A 72-year-old woman who got lost in the Arizona wilderness after her hybrid car ran out of fuel described how she survived for nine days while hoping to be rescued. Ann Charon Rodgers spent the days subsisting on plants, river water, rainwater and a turtle – drawing on skills she learned from survival classes and reading materials.
"I knew which plants I could eat and I knew most of them grew along water. That's why moving water was so important, besides which we needed water by then. And that's how I chose the plants to eat, to survive on," Rodgers said.
"I cooked the turtle over my campfire after I caught it because it was protein which I needed badly at that point. That was on my birthday... I ate [it] to give me some protein, boost, after all of the vegetarian stuff I'd been eating and the water I'd been drinking," she added.
Rodgers used sticks and rocks to fashion a "HELP" plea in a clearing, propping an animal skull next to it to draw attention. But, she said, her hopes flagged as the days went on.
"I finally decided that if I built a big enough fire with enough smoke, somebody up there in those airplanes and helicopters that were going back and forth over me would see it. No, didn't happen," she said.
"It gets difficult to maintain your hope. It gets difficult to feel so angry and frustrated that it's been going on for so long and you've done everything you can think of so that you can to get signals up there for help. So, yes, I felt down, and I felt angry. I was frustrated. But I knew there were people who cared enough to make sure somebody found me sometime out there."
Rodgers suffered from exposure but was reported to be in a fair condition when she and her dog were found by authorities on 9 April on a back country road on the Fort Apache Reservation. The Tucson resident was released from the hospital that evening and reunited with her family. Arizona Department of Public Safety trooper paramedic Tiffany Harold said Rodgers might have been found earlier if she had stayed in her car, which was spotted on 3 April.