ARIZONA – Ann Rodgers, 72, spelled out the word, “HELP” on the floor of a canyon. She included a handwritten note under one of the rocks, which explained her precarious situation.
Rodgers, who was reported missing back on March 31, wandered in the wilderness for nine days before helicopters spotted her clear-headed message, says the Huffington Post.
The grandma was driving from Tucson to Phoenix to see her grandchildren her car ran out of gas. She had also used up the charge in her hybrid vehicle. She tried to call for help, but couldn’t catch a signal.
— indianz.com (@indianz) April 13, 2016
She stayed inside the car the first night, where she was reasonably warm and had food and water. She had her dog, Queenie, and her cat, Nike, in the car with her.
The next day, she wandered off the road, climbing several ridges just trying to get a connection. She took Queenie with her, and left Nike in the car with some food and water.
After spending the night on the ridge, she realized she was in serious trouble.
— RT (@RT_com) April 13, 2016
“I realized I was in a situation that had to change very quickly.”
She and her dog risked being attacked by bears and possibly mountain lions, not to mention stumbling upon rattlesnake.
She said that she had a pair of binoculars with her, so she was able to spot the river, and so she hiked down to it.
She was carrying a lighter with her, so she was able to build signal fires and keep herself and her fur-babies warm at night.
— Dept. of Public Safety (@Arizona_DPS) April 13, 2016
Her dog, Queenie, was eating clover, and also scavenged the carcass of an elk. Rodgers said that Queenie was her “pathfinder,” showing her the best routes through even the thickest brush.
Rodgers herself has been doing survival training for many years.
Rodger’s car was discovered on the side of a remote road on April 3, thus beginning a multi-agency search. Among them were the Arizona department of public safety air rescue unit, White River Indian Reservation officials, and also the Tonto Rim search and rescue.
Besides multiple ground searches, two separate aerial searches were also involved.
— KVOA News 4 Tucson (@KVOA) April 13, 2016
During the first few days, officials weren’t able to find any tracks.
Gila County Sheriff’s Detective Johnny Holmes told The Guardian that around the sixth day, they were losing all hope of finding Rodgers alive.
“We were expecting the worst but hoping for the best at that point.”
On April 9, a group of hikers found tracks by the bed of a creek. They called for an aerial search, saying they thought Rodgers might have been close. The helicopters flew over the canyon and spotted the “HELP” sign she had created.
Holmes said that rescuers also found the note Rodgers had left under one of the rocks.
“The note said she had been without food for three days and that she was going to continue looking for a ranch and going down stream.”
Ground searchers found Rogers’ dog after that, and about 15 minutes later, the lost grandma was spotted from a helicopter.
Holmes called the rescue an absolute miracle.
“It’s a miracle on its own that she’s still here given she was out there that many days. The probabilities of finding her alive were really low.”
An NBC 12 reporter asked Rodgers if she felt like a miracle.
“No, what I feel like is a survivor.”
Rodgers handled her nine days very well, everything considered.
After rescue workers air lifted her to a hospital in Payson, she was released within mere hours. She is now back in her home in Tucson.
Nike the cat is doing just fine. Queenie the dog is doing just fine too, and finally “getting some meat back on her bones,” Rodgers said.
Holmes expressed his admiration for Rodgers’ resourcefulness. He has not met her, but he said that he hopes he will.
— The Mirror (@DailyMirror) April 13, 2016
“She’s an amazing person just from what I know from me dealing with the search on this end of it. I’d love to shake her hand one day.”
Rodgers said that her whole family was waiting in Payson when she was released from the hospital. She told Fox News she was looking forward to taking a shower.
Photo credit: Randy Andy, Shutterstock