John Parker loved to go for long rides on his mountain bike, so friends didn't give it a second thought when he set off for the rugged hills of Griffith Park on Sunday.
But when he didn't return that night to the North Hollywood duplex he shares with Karin Mansson and her roommate, Shawna Hogan, the women knew something was wrong. Mansson called police Monday morning to report him missing.
"He'd just go on these real long bike rides for fun," but never overnight, Hogan said Friday as Parker, 39, remained in critical but stable condition at County-USC Medical Center.
Rescuers found him in steep, brushy terrain just before 10 a.m. Thursday, far from the nearest trail, after a jogger heard his cries and used her cell phone to call for help, a Los Angeles Fire Department representative said.
Parker was disoriented, dehydrated and suffering from a head wound, abrasions, contusions, puncture wounds and a possible broken left leg. He told rescuers he had been riding down a trail when he crashed his bike and fell down a steep slope, ripping through the thick, thorny brush.
He said he tried to crawl downhill in hopes of reaching a trail. He was about 500 yards from the nearest fire road when he was found, according to Jaime Moore, an assistant to the fire battalion chief who oversaw the rescue.
"It was a pretty unusual situation," Moore said. "We get quite a few rescues in Griffith Park because it's so big and because of the terrain. People get stranded all the time, but usually not so far away from a trail."
Parker's location made getting him out to a trail or fire road improbable, Moore said, so rescuers opted for a "technical" rescue.
At least two dozen Fire Department personnel from four stations, along with two Los Angeles park rangers, set about trying to reach the injured man from above and below. Some got as close as they could in a ranger's sport utility vehicle, then crawled up the slope, while a helicopter lowered a paramedic to the man.
Rescuers placed Parker in a basket and hoisted him into the helicopter, where paramedics flew with him to the hospital.
Hospital spokeswoman Adelaida De La Cerda said Friday that Parker was showing improvement. But until his condition improves to fair, only his family may see him, she said.
Moore said he did not expect that police or park rangers would investigate further, because there was "no indication he was doing anything wrong."
Parker's friend Hogan said he had moved here from New Jersey last year and was staying at the duplex while he looked for work.
Authorities did not identify the jogger who first heard Parker's cries for help and who stayed around long enough to direct rescuers to the spot where he lay. But Moore for one has no doubt about her role.
"The jogger saved that man's life," Moore said.
Times staff writer Denise Bonilla contributed to this report.