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Stranded Family Rescued When Hiker Finds SOS Message In California Wilderness

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Hike through the canyon. Find the rope at the waterfall. Use the rope to climb down the waterfall. While these may sound like instructions in some swashbuckling adventure novel, these are actually the plans that Curtis Whitson had for his family. Whitson, his girlfriend, Krystal Ramirez, and Whitson’s 13-year-old son were all hiking along the Arroyo Seco River in Los Angeles, California. An exciting family outing quickly turned to a life-and-death situation when the trio found themselves stuck behind an unexpectedly powerful waterfall without a rope. Although they did not have phone service, they had a pen, paper, and a water bottle which they used to alert a helpful stranger.

No Way Out

The Arroyo Seco region is a very popular hiking destination for the residents and tourists of Los Angeles County. It wasn’t Whitson’s first time hiking in the region. In fact, he was familiar with the route he and his family had planned to take. There are canyons and waterfalls in this area of wilderness.

There is usually a rope at one of the smaller waterfalls that allows hikers to rappel off the canyon by traveling down the waterfall and back to level ground. When Whitson, his son, and his girlfriend got there, the canyon was much higher than they expected, the waterfall was much stronger, and there was no rope at all. It is not clear if the trio simply hiked to the wrong waterfall, if the waterfall is stronger at different times of the day, or if the rope was just gone. One thing was certain. There was no way to climb out of the tall canyon, and it would have meant certain death to try to go into the powerful waterfall.

A Message Of Hope

Whitson, Ramirez, and the 13-year-old were in a very dangerous situation. Their journey was only supposed to last for a few days. They didn’t have enough supplies to stay at that junction for an extended period of time, and, most worryingly, neither of them had phone service. They were stuck between a tall canyon and a torrent of water with no way to escape.

Fortunately, they did have a receipt from a restaurant they had eaten at days earlier. Using a pen and a water bottle, they wrote a distress message in the bottle. The message said, “6/15/19 We are stuck. We’re @ the waterfall. Get help please.” Whitson heaved the bottle over the waterfall, and the family hoped for the best.

A Thrilling Rescue

Although the message in the bottle gave them hope, they were still in a dangerous situation. There was no guarantee that the bottle would be found. What if it just got carried away by the stream of water? What if no one ever saw it? What if someone found it but didn’t think to read the paper inside the bottle? Fortunately, two other hikers found the message in the bottle. The river carried it less than a half-mile away. The hikers noticed the paper and they read it. Immediately, the authorities were contacted.

It took rescue crews a few hours to find the family. It was well into the night by the time they were found, and crews had to return the next day with the proper equipment to get them down. This story is certainly an amazing one, worthy of both a book and a movie. Strangely enough, Whitson himself is part of the reason it has gone viral. He has taken to social media because he wants to find the two hikers who alerted the authorities. So far, he has not been able to find the people who quite possibly saved his life.

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