Claire Nelson, a journalist, and writer, recently published a book called “Things I Learned From Falling” in which she described a true and traumatic event in her life.
Specifically, Claire fell down a cliff while vacationing in California, severely injuring herself, which is why she spent three days trapped in the desert believing that she would die or that the coyotes would eat her. She even recorded a farewell message, but luckily she managed to survive.
As she wrote, the trip to California was her escape from London where she did a stressful job. She wanted to go on vacation to Toronto, but friends in California offered her to come to their house while they were traveling. Claire agreed. She planned to walk a lot and distance herself from civilization for some time.
I chose to go hiking on Tuesday at Joshua Tree National Park because I knew the trail would be empty. In the calendar below May 22nd, I wrote down my destination: Lost Palms Oasis. The night before, I had packed a few things: a sunblock, a t-shirt, boots, a camera, and painkillers. I put an avocado sandwich and one chocolate bar. I also brought enough water for the whole day.
The next morning she headed for the trail. She parked her car at the entrance to the park even then “she had some strange feeling as if something was going to be wrong”. Still, she embarked on a planned walk.
When I reached the park, I picked up a map from the visitor center and asked where the trail started. “Enjoy the hiking” the ranger called out when the gate closed. I didn’t know he might be the last person I’m talking to – Claire writes.
During the walk, she veered off the track, slipped and fell down a cliff.
– I remember very well the sound that came out when my body hit the ground. Sharp pain. I tried to get back on my feet but failed. My pelvis was broken. I pulled my backpack around, took out my phone, and tried to call an ambulance. My hands were shaking. I had no signal – says Claire.
She tried again to call for help but to no avail. In every way, she tried to catch the signal, without success.
My heart was beating in my chest. I was miles away. With every push of a button on my phone, my hope turned to fear.
I screamed out loud, “Help me! Please!” But the echo was disappearing among the rocks. All I could do was hope some hiker would find me, ”says Claire.
Realizing that she could use folders on her phone without the internet, she tried to find her location. A path appeared on the screen, a tiny dashed line in the vast expanse of nothingness. There was also that little blue spot away from the trail. At least a kilometer away from the main trail.
Cold drops of horror fell on my neck. I made a wrong turn. Then it dawned on me: no one would come. This is how I die. I screamed as loud as I could, several times at least. A hawk began to circle above me. I thought, “What if no one finds me until only bones are left of me?” says Claire.
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At that moment, she decided to record a video message on her phone. A farewell message.
This is the dumbest thing I’ve ever done. I’m very scared. I gotta get out of here somehow. Failing that, I just want to say I love you all.
The heat was becoming unbearable. She tried to protect herself by using a hiking stick to apply sunscreen to her feet, covering herself with a T-shirt she had brought and a paper map.
I imagined coyotes could smell my scent and run in my direction. That they will eat me. I collected my urine into an empty bottle so that the smell would not attract animals. The urine was dark in color and I was afraid it was due to internal bleeding. I laid on the ground thinking about my life, who I am, what are my regrets…
As the night descended, so did the cold. She wore only a vest and shorts.
“I’m not afraid of the dark, but I’m scared of what might be around me. Fear does crazy things to a man. The battery was draining on my phone. I screamed a few more times for help. I tried to stand up using a hiking stick, but it was too painful.
She welcomed the third night in the same place.
I woke up. I’m still alive. I spent three nights in the desert. I finally accepted that no one would find me here. But then I heard a sound … a helicopter .. they were looking for a missing mountaineer. I screamed as hard as I could, “I’m here!” But they could neither see nor hear me. The helicopter flew two more times before they saw me. I cried with happiness, relief, and realization: I’ll stay alive!
The alarm was raised by her friends.
I knew the only way to get out of that canyon alive was if someone noticed that I hadn’t communicated with anyone for a few days and checked where I was with my hosts. It happened. Several people noticed that I was not posting on Instagram. They started calling me and then some people came to the house I was staying in to check on me. There they found my calendar note: Lost Palms Oasis. Then the police found my car at the entrance to the park – Claire explained how she survived.
Doctors determined she had multiple pelvic fractures, a left ankle injury, and a fractured foot. Blood tests revealed that she had inflammation in her kidneys and muscle tissue. She spent 11 days in the hospital for the next four months in a wheelchair.