Paul Hanks hadn’t slipped in 45 years.
So the experienced hiker was in shock when he fell about 20 feet while “rock hopping” in southern California, breaking his pelvis and shattering his left heel, he told CBS Los Angeles.
The attorney was celebrating his birthday — his 54th — with a hike in Joshua Tree National Park on March 11, the news station reported. It was only supposed to be a half-day hike, according to Hanks.
But Hanks never checked into the hotel room he’d reserved for the evening, park officials said, reported the San Diego Tribune. His pickup truck was found at the Maze Loop parking lot, the same area where Joseph Orbeso and Rachel Nguyen’s car was discovered before their bodies were found last year, KSWB reported. The couple had gotten lost and died in a murder-suicide, the news station said.
After Hanks fell, he found himself alone in the desert, CBS Los Angeles reported. He’d taken only a couple energy packs and enough water to last a few hours, the news station said.
Hanks said he took shelter under a tree to sleep. But by nighttime he had run out of water, CBS Los Angeles said. So he had to be resourceful.
“By the very first night, I was drinking my own urine,” he told the news station. “I had drank all of the water in my bottle, and was refilling my bottle with my own urine.”
Hanks said he later fell a second time — about 15 feet — and hit his head. He ate cactus for food, the news station reported.
Meanwhile, park search and rescue teams were looking for him, the Desert Sun reported. It was rainy and cool at the park, spokesman George Land said, so rescuers were worried about hypothermia, KSWB reported.
With a fresh head injury and little to no sustenance, Hanks was drifting in and out of consciousness. But he couldn’t quit, he told CBS Los Angeles. “To quit out there is basically a death sentence,” he said.
He told the news station he thought he was dreaming when he heard voices on Thursday. It was the rescue crew, the Tribune reported.
“These three angels appeared out of nowhere, and I was shocked. I just couldn’t believe it,” he told CBS Los Angeles. “I don’t want to say I had given up. But multiple times, I had written myself off as dead, that I was never going to see another human being again.”
A helicopter took Hanks to the hospital, the Desert Sun reported. He’s expected to make a full recovery, CBS Los Angeles reported.