(NEW YORK) — A missing hiker who was found alive Monday, days after she vanished in a remote area of California where she says she fled from a knife-wielding man, tells ABC News she’s “thankful” to be home and reunited with her loved ones.
Sheryl Powell, 60, of Huntington Beach, California, and her husband, along with their small dog, arrived at the Grandview Campground in the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest area of the Inyo National Forest on Friday afternoon for a weekend camping trip. Sheryl Powell said she decided to take the dog for a walk and briefly explore the wilderness around them while her husband, Joseph Powell, parked their vehicle.
“Miley, my dog, and I went off together and never quite made it back as soon as I thought,” Sheryl Powell told ABC News’ Amy Robach in an interview with her family, which aired Tuesday on Good Morning America.
Suddenly, a man with a knife emerged from behind a tree and threatened Powell and her dog, she said.
“He had been observing me and it was scary,” she told ABC News. “If we made noise, if we yelled out, he was going to use [the knife] on us.”
Powell said she tried to be compliant until she had a chance to flee.
“I took off with my dog and we just ran in a different direction than I knew my husband was, because the guy was between me and my husband, so I went the other way,” she said. “I did what I had to.”
Powell said she ran as fast as she could until she was certain the man wasn’t following her.
“I just realized I wasn’t sure where I was because I had been running out of fear,” she added.
Joseph Powell said he started to become concerned as the minutes passed and his wife didn’t return. He screamed her name and desperately searched the wilderness around their campsite for 45 minutes until alerting authorities.
“I realized something was seriously wrong,” he told ABC News. “There’s no words to describe the horror I went through looking for her.”
The Inyo County Sheriff’s Office launched a search in the area for Powell and her dog. They spent four days combing through the mountainous terrain.
“Every day that went on got harder and harder,” the couple’s daughter, Farrah, told ABC News. “Each day, our hope was kind of dwindling and we tried to stay strong, but it was a very concerning situation.”
“It was definitely the lowest point we’d been,” the couple’s son, Greg, added. “It was just very scary for us.”
On Monday morning, a ground search team found the family’s dog alive, about 2.5 miles from Powell’s last known location, according to the Inyo County Sheriff’s Office. Miley had somehow gotten loose from her leash and was barking, leading searchers to her location, the family said.
Powell was found soon after near the Montenegro Springs area of Inyo County. The searchers described Powell as being “resilient and strong but exhausted after being lost in an extremely remote area above Big Pine,” the sheriff’s office said.
She was transported to a local hospital for medical clearance, and now, the woman and her dog are both doing well, despite their ordeal.
“It’s really strange and beautiful how that worked out, that Miley potentially was the savior here,” Joseph Powell told ABC News.
While stranded in the wilderness, Powell managed to find water to drink, ate a cactus and hiked at night to avoid getting dehydrated, her family told ABC News.
Powell said she remained focused on taking care of Miley and trying to get back to her family.
“I’m just thankful to be alive and back with my family,” she told ABC News. “I knew my husband was there waiting for me. So I was always determined to get back as soon as I could. I didn’t know it would be four days.”
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