|An extended explanation of how I spent 20 hours trapped in Temescal Canyon
||[Feb. 25th, 2011|12:09 am]
We were in Temescal Canyon, a hiking area in the Santa Monica Mountains; we were hiking up a creek, climbing over rocks, trying to make it up the creek without getting our feet wet. It was a lot of fun at first, and great exercise. My friend who organized this ill-fated expedition was under the impression that if we kept following the creek we would eventually connect to a different path which would be easier to follow back down the mountain. We should have seen the signs -- we passed three bad omens as we reached the edge of what we now believe to be the reasonable edge of the hiking area.
Omen 1: A statue of the Virgin Mary which appeared to contain someone's ashes, sitting on a rock in the middle of the stream.
Omen 2: the femur of some animal floating in the creek.
Omen 3: a dead rat floating in the stream.
By the time we determined that there was no exit in distance, if any at all, we were already way too far from the bottom of the trail to make our way back. It got dark and we decided to use the last remaining light to find a safe place to spend the night. We were woefully ill-prepared, four out of five of us wearing shorts and t-shirts.
The sun went down around 7. We made our way back to a nice clearing that we'd found half an hour earlier, thinking it might be a decent place to spend the night. We piled leaves around ourselves and pressed close together, but we were so cold that we decided to try to trek back to the car in the dark.
We walked downstream and through brambles along the edge of the creek for three hours making slight progress with a failing flashlight, and finally we found a cozy nook in the rock wall a little bit away from the stream where we settled down and waited until sunrise at 6 am. Our sneakers and socks were soaked through and we spent the night sharing the three jackets we had between us and huddling together warming each others' feet in the hopes of fending off frostbite (it was 40 degrees out, so it was bad but it could have been worse). We passed the night talking and trying to keep our minds occupied. Every few minutes we'd take account of our level of coldness and discomfort and try to adjust ourselves accordingly. My extraordinarily kind friends allowed me to wear the warmest coat all night in exchange for rubbing their feet to maintain circulation.
None of us slept for more than five or ten minutes at a time, and then only by losing consciousness unintentionally. When the sun came up we pulled on our still soaking wet shoes and socks and stumbled down to the creek on rubbery legs. We did our best to walk back to the start of the trail through tall grass and brambles rather than over the rocks we'd climbed up over. We made it back down to the car around 10:30 am.
I swear I've never been so happy to see the sun as the moment it rose that morning, nor so happy to feel my toes as I was when I took my soaking wet shoes in the car and wiggled my toes. The truly amazing thing is how my body kicked into survival mode; I didn't cry the entire time we were on the hike and I didn't feel very hungry despite the fact that I had consumed less than a thousand calories that day. In typical Sara fashion, I already had a bad cough before the hike and I ended up going to the hospital with a fever of 102 a few hours later. To the best of my knowledge my four friends who were trapped with me are in much better condition than I am, though one of them messed up his ankle somewhere along the way.
I'm recovering now, though my legs are still covered in cuts and bruises from the brambles, razor grass, and rocks. I have a tick bite on my left breast, though I removed the tick myself within what I guess to be 12 hours. I spent four hours waiting at the emergency room and then five hours in the actual examining room with an IV fluid drip and a fluctuating fever. My chest was x-rayed and my teeth chattered the whole time that I stood in the x-ray room in my hospital gown. By the end of the night I had a sheet and four blankets on top of me. I was released at 3 am and went to bed around 4. My fever broke some time around 8 am though it came back once or twice during the day.
I've been reasonably well since about 6 pm and I'm hoping that my health will continue to improve from there. My mom arrived around 4 pm to take care of me. She's staying in my spare room. Thanks to all my friends who've helped me and offered to help or just expressed concern. Brian drove me to the hospital, and my mom's friend Susan came to the hospital and waited with me for 7 hours and drove me home. So many of my LA friends have checked in to see if I needed any help. That really means a lot considering I've only been out here for six months.
This was a terrifying experience and I'm still super freaked out whenever I feel even the slightest bit cold. I never expected this to be something I would ever experience.