Wade hiker survives 4 days in Utah wilderness

Posted April 29, 2012, at 5:05 p.m.
Last modified April 29, 2012, at 5:27 p.m.

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A Maine hiker has been rescued after spending four days in the remote southern Utah high desert with a broken leg and no shelter.

Victoria Grover, 59, of Wade, Maine, was recovering at a Cedar City hospital after being located by searchers Saturday in a rugged section of Dixie National Forest, north of the town of Escalante, Garfield County sheriff’s deputies said.

Grover set out on a short day hike Tuesday from Hell’s Backbone Road to Sand Creek but ended up spending the night in the desert after it became too dark for her to reach her car. She broke her leg the next morning while jumping off a 4-foot ledge.

Grover, an outdoors enthusiast and physician’s assistant, told rescuers that she survived by sleeping in shade during the day and staying awake at night. She relied on the creek for water, but had no food other than a few light snacks, deputies said.

Authorities were able to locate her through a rental car agreement found in her room at a guest ranch where she had stayed. The guest ranch notified the sheriff’s office when she failed to check out Thursday as scheduled.

“It’s truly a miraculous survival. If we hadn’t been able to find her car rental agreement to locate her car, we’d still be looking for her, and I feel certain she wouldn’t have survived much longer,” sheriff’s Deputy Ray Gardner said.

Grover suffered hypothermia after a cold front pushed overnight temperatures down to the low to mid-30s during her ordeal, said Mike Ahlstrom, a member of the sheriff’s search and rescue team. Daytime highs were in the 50s and low 60s.

She carried only minimal clothing, including a couple of long-sleeve shirts, a rain poncho and light long pants, Ahlstrom said.

A backpacker died of hypothermia in the same area after becoming stranded two years ago, Ahlstrom said.

“What a relief and how excited we were to find her alive,” Ahlstrom told The Associated Press. “She was in amazing condition for spending four days without food. She was in a tight little canyon and had shelter from the wind.”

Ahlstrom said while Grover had intended to do only about a 6-mile round-trip hike, it was challenging because it was on an unmarked, unmaintained trail over rugged, scenic terrain featuring slot canyons and pine- and juniper-covered ridges.

Ironically, Grover was revisiting country she first saw while taking a Brigham Young University survival school class 40 years ago.

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