitor beeping)

(dramatic music)

You have severe frostbite on both your feet.

You've been walking, son,

that may have kept the circulation going.

But we won't know for a few days.

Have they found Jen yet?

The sheriff knows.

He's waiting.

(group chattering)

Husband said, "He left Monday morning

and they were in pretty bad shape then."

It's too dangerous to fly a chopper up

from Reno in this weather.
Yeah, yeah.

You know if Patterson chooses the wrong port

he could lose ours.

Hi, Sheriff, are they okay?

Well, the rescue team hasn't found them yet.

If you could look at some maps for us.

What, they're lost?

Our problem is that there's two, three forks

branching off Hell's Creek Road.

See the fresh snow

has covered your tracks.

Do you know which fork you took?

I can't tell.

I, I shoulda gone, I know exactly where they are.

We, we have to go in after them.

There's no time, son.

It's snowing too hard.


Hi, I'm Rick Frazier.

I work in the wildlife refuge, I know the terrain.


Forget the map, just tell me about your walk

from the Hell's Creek sign.

Okay, turn right at the Hell's Creek Fork.

Right at Hell's Creek fork?
Yeah, that's correct.

To the right.

Now go up and over the ridge.


(wind blowing)

(ominous music)

(suspenseful music)

(tractor engine roaring)

It's there!

I see the sweatshirt!

Is anyone there?

Mrs. Stolpa?



He's all right.

Your husband's all right.

Your child, mam.

Where is your child?

It's okay.

Hey's dying.

(monitor beeping)

Is he all right?

The doctor gave him painkillers for his feet.

May I be beside him?


The doctor will be in after she examines your baby.

You okay?

(group chattering)

(gentle music)



My feet, I, I can't move 'em.

Mine too.

I'd be dead.

I know I'd be dead.

I don't know how but you made it.

Wednesday, just like you said.

I love you, Jimmy.

I love you so much.

You and Clay, that's all I thought about.

How you were so strong to have Clay.

How we're going for that walk on the beach on his birthday.

(Jennifer laughs)

In the cave

it got bad.

Clay, bad for Clay?


I tried to feed him, give him water, he stopped crying.

He barely made any sound at all.

But he's alive, they, they told me over over the radio.

The doctor's doing tests.

She, um, she and the paramedics were talking

about pneumonia, frostbite, starvation, dehydration.

(crying) Oh, God, he got so weak.


(Jennifer crying)

I'm sorry.

I'm so sorry.

Hey, you did the hard part.

You got him back here alive.

You brought us back together again, you, and me, and Clay.

(Jennifer whimpering)

It'll be okay, I know it.

I promise.

(door clicks)

Oh, there's my husband.

Thank you.
Okay, mam.


(group chattering)

(Muriel crying)

You okay?

Have you seen him?

Just got here through the snow ourselves.

Hi, honey.

(group chattering)

I'm Dr. Jorgenson.

Hello, Doctor.

Well, they've been

through quite an ordeal.

They'll be okay?

The baby is my most immediate concern.

We're running tests

and doing an a chest X-ray for possible pneumonia.

I shall have the results shortly.

And, and Jim and Jennifer?

They have suffered exposure, dehydration, starvation,

and they'll recover quickly and fully from those,

but their feet are far more worrisome.

They each have severe frostbite on both their feet.

Can we see them?

(door clicks)

Oh, my babies.

Thank, God.

Thank God, you're all right.

We're so sorry, we should have listened to you.

We should have never have gone.

We know you worry so much, if we just listened.

It was all my fault.

I mean the road was absolutely clear

and then there was so much snow.

None of that matters now.

Listen to me, the important thing is you're all right.

Well, we've run all our tests on him.

Your son is slightly dehydrated and has a bad diaper rash,

but other than that he's fine.

(gentle upbeat music)
(Nurse laughs)

You're okay.

He's okay.

He's alive.
Come here, Clayton.

Come here.

There's Mommy.

(Clayton coos)

(group laughing)

But he was so weak.

Babies are quite amazing.

Some innate defense mechanism slows their metabolism

and they live off their baby fat.

Considering all you've been through he is quite wonderful.

How you doing?

Do you remember you promised to feed him on Wednesday?

I remember.


Here we go.

Dear Diary, we're alive, and Clay's great.

Thank you, God, for overlooking the things I said,

for allowing me to write these words.

After one night in Cedarville we were transferred to Reno

for treatment of our frostbite.

And here there are reporters from all over the world,

like we're big stars, just because we got stuck in the snow.

(door clicks)
(group chattering)

Jennifer, Jim, how ya feeling?

Oh, okay.

Over and over, I thought we were gonna die,

but Jim promised to get us out of there and he did.

He's more than a hero to me.

(camera snaps)

I couldn't have picked anyone better.

(camera snaps)

(Clayton cooing)

Uh, Jim, Jennifer, what about your feet?

Does the possibility of losing them frighten you?

(water bubbling)

Sure, we're frightened, who wouldn't be?

But when you've almost lost your baby,

when the experts can't believe you're alive,

even if one or both of us never walks again,

we'll just face it together the way we did the snow

and be thankful we're still here.

Someone sent booties and mittens for Clay.

She says, "Sorry, they're a few weeks late."

(group laughing)

Hey, I thought you said

you were too old for stuffed animals?

I was, I brang him for you

since the real Pooh can't come to the hospital.

Oh, well.

(knuckles tapping)

Oh, hey, Doc.

Hi, Jim.

Jimmy, Jen, should we?

No, stay, we're a family, we should all hear this.

I'm afraid that the frostbite was just too severe.

In order to prevent infection, gangrene,

we're going to have to remove

between a quarter and third of each of your feet.

I'm really very sorry.

We talked about that risk when we left the truck.

Will we be able to walk again?

Well, there is a new surgical procedure

that involves taking muscle and tissue

from other parts of the body and using that

to reconstruct the foot.

We hope that that will give you the ability to walk.

But in the case of such severe frostbite

we can't be sure of a good result.

(birds chirping)

For months after the surgery

we were in wheelchairs or on crutches.

And all through our rehab and therapy

Jim insisted we would one day take Clay

for a walk on Santa Rosarita Beach.

That was the promise we made before he left us at the cave.

But I didn't have his strength.

I was afraid he would have to leave me behind again.

You see that sand over there?

That's where your mom and dad first came after the prom,

talked about you, and your brothers and sisters.

Jim, I'm not ready.

You go.

This time I'm not leaving you.

I'm never leaving you again.

(gentle inspiring music)

(Clayton cooing)

(Jennifer laughs)

(laughs) Ooh.

(Jim laughs)

There you go.

There we go.


(Jim laughing)
(Clayton cooing)

You all right?

Mm-hmm. (laughing)

Remember the last time we walked here at Christmas?


Oh, Jen,

I love you so much.

(Jennifer laughing)

(gentle upbeat music)


♪ Only the stars can see forever ♪

♪ I can see them smile when we're together, yeah ♪

♪ Someone else may swear ♪

♪ Their love is true ♪

♪ Only the stars can know the way that I love you ♪

♪ Only the stars can know the way that I love you ♪

♪ Only the stars ♪

♪ Only the stars ♪

(dramatic music)

(upbeat music)