Miyuki Harwood survived on a daily liter of water and spent a few hours in the sun, warming herself after enduring cold nights with only a medium-weight jacket to protect her from the elements.
The Folsom woman, an experienced hiker who spent nine days lost and injured in Sierra National Forest, issued a written statement Tuesday recounting her ordeal.
Harwood, who was rescued Saturday, suffered a broken leg, broken ankle and a compression fracture to her spine, said Barb Hartwig, her sister-in-law. She remains in Community Regional Medical Center, where she was taken after being airlifted from the area of Courtright Reservoir. Hartwig described Harwood’s injuries as serious but not life-threatening.
In a video interview conducted Tuesday with members of the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office, Hartwig said Harwood is a very private person who does not like to have her photo taken. But Hartwig read her sister-in-law’s written account of her how she was injured and how she survived.
I kept blowing my whistle and answered their calls. When I first saw them, it was a miracle and I was emotional.
Miyuki Harwood, lost hiker, describing the arrival of rescuers
In the statement, Harwood, 62, said she was with a Sierra Club group that had been hiking together. They were in the sixth day of an eight-day trip and were on Black Cap Mountain.
“After summiting, I decided to start back to camp ahead of the group and I regret it,” Harwood said. “It was getting dark. I tried to get back to the campsite but fell off the cliff. I landed on both legs. I was conscious the whole time and wanting to get back to camp the next day. After I fell, my left leg hurt and I took my boots off and stayed overnight there.”
The next morning, Harwood said, she realized that she could not stand up on either leg. She saw helicopters flying overhead, but by the end of the day, the flights were halted due to smoke from a fire in the area.
“At the same time, my 1 liter water bottle was getting low,” Harwood said. “In order for me to survive, I knew I needed water and I heard water running below me. For the next two days, I crawled down to the water and luckily I had a water filter. I pumped 1 liter of water every day and drank it there.”
Harwood said she saw helicopters every day, but for a while they were far from where she was.
She slept on the ground with only a medium-weight jacket for warmth. It was cold at night, she said, and she would lie in the sun for a few hours each day.
Friday, she heard a rescue team in the area and she blew her whistle, but the searchers didn’t hear it.
“They were at a distance and kept calling my name and asking where I was,” Harwood said. “I kept blowing my whistle and answered their calls. When I first saw them, it was a miracle and I was emotional.”
Hartwig said she, along with Harwood’s brother who had flown in from Japan, were en route to the search command center Saturday when they received word that Harwood had been found.
“We knew if she could survive, she would,” Hartwig said, describing Harwood, a widow, as a strong person and an experienced hiker.
Harwood had surgery Saturday night on her broken left leg and faces additional surgery on the leg within the next few weeks, Hartwig said. Her right ankle also is broken and will be surgically repaired when she has surgery on her left leg. Hartwig said the back injury does not require surgery at this time.
Harwood will spend time in a rehabilitation center, and faces a long road to recovery, Hartwig said.
In her written statement, Harwood said she was doing OK and would like to concentrate on her recovery.
“I greatly appreciate the rescuers who found me and had not given up hope to find me,” she said. “Thank you to my family, friends, co-workers and the Sierra Club.”