A Huntington Beach woman and her dog were found alive Monday after being lost for about 72 hours in the wilderness near Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest, according to the Inyo County Sheriff’s Office. She and her family said she got lost while trying to hide from a man who threatened to rape her.
Search and rescue teams from across the state had combed the area since Sheryl Powell, 60, was reported missing Friday. She and her small dog, Miley, were found a couple of hours apart Monday near the Montenegro Springs area, about 2½ miles from their last known location.
Searchers described Powell as “resilient and strong but exhausted after being lost in an extremely remote area” east of Bishop, the Sheriff’s Office said in a statement.
Powell was met by an ambulance at the Bishop Airport and taken to a hospital for evaluation, authorities said.
“We are beyond grateful for the continued support from her family, local residents, visitors and the media,” the Sheriff’s Office said. “We also cannot thank our assisting agencies enough for their amazingly hard work in difficult terrain throughout this four-day search.”
Several agencies — including the California Highway Patrol’s aerial support team, using thermal imaging technology — participated in the search, covering land, air and water.
Powell’s son, Greg, said she was chased by a man with a knife who saw her and told her “if she didn’t give him what he wanted he was going to knife the dog.”
Powell avoided main roads for fear that the man would find and rape her, Greg Powell said. She was able to survive on stagnant water and cactus fruit until Miley’s barking alerted search crews to their location, her son said.
Authorities said they’re continuing to investigate the circumstances of the woman’s disappearance.
Sheryl Powell shared the account of the armed man with NBC’s “Today” show on Tuesday and added that she saw the search helicopters looking for her but could see them going in the wrong direction.
“I was a canyon over. I wasn’t even in the area they were searching at first,” she said. “That was disheartening.”
“Luckily I’m here,” she added. “I’m happy to be back with my family, happy to be here to tell my story. I didn’t know if I’d make it.”
Her husband, Joe, said she stayed warm at night by wrapping herself in unused doggie bags.
Powell was reported missing around 2 p.m. Friday by her husband, who told authorities that she had taken Miley, described as a Yorkipoo, for a bathroom break while he moved their Jeep at their remote campsite at Grandview Campground.
After parking the vehicle, Joe Powell said, he couldn’t find her or the dog and notified law enforcement after spending about an hour looking for them, the Sheriff’s Office said.
Police said Monday that multiple gullies, shale slopes, low shade, direct sun and rattlesnakes presented challenges in the search at the campground, which is at 8,600 feet elevation.
Powell’s daughter, Farrah, created a GoFundMe page to support the search effort and had raised more than $29,000 by Monday afternoon. She said the family intended to use the donations to help pay for additional rescue personnel and helicopter searches if authorities scaled back the operation.
The Powells did not immediately comment on what will happen with the money now that Sheryl has been found. A post on the GoFundMe page Monday said, “We are no longer accepting donations for this but we encourage anyone to donate to SAR [search and rescue] and to the search for other missing people.”
“Thank you so much, everyone, for the continued support, kind words and positive energy,” a post on the page said late Sunday.
Officials said Monday that Joe Powell was not a suspect in his wife’s disappearance.
“The family has been, and continues to be, extremely cooperative,” the Sheriff’s Office said in a Facebook post.
Farrah Powell said her father refused to leave the campsite after his wife disappeared and was “on the verge of breakdown.”
“They have been married for 42 years,” she said in a Facebook post. “They love each other, they love my brother and me and they love the outdoors.”
One of the couple’s friends, Lorie Geery, said, “I can’t imagine either one of them wanting to go through the rest of their life alone.”
Joe Powell told NBC that he and his wife will continue to camp but will arm themselves in case of an attack.
Daniel Langhorne is a contributor to Times Community News. Daily Pilot staff writer Luke Money and Los Angeles Times staff writer Alexa Díaz contributed to this report.
UPDATES: This article was originally published at 10:25 a.m. July 15 and was later updated with additional information.