James Murray flew for the Air Mail Service from
1920 until 1927. In October 1920, while flying the Salt Lake
City, Utah to Cheyenne, Wyoming route, Murray found himself caught in a blinding snowstorm that struck while he was trying to traverse through mountains as high
as 12,000 feet.
Murray tried to slip through the Medicine Bow
mountains to Laramie Valley. He saw his chance to sneak through the weather and headed for a gap in the storm, but by the
time he reached it, the gap had closed in and was now a blinding
snowstorm ahead and behind him. Unable to turn around, he
continued flying into the white wall between his position
and Cheyenne. Occasionally, he could catch a glimpse of tree
tops as he flew, but little else.
Murray recalled, "I gradually climbed
the machine full engine, until it stalled. The treetops were
50 feet away. I cut switches and pancaked into treetops."
Murray crashed into the trees just as the sun was beginning
to set. Using that direction as a reference, he walked for
an hour in two feet of snow before giving up and hunkering down under a cedar tree for the night. The next
morning he continued his slow pace down the mountain and finally came across a road out of the forest. By
the time he found his way to help, he had spent eight hours
walking 14 miles.