A Message In A Bottle Helped Rescue Stranded California Hikers, Now They’re Trying To Find The Bottle’s Finder

'We are stuck here @ the waterfall. Get help,' read the note.

a sealed bottle with a message inside
Alexas_Fotos / Pixabay

'We are stuck here @ the waterfall. Get help,' read the note.

A family of hikers who got stranded in the California woods wrote a message in a bottle as a last-ditch effort to get help, and miraculously, it worked, CNN reports. Now the family is trying to find the two hikers who found the bottle and alerted authorities, but then went on their way before they could be identified.

A Father’s Day Backpacking Trip Goes Wrong

Curtis Whitson, his girlfriend, and his 13-year-old son decided to take a multi-day hiking trip for Father’s Day weekend. Whitson and his family were veteran campers who knew what they were doing; indeed, Whitson says that he camps out in the central California coastal forests several times each summer.

However, even the most-experienced and best-prepared backpackers, hikers, and campers sometimes find themselves in over their heads, and after two uneventful days, Whitson and his family found themselves stuck. Specifically, they wound up at a narrows where a torrent of water was surrounded by rock walls 40 feet high on either side.

What’s more, they couldn’t get out the way they came, or any way at all. They were stuck.

“My heart sank when I realized the volume of water was just too dangerous to make rappelling down possible,” Whitson said.

A Message In A Bottle

Fortunately, the experienced campers didn’t panic. Instead, they hunkered down for the night. The family spread out a blue tarp in a clearing and assembled white rocks to spell out “SOS.”

As the sun set, they used a headlamp to keep that message illuminated so rescuers could see it.

And, in a last-ditch effort, Whitson carved the word “HELP” into a green water bottle he’d found lying around. Fortunately, his girlfriend had brought along some scrap paper and writing implements, for keeping score when they played games. Whitson wrote a message on a scrap of paper, sealed it up in the bottle, tossed it over the waterfall, and hoped for the best.

a message in a bottle
  Susanne Nilsson / Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0 Cropped, resized.)

Rescue

As it turned out, their plan worked! Just a few hours later, the family heard the sound of helicopters overhead, and before long, the California Highway Patrol was on the scene.

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“This is Search and Rescue. You have been found.”

The family was safe and sound a few hours later, no worse for wear.

According to Whitson, he was told by one of his rescuers that two hikers had found the bottle and brought it to the attention of authorities. Unfortunately, the hikers were gone before identifying themselves.

Whitson is asking the two hikers to come forward so he can thank them personally.

Sometimes stories of hiking rescues have a comedic element to them. For example, as reported by The Inquisitr, a rather large dog by the name of Kato was hiking with his family when he got tired and called it a day, refusing to move another inch even though he was about a mile from home. Unfortunately, Kato found himself caught in a wildfire, and it took the fire department to rescue the pooch.