California

'Nobody could hear me scream.' Injured hiker in Joshua Tree was trapped for days

Claire Nelson, a New Zealand native, went for a hike in Joshua Tree National Park on May 22 when she fell and was seriously injured. Responders found her four days later, on May 25, and she is recovering in a Palm Springs hospital.
Claire Nelson, a New Zealand native, went for a hike in Joshua Tree National Park on May 22 when she fell and was seriously injured. Responders found her four days later, on May 25, and she is recovering in a Palm Springs hospital.

While visiting the California desert in mid-May, Claire Nelson went for a hike in Joshua Tree National Park. Four days later, she left the park — injured and in a helicopter, after she was finally found by rescue teams.

"I nearly died this week," Nelson later tweeted.

Nelson told the Desert Sun that about two hours into her hike early in the morning on May 22, she sat on a large boulder, trying to find where she was on the trail. After she figured it out, she tried to get down from the boulder — but she fell, she tweeted.

Nelson tweeted that she landed on a rock and shattered her pelvis.

"I landed with a massive crack and my whole body filled with pain," she told the BBC.

Nelson tweeted that she couldn't move or sit up. She said that at night, she did her best to keep warm and tried not to panic about rattlesnakes.

Her water ran out by Wednesday, she said, and afterward, she kept hydrated by drinking her own urine, which she told the Sydney Morning Herald "tasted like really bad, flat beer — it is not pleasant, but it is not the worst thing."

She told the BBC that she split her day into small goals: The first half of the day, she screamed for help; the second half of the day, she tried to avoid the sun and getting heat stroke.

"I started telling myself, 'I'm going to survive the s--- out of this," she told the Desert Sun.

Nelson, who is originally from New Zealand but had been living in Canada, went to Joshua Tree to house-sit for some friends who were going out of town, the Desert Sun reported.

Nelson tweeted that her friends, who were in Morocco at the time, "sensed something was unusual" because Nelson had been offline. They called search-and-rescue teams on May 25 to report Nelson missing, according to Nelson's tweet and to a Facebook post by Joshua Tree National Park.

Nelson's mother, Maggie Hickton, told the New Zealand Herald that her daughter heard a helicopter overhead and put a T-shirt and her hat on a hiking stick and waved it around to signal them.

"That is what caught their eye," she told the Herald.

Nelson tweeted that one of the rescuers told her they wouldn't have found her if she hadn't made that flag and waved it around.

"Nobody could hear me scream," she tweeted. "I would have died by the weekend."

At that point, Nelson had spent four days and three nights in the desert.

"They said they were so used to finding people in a very bad way, and there's me, over the moon at being discovered," she told the BBC. "They were gobsmacked."

There was nowhere nearby to land the helicopter, the Desert Sun reported, so rescuers hiked in to reach her. She was hoisted onto the helicopter and flown to Desert Regional Medical Center in Palm Springs.

Since her ordeal, Nelson has been tweeting about her recovery process.

On the one-week anniversary of her fall, Nelson said she "must channel despondence into determination."



"IS THERE ANYTHING IN THE WORLD GREATER THAN A HOT SHOWER?????" reads one recent tweet.



Another tweet, from June 5, marks the two-week anniversary of her fall, when she "landed in a painful new reality."

Nelson's friends have started a GoFundMe with a goal of $30,000 to help with her medical expenses. In a tweet, Nelson said she was "speechless" at the funds people have raised to help her.

"All I can say is THANK YOU," she tweeted.

Nelson told the Desert Sun that she does plan to hike again, telling the paper: "I love being outdoors, it's where I feel most at ease, even now."

Authorities rescue by helicopter Michelle Powell, 27, of South Lake Tahoe, who was injured south of South Lake Tahoe on Sunday during a rock-climbing excursion.

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