Skip to main content

Wisconsin couple wrote farewell notes before Yellowstone rescue

  • Author:
  • Updated:

Mark and Kristine Wathke were initially optimistic they'd be rescued. But after a few days they weren't so sure. And on the fifth day they realized they were going to die.

In Cody, Wyoming, Tuesday the Cornell, Wisconsin, couple described the six days they spent snowbound on a mountain road in Yellowstone National Park. The Billings Gazette reported the details provided by the Wathkes.

They explained that they were just beginning their return trip to Wisconsin and entered the address of their hotel in a cellphone mapping application. It routed them onto a seasonal road that had closed in September, the Gazette reports. But the Wathkes say they saw no Road Closed sign.

Snow began falling and the road became impassable about an hour before sundown. The couple had food with them and allowed themselves half a sandwich and a few cookies per day. At night they huddled under all the clothes they'd brought on their week-long vacation to protect themselves from the below zero temperatures.

As the days wore on, the Wathkes say they began to lose hope. Finally on Sunday - the fifth day of their ordeal - they wrote goodbye letters to loved ones and recorded farewell messages on their cellphones, the Gazette reports. The following morning they were discovered by rancher Troy Barnett, who had set out on his snowmobile when he heard about the missing couple.

Word of their rescue was cheered by friends and family in Cornell, which is near Chippewa Falls, Wisc. KARE-11 reports a statement from the family hailed the rescue as a miracle. They also spoke to a friend who praised Barnett for finding them. "He went above and beyond what the search and rescue teams were doing," Shawn Beck told the station.

The Wathkes were scheduled to fly home to Wisconsin later Tuesday.

Next Up


Nicollet Mall's new Ties Lounge & Rooftop closes 'indefinitely'

The establishment aimed to reconnect the downtown community.

Screen Shot 2022-12-01 at 9.15.44 AM

Chinese restaurant closing after 50 years in Columbia Heights

The beloved family-owned restaurant will close Dec. 24.

Screen Shot 2022-12-01 at 9.43.40 AM

Kris Laudien leaving KARE 11 after four years on 'Sunrise'

KARE 11 announced the appointment of Jason Hackett to the morning show this week.


MN's COVID update for the week ending Tuesday, Nov. 29

There are now more than 570 people hospitalized with COVID-19 in Minnesota.


Twin Cities nurses to strike for 20 days starting Dec. 11

A strike in Duluth and Two Harbors doesn't have an end date set.


New owners to take over long-running Ely radio station

WELY will go off the air temporarily starting Thursday, pending the sale.

Screen Shot 2022-06-23 at 12.35.25 PM

Minneapolis man gets 10 years for death threats against Hennepin Co. employees

Peter Robert Berry, 60, was sentenced in U.S. District Court Wednesday.


Rural MN town to consider ordinance allowing lawsuits against abortion providers

Attorney General Keith Ellison said the ordinance would violate the state constitution.


Hope Breakfast Bar owners plan new location in Eagan

The Eagan restaurant plans feature an outdoor patio.

Screen Shot 2020-05-31 at 5.48.13 PM

Court approves $600K payment to protesters, restrictions on Minneapolis police

Each of the 12 protesters will receive $50,000 as a result.


Couple rescued by helicopter from flood

Water rushing over the Thomson Reservoir created flooding that prevented residents from leaving their homes in Thomson, Minn., southwest of Duluth. KARE 11 has dramatic video of a husband and wife being rescued by helicopter.

Wisconsin couple to compete on 'Amazing Race'

Maj. Dave Brown and his wife Rachel of Madison will be among 12 couples competing for $1 million on the CBS game show. Dave is a Wisconsin Army National Guard officer. He says his 16 years of service and deployments to Iraq should help with challenges. The 20th season of the "Amazing Race" debuts Sunday, February 19.