Hiking and backpacking is growing in popularity across the country. In fact, back in 2008, the number of hiking enthusiasts amounted to 29.23 million; by 2014, that number had grown to 39.05 million. But for one woman, a recent hike wasn’t for purposes of fitness or leisure — it was a matter of life or death.
Last Thursday, Karen Klein, her husband, and their 10-year old son were on vacation in Arizona, en route to the Grand Canyon. Realizing that the main roads to their destination were closed due to snow, the family relied on their GPS to find an alternate route that looked relatively safe. But after traveling on dirt roads for a while, their car got stuck in the mud.
In the middle of nowhere, and stuck without food or a cell phone signal, Klein decided to go look for help. She decided that since she was an avid hiker, trained in survival skills, and a fitness enthusiast, she would find the way to the main road and flag down a passing car for help.
Little did they know that all the main roads were closed because of a snow storm and there wasn’t a car to be found.
A few hours later, Klein found herself alone in the dark and far away from any road. She hiked for 11 hours before she eventually took shelter underneath an evergreen tree, rocking herself back and forth for warmth. To survive she ate aspen and evergreen twigs, and melted snow for water.
However, walking in the heavy snow for hours took its toll. In addition to losing a shoe, Klein also pulled a muscle in her hip and developed frostbite. The only way she could walk was by physically lifting her leg and moving it forward. She could take only 10 or so steps at a time before needing to rest.
After almost 36 hours and 26 miles, Klein came across an uninhabited lodge for park rangers, broke a window with her elbow, and went inside for warmth.
When she didn’t return to the car after a day, her husband and son walked in the opposite direction that Klein had, searching for a cell phone signal. Once they called for help, the search and rescue team found Klein in relatively good spirits in the lodge.
On average, a hiker weighing 155 pounds and climbing hills carrying 10 to 20 pounds will burn 528 calories an hour, while a 208-lb hiker will burn almost 700 calories an hour. Consider these numbers, multiply them by 36, and add the fact that she barely ate anything, and it is simply a miracle Klein has survived.
As of the date of publication, Klein is doing remarkably well and is nursing a couple frostbitten toes back to health. While she does regret not planning her trip out a little more in detail, she thanks her “motherly instinct” for getting her through one of the most horrible ordeals of her life.
Klein tells NBC that the only thing keeping her going was her “solutions-oriented” nature, and she remembers thinking “”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.”
A true Christmas miracle.
(photo: Karen Klein and her husband, CBS News)