Victoria Grover, of Wade, Maine, set out last Tuesday for a six-mile day hike in Utah's Dixie National Forest. Two miles short of the trailhead on her return journey, Grover, described as a veteran outdoor enthusiast, jumped off a 4-foot ledge and broke her leg.
That accident turned her otherwise routine yet challenging hike in the remote Utah desert into a race for survival. Grover, who had only the clothes on her back and had not left a hiking itinerary behind with others, holed up along a creek at an elevation of about 4,500 feet, the Associated Press reported.
A physician's assistant, Grover made a splint from her walking stick and pulled herself to a nearby creek for water. She had hiked the same area nearly four decades before on a Brigham Young University survival course and said she used that experience, along with her Mormon faith, to keep her alive.
"I had faith that I would be found," she said. "I had faith that whatever happened would be OK."
A cold front pushed overnight area temperatures to the low to mid 30s each night of Grover's ordeal.
She said she slept in the shade during the day and used a poncho, the one piece of warm clothing she had with her, to stay as warm as she could.
"I certainly could have died out there because the last night I know I was very hypothermic because I stopped shivering," she said.
The hypothermia, and the boredom that came with spending days upon days alone, Grover said, were the two things that pushed her to the edge.
"The hunger is something that comes in waves. You get hungry and want to eat everything, and then it goes away," Grover told reporters. "The worst thing is the cold. It never warmed up except for a few hours in the afternoon."
Ironically, for a woman who set out on foot in the wilderness, it was Grover's reservation for a rental care left behind at the guest ranch where she was staying that likely saved her life.
The guest ranch notified the Sheriff's Office when she failed to check out Thursday as scheduled. Authorities found rental car paperwork in her room and were then able to track down her location using the car's GPS system.
Search and rescue teams and a helicopter patrol found Grover on Saturday and transported her to a hospital where she was treated for hypothermia and exposure and her broken leg.
"Her main issue was hypothermia," Dr. Daniel Allen, Grover's physician at the Valley View Medical Center in Cedar City, said. "She had minimal preparation … but she didn't give up. … She kept holding on."
Grover is expected to stay in the hospital for another two or three days, but doctors said she would make a full recovery.
"I am tremendously grateful to be here," Grover said. "I'm particularly grateful to the Sheriff's Department, to the deputies in Garfield County and the volunteers that came out to find me."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.