Wisconsin couple wrote farewell notes before Yellowstone rescue

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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.

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