MERLIN, Ore. – Search teams found clothing as they tracked a creek at the bottom of a rugged Oregon canyon Tuesday, looking for a San Francisco man who set out three days earlier seeking help for his stranded family.
James Kim, 35, remained missing a day after his wife and two daughters were found at their car, stuck in the snow on a remote road in the Coast Range.
Searchers Tuesday afternoon found a pair of pants matching the description of those Kim was wearing when he was last seen, said Lt. Gregg Hastings of the Oregon State Police.
"They determined that he went over the side of the road into the Big Windy Creek drainage area and that's when the two deputies from Jackson County went over the edge and they are tracking his footprints right now," Josephine County Undersheriff Brian Anderson told KLAS-TV in Las Vegas, Nev., on Tuesday morning.
Searchers also brought out rafts Tuesday morning to check the nearby Rogue River.
Search crews faced challenges, State Police Lt. Gregg Hastings said on CBS' "The Early Show."
"There are some cliffs they may have to go down to get down to the creek. And there's still snow and ice, cold temperature, but they've been out all night and they plan to be out all day. And their hope is to find him today," Hastings said.
Kim, a senior editor for CNET Networks, had left his wife and two young children in their frozen, snowbound car and set off into the wilderness to seek help, wearing only tennis shoes, a sweater and a jacket.
Overnight temperatures in the region have been in the mid 20s to mid 30s.
A helicopter crew spotted his wife, Kati Kim, 30, waving an umbrella Monday afternoon. She and her daughters Penelope, 4, and Sabine, 7 months, were flown to a hospital in Grants Pass.
They were in very good condition Tuesday and Sabine was expected to be released from the hospital, said Linda Rankin, vice president for patient care at Three Rivers Community Hospital.
Kati Kim might lose one toe because of the cold, her father, Dr. Phil Fleming, told The Associated Press on Tuesday as he and his wife, Sandy, awaited a flight to Oregon from Albuquerque, N.M. He said his daughter breast-fed the two children to keep them nourished during the ordeal and "the children are doing extraordinarily well."
"You think about a soldier being killed or an individual in a car accident, and you often time wonder how difficult that is," said Fleming, of Gallup, N.M. "But take a whole family and subject two kids to it — it's just unbearable."
The family said James Kim left the car stuck in the snow in southwestern Oregon at about 7:45 a.m. Saturday and walked back the way they had come to look for help, saying he would return by 1 p.m. if he found none.
His family said he had outdoor experience, and State Police Lt. Doug Ladd said there was "a very reasonable chance" that he is still alive. They said he had eaten berries in the area and didn't know if they were poisonous.
Before he left, the four huddled together as a family for warmth and ran the car at night until they ran out of gas. Officials said some of the tires were burned as signal fires in a vain attempt to attract attention.
"They did a good job. They are in remarkable shape for spending nine days out in the wilderness in this type weather conditions," Anderson said.
Searchers said the key to their discovery was a "ping" signal from the Kims' cell phone, even though the remote region is generally out of cell phone range.
The family saw friends in Portland on Nov. 25 and then headed toward home after a Thanksgiving trip to the Pacific Northwest. They were last spotted at a restaurant that same day, then never arrived at a lodge where they had reservations.
Authorities combed highways and byways using snow machines and helicopters, and checked hotels and resorts along the south coast.
Hastings said earlier that Kati Kim told a detective the family intended to take Oregon 42, the usual route from Interstate 5 to the south Oregon coast, but they missed the turnoff, found Bear Camp Road on the map and decided to take it instead of turning back. Their car was found 15 miles from Bear Camp Road.
The complicated network of roads in the area is commonly used by whitewater rafters on the Rogue River or as shortcuts to Gold Beach in the summer, but the roads are not plowed in winter.
As a senior editor for CNET in San Francisco, James Kim covers digital audio and co-hosts a weekly video podcast for the Crave gadgets blog on CNET. The couple also own two boutiques in San Francisco.
"We are extremely relieved that they have found Kati and the kids," said Sarah Cain, spokeswoman for CNET Networks Inc. "We are cautiously optimistic and hopeful that it will bring more good news about James and his family."