A 16-year-old girl who spent 54 hours in Golden Ears Provincial Park by herself after becoming separated from her hiking group, credits her cadet skills and faith for finding her own way out.
In a letter sent to her volleyball group written by Esther Wang, who disappeared during a hike with her youth group on June 27, she said she wanted to clear up any questions about what happened the day she went missing.
The Langley teen explained that she headed out for the hike along with three others, including one adult along Golden Ears Trail.
Wang described the terrain as “very challenging”, steep, and with a lot of rocks and bushes. After reaching the Golden Ears Viewpoint, the group started their descent.
“I tried to be as careful as possible making my way down,” explained Wang, noting that she was never “lagging behind the group”, only about two metres away.
However, as she was concentrating on the trail, she didn’t notice her group making a turn and she turned the wrong way on a different path.
When she realized her mistake she attempted to retrace her steps, but tripped and fell, reaching, she said, a flatter part of the mountain.
At this point, she said she was “scared and lonely”.
“I curled into a ball and I tried to stay as calm as possible.”
That evening, Wang said she could hear whistles and noises, but could not figure out where they were coming from.
As it was getting dark, she decided to find water.
She trekked until she reached a river to refill her water bottles and slept on some rocks nearby.
Wang woke up at around 1 a.m. and could see spotlights overhead.
“I tried to flash my headlight towards the spotlights, however, they did not notice my desperate plea for help,” said Wang, adding that although she was filled with hopelessness and fear, she knew she could not give up.
Early the following morning she tried to climb up the same mountain to find the trail again, but was unsuccessful. Deciding to go downwards instead, she said she slipped and hit her head on some rocks, but, thankfully did not lose consciousness.
Again she heard noises, this time barking sounds, and could again see a yellow helicopter overhead, but could not get anyone’s attention.
She climbed to the top of a second peak for the second night. It was the morning of the second day that she remembered she took photos on her digital camera and recognized a snowy peak that she could use as a landmark. Once found, she began to retrace her steps, finally coming upon a gravel path by a river, and pink tape in some trees.
Wang eventually came upon a sign giving directions to Hiker’s Beach and to the Gold Creek Parking Lot, where Wang could follow the path. She said she exited the path in the parking lot at about 9:15 p.m. and immediately recognized her parents and ran towards them.
Search and Rescue teams from across the province took part in the search, including those from Mission, Coquitlam, Central Fraser Valley, Kent Harrison, the North Shore, Lions Bay, Hope, Squamish, Whistler, Pemberton, South Fraser, Chilliwack, Kamloops, Comox Valley and Campbell River. More than 130 volunteers took park, said Ridge Meadows Search and Rescue, with additional support from Talon Helicopters and a police drone.
Wang was assessed by B.C. ambulance at the scene and released to her family the same evening, noted the head of the Ridge Meadows RCMP detachment Wendy Mehat at a press conference.
In her letter Wang acknowledged survival skills she learned from the Air Cadet program may have saved her life.
She thanked the various Search and Rescue teams, the Ridge Meadows RCMP and the Salvation Army for providing food for the volunteers during the rescue operation. She thanked her family and friends, most notably the 746 Lightning Hawk Squadron and her volleyball community whom, she said, kept her in their prayers and thoughts – along with the public and the church community.
“God made a way for me to come home,” said Wang.
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