Unfortunately heavy rain and flooding in the fall prevented them from hiking out. On December 1 Coombs tried to hike out, but had to return after repeated effort to cross waist-deep and ice cold rushing streams frustrated his efforts.
The life of trappers was rough, and many died while working their traplines, but what is unique about the Vernon Lake story is that the trappers left a diary that chronicled, in detail, their last horrific months.
The pair’s food was critically low by Christmas, and they grew more and more desperate as they struggled to find enough to eat.
While they started off venturing from the cabin to hunt and fish, as they grew more and more weak they found it harder to catch any food. They resorted to luring warblers into their cabin with salt, shutting the door, and catching them. Eventually they were too weak to leave the cabin or even to split firewood.
On March 18 Coombs noted in the diary that Ryckman had died: “Dear mother, Jim died today at . This might be the last I’ll have nerve enough to write so if I do anything wrong, please forgive me. I can’t stick it any longer.”
In March 1940 worried family members chartered a plane to look for the men. After struggling with low cloud cover, a plane finally did touch down on April 1, and found an
When the Coroner arrived, he noted that the two men weighed only about fifty pounds each. One had ended his life with a gunshot.
In April 1940 newspapers across