Ironically, this incident took place not far from where Becky and I and our two young children spent a year living a survival lifestyle that included time in a couple different caves and a wikiup. And knowing what I do about that country, I can verify that what happened to Victoria could easily happen to anyone in this desert wilderness.
At the end of her day of hiking, she headed back along the trail toward her car. But it was farther than she anticipated, and her pace was slow enough that she didn't make it back to the car before night overtook her. She wisely decided to camp for the night and continue the journey in the morning.
Victoria is a veteran outdoor enthusiast, but this situation caught her off guard and unprepared to spend the night. The only equipment she had with her was a rain poncho, so she used that as a wrap to help stave off the cold and wind of the desert night.
In the morning, Victoria continued her trek toward her vehicle. But when she jumped down from a 4-foot ledge, she landed wrong, hit her leg on a rock and broke the bone.
Working against the pain of her broken leg, she used her walking stick to fashion a splint that allowed her to crawl to a nearby creek for water. Hiking was out of the question now, so he spent the next three nights wrapped in her poncho, curled up to conserve her body heat against the brutal cold night winds. "The worst thing is the cold," she said. "It never warmed up except for a few hours in the afternoon."
Without anything to eat, her energy level waned, leaving her vulnerable to hypothermia. "The hunger is something that comes in waves," she said. "You get hungry and want to eat everything and then it goes away."
The hardest night for her was the last night before she was rescued. With her body core drained of warmth, and no ability to restoke the inner fire, hypothermia took its toll. "I certainly could have died out there because I had hypothermia and I stopped shivering."
Fortunately, the guest ranch where she was staying alerted authorities when Victoria failed to return from her hike. That was on Thursday. Police tracked down her car, but it wasn't until Sunday morning that they found her and took her to a hospital for treatment of the broken leg and hypothermia.
It was a happy ending that could have gone much worse, but being the rugged individual that she is, Victoria Grover says she has no plans to give up hiking. However, I'll bet this experience will change her approach to preparation for even a short day hike.
The lessons for us should be clear.
- Expect the unexpected.
- Prepare to survive unexpected nights alone in the wilderness, perhaps nursing an injury or enduring a sudden storm.
- Carry emergency shelter and first aid supplies, extra food, clothing, fire starting equipment and water.
- Leave a hike plan with trusted individuals who can initiate a search if you fail to return on schedule.
- Stick to your hike plan.
- Be prepared to signal for help, using multiple methods.