Rescued Hiker: 'I Thought I Was In A Big Dream' - KMSP-TV

Rescued Hiker: 'I Thought I Was In A Big Dream'

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Irvine, CA -

(FOX 11) Sitting in a wheelchair outside UC Irvine Hospital, Kyndall Jack described to reporters the harrowing experience she and her friend Nicolas Cendoya faced when they got lost in the Cleveland National Forest on Easter.

"I definitely gave up hope ... sometimes thought I wasn't going to make it," she said. "I honestly didn't even know I was missing, I didn't know I was gone, I didn't know anything was going on. I just thought I was in a big dream."

Jack said she fought off animals, ate dirt, and experienced extreme hallucinations.

"I was definitely hallucinating a lot," the 18-year-old said. "I thought I was being eaten by a python."

The two got lost after wandering off Holy Jim Trail, a popular path where the dangers of 720 square miles of rugged mountain wilderness run up against the planned communities and shopping malls of suburban southeast Orange County. She was found last Thursday, the fifth day missing, clinging to a rocky outcropping no bigger than a yoga mat on a near-vertical slope in the Orange County canyon.

Jack said she had "no idea" that they were missing, and that they "just wanted to go on a hike." As for why the two separated? "I didn't even know I was with Nicolas," she said.

Suffering from frost bite on her hand and scraped-up legs, she laughed when asked if the pair were dating.

"No (smiling) ... this was our second or third time hanging out," she replied.  

She went on to thank her rescuers, adding "I hope to get in contact with them and say thank you in person."

The hike started out well but things quickly went wrong when they left the trail, she recalled. "We just saw a good place and we were like, `Oh, we're just going to scale the mountain here," she said.
They realized as darkness fell that they were lost and nowhere near the mountaintop and Cendoya called 911 on his dying cell phone.

Listen: Hikers' 911 Call

In the call, he and Jack can be heard having a tense conversation as the operator tries to determine where exactly they are in the 720-square-mile national forest -- a vast wilderness that runs smack up against the suburban comforts of southeastern Orange County.
"Yeah, we wandered off the trail. We wandered off the trail," Cendoya told the operator. "I don't even know if we'll make it to the morning because we have no water."
Jack said Monday that she panicked after the call as the darkness surrounded them. She tried to climb a tree and use her lighter to provide a signal for rescuers, but she dropped it and then the pair had no light at all. She thinks she remembers fighting off some type of animal with Cendoya before the two began to slip in and out of consciousness -- but that, too, could have been a dream.
"I started to get like an anxiety attack and I started throwing up and I just lost it. I just went in and out of consciousness after the 911 call," she said.
"We just kept telling each other, `Don't close your eyes. Don't fall asleep,"' she said.
Jack vaguely remembers "scooting" down a steep embankment -- likely the cliff where she was found -- but she isn't sure when she did that and how she managed to cling to the rocks for so long.
The teen warned other hikers to pack more water and supplies and not stray off the trail.
She also said she'd like to thank two of her rescuers in person: The first reserve sheriff's deputy who reached her and the paramedic who airlifted her to safety in a harness.
Another Orange County reserve sheriff's deputy who participated in the rescue slipped and fell 10 feet, hitting his chest on a rock before falling another 50 feet and hitting his head. He suffered cuts to his head, a punctured lung, broken ribs and other injuries. He was released from intensive care over the weekend and upgraded to fair condition.

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