FRESNO, Calif., Aug. 30 (UPI) — A 62-year-old hiker who went missing nine days ago in the Sierra National Forest was found alive Saturday, surviving more than a week on water alone.
Miyuki Harwood of Orangevale, Calif., was hungry with some broken bones, but otherwise in good condition, rescuers said. An experienced hiker, Harwood started the hike on Aug. 21 with a bottle with a water filter and a whistle, two items that later became crucial to her survival.
“She was really at the end of the time period when we thought she could survive,”Rusty Hotchkiss, a California Highway Patrol flight officer, said at a press conference Saturday.
Harwood, a systems analyst at Intel in Folsom, Calif., went camping with a group near Horsehead Lake, about 100 miles north of Fresno, when she took off on a solo day hike. After being reported missing the next day, the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office searched the area by land and the California Highway Patrol and the Army National Guard by air.
Hindered by thick smoke from a nearby wildfire, teams had a difficult time seeing any search areas. By the end of the search and rescue mission, rescuers from seven local counties, Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Park, Yosemite National Park and the California Rescue Dog Association joined in the search.
“The helicopter deployed 25-30 more search team members, two search dogs and supplies into the Sierra National Forest. The drone will be able to feed in real-time video images to ground personnel,” the sheriff’s office said on the fourth day of the search.
Early Saturday, Harwood heard rescuers and blew her whistle. She had injuries including broken bones, and was taken by helicopter to a local hospital.
“She basically crawled from where she was injured down to a creek,” Hotchkiss said. “It took her about two days to do that. And then she was able to drink from the creek with the water filter to stay alive.”
The area where Harwood was found was so remote some 50 searchers had to spend the night at the location.
“She was conscious, she was talking, she’s very, very grateful that she was found. She’s grateful to all of the people that helped look for her,” Fresno Sheriff Margaret Mims said after visiting Harwood in the hospital. “So we expect her condition to just improve as time goes by.”