An Arkansas woman has been rescued from Big Bend Ranch State Park after more than four days without food and water, 1200 WOAI news reports.
Mike Cox of Texas Parks and Wildlife says Katheline McFarland, 43, of North Little Rock was evacuated from a remote area by a U.S. Border Patrol helicopter after noon on Sunday and then taken by air ambulance to a hospital in El Paso. She is listed in fair condition this morning. Cox says she was suffering from dehydration and exposure.
The ordeal for McFarland and her husband, Ricky Lee McFarland, 58, began on Tuesday when they were kicked out of Big Bend National Park due to the government shutdown. A National Park ranger gave them a map of Big Bend Ranch, which is owned and operated by the state, and suggested they go there.
The 311,000 acre state park, which bills itself as 'the other side of nowhere,' is a popular destination for mountain hikers, off road vehicle enthusiasts, and campers. It is adjacent to the much larger National Park in the remote and rugged Big Bend area of southwest Texas, along the Rio Grande.
Cox says the map that the National Park ranger gave the couple was 'smaller scale' than they anticipated, and they ended up hiking much further than they anticipated on Wednesday, winding up 'lost, tired, and out of water.'
"They decided to spend the night on the high ground," Cox said. "At sunrise Thursday, they found the correct trail, but they lost it again. When they stopped at one point to rest, Mrs. McFarland removed a fanny park that contained food and forgot to pick it up when they moved on."
He says the couple washed their clothes in a spring, removing numerous cactus thorns from their clothing.
"Thursday night, the temperature dropped sharply,"
Cox said. "In their still wet clothing and with nothing to start a fire with, the McFarlands experienced some symptoms of hyperthermia."
After some more hiking on Friday, Mrs. McFarland told her husband that she was too tired to continue, and Ricky McFarland set out by himself to get help.
The sight of a reflection in the distance led McFarland to a truck parked on a park road. From there he was able to drive to park headquarters on Friday, but he and park officials could not locate his wife.
The Border Patrol, local sheriff's deputies, and state troopers were called in to search for the woman by land and air. Cox says at one point, more than three dozen people were involved in the search.
The woman was spotted by a park police officer using binoculars, and he directed other officers to clear the scene for the helicopter to land.
Much of west and southwest Texas experienced record low temperatures last week.