FRESNO, Calif. (AP) — A hiker missing for nine days in California's Sierra Nevada with broken legs and forced to endure freezing temperatures at night said Tuesday that she regretted her decision to leave her group of backpackers.
Miyuki Harwood released a one-page letter from her hospital bed, saying that she shouldn't have attempted to return to her base camp alone as it was getting dark. The decision led her to fall off a cliff, landing on both feet and breaking her left leg, right ankle and causing a compression in her back. After the fall, Harwood took off her boots and stayed in place overnight.
"The next morning I realized that I could not stand up with either leg," said the 62-year-old Folsom woman.
Harwood was nearing the end of an eight-day backpacking trip with the Sierra Club when she was injured. Harwood described how she crawled for two days to a stream for drinking water. She had a little food, but she did not eat for the entire time. She slept in her hiking pants and a down jacket.
"It was very cold at night," she said, adding that she lay in the daytime sun for warmth.
Harwood could see search helicopters above, and eight days after being hurt, she heard rescuers' voices. She blew her whistle, but they didn't hear her. The next day, Harwood said she again heard them and blew her whistle.
"I thought this was the last chance to do something for me to survive," she said. They heard the whistle and called out her name.
Authorities released Harwood's letter and video clips of her sister-in-law Barb Hartwig of Minnesota, who spoke for the recovering woman. Hartwig said Harwood is a widow of 10 years yet independent. In June, she hiked the Grand Canyon alone. She is also a private person who does not like to have her picture taken.
Harwood underwent one surgery and expects more in a long recovery. Her injuries were not life-threatening.
"She does not like to be in the limelight," Hartwig said. "She just wants to concentrate on getting better and healing up."