A hiker who endured four days with a broken leg and no food and shelter in the remote southern Utah high desert says her faith and medical background helped her pull through the ordeal.
Victoria Grover, 59, a physician assistant from Wade, Maine, was recovering in a Utah hospital after being rescued Saturday in a rugged section of Dixie National Forest, north of the town of Escalante.
Grover set out on a short day hike Tuesday from Hell's Backbone Road, and broke her leg on the return hike while jumping off a 4-foot ledge about two miles from the trailhead. She then holed up along a creek at an elevation of about 4,500 feet.
"I prayed a lot and derived comfort from it," the Mormon church member told reporters on Sunday. "I thought God would do everything possible to help me overcome my stupidity. I learned from my mother that things can always be worse."
Grover said while she experienced hunger and severe pain, the worst part of the ordeal was the boredom and freezing nighttime temperatures she confronted.
The veteran outdoor enthusiast survived by sleeping in shade during the day and staying awake while curled up in a poncho at night. The poncho helped save her life by serving as a wind breaker, she said, adding it was the only extra warm clothing she carried.
"The hunger is something that comes in waves. You get hungry and want to eat everything and then it goes away," Grover said. "The worst thing is the cold. It never warmed up except for a few hours in the afternoon."
By the final day, she was suffering from hypothermia after shivering uncontrollably for several days.
"The last night I stopped shivering and that's one of the early signs of hypothermia. The last night was the worst," Grover said.
A cold front pushed overnight temperatures to the low to mid 30s throughout most of her ordeal, said Mike Ahlstrom, a member of the Garfield County sheriff's search and rescue team. Daytime highs were in the 50s and low 60s.
A backpacker died of hypothermia in the same area after becoming stranded two years ago, Ahlstrom said.
"What a relief and how excited we were to find her alive," he told The Associated Press. "She was in amazing condition for spending four days without food."
Authorities were able to locate her through a rental car agreement found in her room at a guest ranch where she was staying. The establishment notified the sheriff's office when she failed to check out Thursday as scheduled. Grover didn't leave an itinerary of her hike behind.
While Grover had only intended to do about a six-mile roundtrip hike, Ahlstrom said, it was challenging because it was on an unmarked, unmaintained trail over rugged terrain featuring slot canyons and pine- and juniper-covered ridges.
Ironically, Grover was revisiting country she first saw while taking a Brigham Young University survival course 40 years ago. "I knew what I had to do to survive," she said, because of her outdoors and medical experience.
But the boredom was "incredible," and she played mind games and recited poetry to help pass the time until rescuers arrived.
Dr. Daniel Allen said he expects her to make a full recovery after she underwent surgery Saturday at Valley View Medical Center in Cedar City.
"I'm sure she'll be hiking again," Allen said, adding the fact she has diabetes had no impact whatsoever on her blood sugar or accident.
She finally enjoyed her first meal Saturday night.
"Before that, I was dreaming of oranges, which is one of my favorite foods," she said. "But there are people who can go for weeks and weeks without food in this world. We have it easy in America."