MARION FORKS, Ore. - Snowed in with $5,000 cash, 68-year-old Jerry William McDonald made the last of his 68 notes on the camp on "Horn Rd.' on April 15, 2011.
A Forest Service survey crew found him dead in a sleeping bag on Thursday, sheltered only by the canopy of a 1997 GMC pickup truck parked on a dirt road less than 4 miles from civilization.
An autopsy found McDonald died from hypothermia and starvation.
Linn County Sheriff Tim Mueller said detectives are investigating the death as that of a man who was stranded in a remote mountain area for nearly 70 days after his vehicle became stuck in snow in February.
No one reported him missing.
Mary Jane McDonald never met her brother-in-law Jerry. She married Jerry's older brother Gary, now 72, in 1995.
The family tried to reach Jerry when his mother was dying. They tried to reach him when his father was dying, to no avail.
She told KVAL News that Jerry was born in St. Helens. In addition to Gary, he has a younger sister and two sons from a former marriage.
McDonald's notes on his calendar suggest he arrived to camp on Feb. 7 after staying for about a week at "Kitson" on Highway 58. He notes passing through Eugene before arriving at "Horn Rd."
Notes about snow - "heavy snow" - start showing up.
The sheriff said March 2 shows this note: "Trapped, snowed in on 14th."
Until the snow melted, the road would have been impassable to cars and trucks. He was outfitted for the cold, and evidence suggests he built a fire, the sheriff said.
But there is no indication McDonald tried to walk out, the sheriff said. From where McDonald was found on Forest Road 517, a paved state highway was 3 miles away; the unincorporated community of Marion Forks was about 4 miles away.
The road Mr. McDonald was on is in a mountainous area of east Linn County and the way in or out would have been impassable once it snowed. There were no indications that he had attempted to walk out of the area.
He had apparently tried to get the truck unstuck by using a jack and placing rocks under the tires for traction. >>> See Photo
The pickup had about a quarter of a tank of gas and extra fuel for the truck. He had tire chains on all four tires.
McDonald had built a small fire and had clothing appropriate for the cold weather,the sheriff said.
He also had water, which he was collecting in buckets, and extra fuel for the pickup.
Detectives did not find any food with the vehicle or any equipment such as a GPS, cell phone or compass.
The body was taken to a funeral home in Albany.