The woman who went missing while hiking in California said Tuesday that she is lucky to be alive after she got lost fleeing a knife-wielding man who threatened her near her campsite in the remote White Mountains.
Sheryl Powell, 60, of Huntington Beach, California, was reported missing by her husband on Friday afternoon after she disappeared while taking her dog on a walk near the Grandview Campsite.
Rescue teams scoured the mountains over the weekend, searching for Powell by foot and air. On Monday morning, they found Powell’s dog, Miley. About two and a half hours later, authorities found Powell, who was brought to a local hospital suffering from dehydration and superficial injuries.
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Powell, an experienced hiker, said a "burly" man had confronted her while she was taking a bathroom break. According to Powell, the man said, "The first thing that's going to happen here, I'm going to use this knife on the dog, and then if you don't let me have my way with you, I'll use it on you."
Powell told NBC's "Today" on Tuesday morning that she was scared and acted "docile" in front of the man.
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But when she found the right moment, she ran away with her dog.
"He was pursuing me," Powell said, but after the first day, she was mostly focused on staying alive. "I had to concentrate on how to get through this."
Powell survived by eating cactus fruit and drinking water from a spring she found. "It was actually good tasting water," she remarked.
The days in the wilderness near the Nevada border were hot, but the nights were cold. Her husband, Joe Powell, said she stayed warm by wrapping herself in unused doggie bags.
Searching for her husband, Powell hiked at night, hoping to avoid the rattlesnakes.
Powell saw the search helicopters looking for her, but could see them going in the wrong direction. "I was a canyon over. I wasn’t even in the area they were searching at first,” Powell said. “That was disheartening.”
"She was starting to lose hope," her son, Greg Powell, said.
Now, Powell is home with her husband, children and dog, and thanking all those who looked for her.
“That was harrowing, luckily I’m here,” Powell said. “I’m happy to be back with my family, happy to be here to tell my story. I didn’t know if I’d make it.”
On Monday, Joe Powell said Sheryl’s return was “the happiest day of my life.”
The Inyo County Sheriff’s Office, which led the search efforts, said the department is “actively investigating the circumstances surrounding the disappearance” but has no further information or suspects at this time.
Joe Powell said that he and his wife will continue to camp, but that they are going to arm themselves in the future to protect from an attack.
He said the first thing his wife wanted after being found was “a cold kombucha.”