A 72-year-old woman who was lost in the depths of the White Mountains of eastern Arizona wilderness with her dog for nine days was finally rescued after authorities spotted the sticks she had used to spell out the word “help” on the ground over the weekend.
On Tuesday, the elderly woman, who has been identified as Ann Charon Rodgers, said that it was her “wisdom and memories” that were her greatest allies during the nine days that she was missing. The fact that she was able to stay alive until she could be rescued is being attributed to her diet of pond water and wild plants.
The state Department of Public Safety and the Gila County Sheriff’s Office reported that they rescued Rodgers and her dog in the Arizona Canyon Creek area of the White River Indian Reservation. The two had been stranded since March 31 when Rodgers was on her way to visit her grandchildren in Phoenix but her hybrid car ran out of gas and electricity on the remote back country road. She attempted to get better cell phone reception by climbing several ridge lines to call for help but became disoriented and got lost.
Even though Ann and her dog Queenie got lost together, the authorities reported that the animal was rescued within six days of going missing but they were not so lucky with the 72-year-old. The search for the two of them did not begin in that area until April 3 when Rodgers’ abandoned car was discovered. By that time, the authorities had been searching for her for three days. The stretch of remote road that the car was found on is not one that is usually used to drive to Phoenix, and that fact is believed to be why there was such a delay in locating her.
During those nine days she was wandering in the Arizona wilderness, NBC News reported that Ann said both she and Queenie continued to look for a way out and seek help, trying her best to keep her spirits up.
“I just moved as fast as I could. If I couldn’t do that, I crawled. If I couldn’t do that, I sat on my butt and crawled.”
Rodgers also confessed that the possibility she might die in the Arizona wilderness crossed her mind a number of times, and there was even a point where she had accepted that she would die in that forest. The thought that there were worse places to die than “the most natural beautiful cathedral I have been in in a long time” was with her. However, she shook off the depressing thoughts vowing not to give up.
The struggle that authorities faced in trying to find Ann Rodgers was greatly alleviated when an aerial patrol spotted her distress signal of numerous sticks and rocks arranged to spell “HELP.” According to People, once rescuers were on the ground, Rodgers had already moved on from that area but had left a note explaining the condition she was in and that she was almost out of food and water and would be “proceeding down the canyon.”
Rescuers who were on foot followed the trail the elderly woman had left in the wilderness and eventually found her by a signal fire trying to get the attention of the still circling helicopter.
After she was rescued, Ann was airlifted from the Arizona wilderness to a hospital but aside from being treated for exposure, she was found to be healthy and was soon discharged.
“Old people are thought of as not always as able to do things as others, which is true in many ways. However, because we age, wisdom [and] memories become part of your knowledge base that help you survive.”
Rodgers has unequivocally stated that she most definitely still plans to go visit her grandchildren.
[Photo Courtesy of Arizona Department of Public Safety]