RENO, Nev. – Searchers and family members are celebrating after finding a woman alive after she was lost in mountainous terrain near the California-Nevada border for four days.
Sheryl Powell disappeared from the Grandview campground in the White Mountains on Friday while taking her dog for a walk as her husband, Joseph Powell, prepared to set up camp.
Searchers worried Powell, 60, would struggle to survive in rugged terrain with no water, little shade and no cell phone signals to call for help.
Her family worried Powell could have been abducted while social media speculation centered on Joseph Powell, who investigators and the family were adamant had no connection to her disappearance.
After three dispiriting days the search hit a milestone late Monday morning when rescuers found the dog, Miley, alive about 2.5 miles from where Powell went missing.
Within a few hours rescuers reported finding Powell herself, alive but exhausted by the ordeal.
"Searchers describe her as resilient and strong but exhausted after being lost in an extremely remote area above Big Pine, (California)," the Inyo County Sheriff's Office reported in a Facebook post.
"We are beyond grateful for the continued support from her family, local residents, visitors, and the media. We also cannot thank our assisting agencies enough for their amazingly hard work in difficult terrain throughout this 4-day search."
Farrah Powell, a daughter who launched an online fundraising drive to help with the search and posted updates on Facebook, published a photo of the family together in a hospital room on Monday afternoon.
"This is the happiest day of our lives," the post stated. "We can’t thank everyone enough."
The site where the couple was preparing to camp is located at about 8,600 feet in elevation in a remote area with steep terrain, no water and very little shade.
“It is primarily a lot of rocky slopes and difficult shale type terrain,” said Carma Roper, a spokesperson for the Inyo County Sheriff’s Office.
The area also lacks cellular reception which adds to the difficulty of the search.
“That has definitely been one of the challenges,” Roper said.
What happened the day she disappeared
According to authorities, the couple from Huntington Beach, California, was preparing to make camp at around 2 p.m. when Sheryl Powell went missing.
The sheriff’s department said while Joseph Powell was positioning their Jeep, Sheryl Powell took the couple’s small, black-and-white dog, Miley, for a walk and didn’t return.
When Sheryl Powell and Miley didn’t return, Joseph Powell started looking for them. After about an hour he used a satellite messaging device to call for help, authorities stated.
Authorities described Sheryl Powell as an experienced outdoorswoman.
Hazards in the area include hot weather, lack of shade, steep, rocky terrain, venomous snakes, lack of water and difficult communication.
Searchers worked via helicopter and on foot along with help from search dogs.
A Facebook post from the Inyo Sheriff’s Department listed 14 agencies participating in the search.
'Mr. Powell had no connection' to wife's disappearance
Roper said that investigators quickly ruled out any connection between Joseph Powell and the disappearance, despite social media speculation that proved inaccurate.
“After thoroughly interviewing him they are confident in saying Mr. Powell had no connection,” Roper said. “We really want to eliminate that rumor.”
Facebook posts and an online fundraising page Farrah Powell said the family worried Sheryl Powell may have been abducted.
“We spent the entire day searching today as well but still no trace except the footprints she left at the campground,” the fundraising page states. “ … a major concern we have is in my mind there is a high likelihood of abduction which many rescue personnel are skeptical of.”
The page also highlighted a frustrating lack of clues, saying there's "still no trace (of Powell) except the footprints she left at the campground."
It also described the emotional strain on Joseph Powell, saying the couple has been married for 42 years.
"My parents have an extremely loving relationship and my dad (who has refused to leave the campsite) is on the verge of breakdown," the page stated.
Messages to the family sent from the Reno Gazette Journal via Facebook and the fundraising pages were not immediately returned.
Roper said authorities didn't rule out the possibility of abduction. But efforts focused on the search and their persistence paid off when they found Powell alive.
Follow Benjamin Spillman on Twitter: @ByBenSpillman
This article originally appeared on Reno Gazette Journal: Sheryl Powell found in California after woman went missing