Clifton Vial said he knew he was in trouble when his Toyota Tacoma came to rest in a snowdrift 40 miles from the nearest village. He was also aware that he was unprepared for what was to come, dressed in jeans, tennis shoes, and a lightweight coat he purchased from Sears, reports
the Alaska Daily News.
Vial, who admits he shouldn't have been on the road that night, said
, "I made an attempt at digging myself out and saw how badly I was stuck. I would have been frostbit before I ever got the thing out of there."
Unable to dig his way out or find service for his cellphone to summon help, the 52-year-old man waited in the vehicle looking for ways to keep warm until rescuers could find him.
Vial said his thoughts were on his only daughter and he knew that he had to figure out how to stay alive. He rationed the gas he had in the truck's tank, starting the engine at intervals throughout the night to provide some warmth in the cab of the pickup.
The Alaska resident said he usually travels with his two labs, extra gas, and other survival gear, but on this night he was alone and without provisions. He used a sleeping bag to stay warm and wrapped towels around his feet and legs. He used tissue paper stuffed in his shoes to provide additional insulation when temperatures dropped to 17 below in the Alaskan wilderness.
According to Vial, "the cold was worse than the hunger." He said
, "I scoured the pickup in vain for food," but he was only able to find a few cans of beer that had frozen solid. The unopened cans of beer that Vial found in his truck may be what saved his life. Vial said, "I ate the beers like cans of beans. I cut the lids off and dug it out with a knife."
When Vial, known to be a responsible employee who always reported to work on time, didn't arrive at his job, his co-workers notified authorities and the search began for the man. Vial said he was running out of gas by then and had decided to only start the truck at night.
After a night of dreams that were more like wild hallucinations Vial was rescued, ending the nearly four-day long ordeal. He was given a Snickers bar and an orange soda and taken to his home in Nome. The man said
, "he planned to visit the doctors on Friday, then return to work."
Vial's had no visible signs of frostbite, but said
he felts as if his legs had been beaten. He added that he was still very hungry,"I weighed myself last night and found I lost approximately 16 pounds" on his diet of frozen beer.