PHOENIX — Karen Klein now knows the high price of not carrying survival supplies such as winter clothes, boots and food in her car. The mother walked 26 miles over a stretch of 36 hours in the snow with no snow boots and no cell service – and with only a small bag of cheerios to eat.
Klein’s ordeal began with a family vacation and ended with what authorities are calling a “Christmas miracle.” Klein, her husband and 10-year-old son became lost when their GPS device told them to take a Forest Service road near the North Rim of the Grand Canyon in Arizona. Their car, though, soon got stuck in the mud. Klein, a triathlete, volunteered to go and find help because her husband had recently been in an accident, NBC News reported.
The Kleins did not realize that the area was closed for the winter. When they found roads closed, the family followed GPS directions on a detour that got them lost.
“It was decided that there is a main road up ahead, and I have professional and recreational experience, a lifelong (experience) in the outdoors, so I said, ‘I’ll just go, I’ll just walk up to the main road, I can do this, I’m a runner,”’ she said.
Her hope was to flag down a passing vehicle for help, but the main road was closed for the winter. So she continued her trek, drinking melted snow and eating aspen and evergreen twigs.
At one point she pulled a muscle and then lost a shoe. She couldn’t move her leg and had to “physically pick it up and put it forward.”
“I could only move it 10 steps at a time,” she said.
Her desire to save her family kept her alive. She said she told herself, “I can’t leave my son without a mom. I’m can’t leave my husband without a wife. I’m not letting my parents bury me.”
She eventually broke into an empty residence where rescuers found her. During her walk, she refused to fall asleep, afraid she would die.
“I kept myself awake. I just talked to myself and rocked back to stay warm,” she said.
She does have some frostbitten toes but has not lost any yet, NBC News reported.
“In the grand scheme of things,” she said, “I keep thinking: ‘You know what? It’s a few toes. Don’t worry about it.'”
Ironically, her husband and son already had been rescued. After Klein did not come back soon, her husband and son walked in the opposite direction until they got enough cell service to call for help.
Klein said she and her husband could have done a better job in planning.
“As far as places being closed, we just didn’t realize that these roads were closed and these visitor centers were closed,” Klein said. “We didn’t investigate that deeply.”
Klein is now recovering at a hospital in Utah.
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