Three Sacramento City College students who were presumed missing for 18 hours Friday night into Saturday returned home safely after being stranded in the mountains.
"This was the moment right before we got stuck,” said Adam Wong, pointing to a picture on his cell phone.
It was a trip Wong and his friends, Sabian Castalia and Francesca Conkling, will never forget. It’s one from which he almost didn’t make it home.
"I did have the possibility in my mind that we weren't going to make it off that mountain,” said Wong.
The group was on their way from Sacramento to Humboldt State University to visit friends Friday night.
About 240 miles into their journey on State Route 299, a road was blocked west of the Trinity County town of Big Bar due to a mudslide.
So, they re-routed on a small road through the Shasta Trinity National Forest.
"The car hit an ice hole and immediately got stuck,” said Wong.
They tried for about an hour to push their Prius out. No luck. They were stranded. Less than a quarter tank of gas, a few cookies and half of one water bottle would be all they'd have to get through the night.
"My phone was dead. My friends’ phones had no service, we couldn't even dial 911,” said Wong. “…I started thinking about my family, started thinking about my friends, my pets, [my] house, [my] home. Like just the simple things, a hot bowl of soup, a hot bowl of pho."
Wong waited until the sun came up and went for help. He says he hiked four miles until finally seeing a house. He asked to use the phone, where he called for a tow truck. The driver, however, wouldn’t risk taking his truck to the group’s stranded car for fear it might also get stuck in the terrain, given the road conditions.
So Wong hiked back to his friends. He'd been gone nearly six hours.
"Meanwhile my friends were crying, when I get back they're like 'we thought you left us,'” said Wong.
Back home, friends and family hadn’t heard from the group for 18 hours. Panic set it. A number of people sent alerts out on social media about the group Saturday, including City Councilwoman and former mayoral candidate Angelique Ashby.
But Saturday afternoon, the sun started to melt some of the ice in the Big Bar area. Exhausted, the group tried one last time to free the car. The effort worked. A few hours later, they were home.
"It was a lot of angry love. 'What are you doing up there!' 'Why did you put us through so much emotions?'” said Wong, smiling, remembering his family’s reaction to his return.
He doesn’t regret the experience, adding it put the important things in his life into perspective.