On Friday, July 12, Sheryl and Joseph Powell, both 60-years-old from Huntington Beach, California, pulled off on a dirt road in the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest of California’s White Mountains, a remote range that divides the Golden State and Nevada.
After looking around for a few minutes, they agreed on a campsite. While Joe repositioned the vehicle, Sheryl and their four-pound, 12-year-old Yorkie Poo named Miley, stood under the shade of a tree.
Within five minutes of parking the car, Joe noticed Sheryl and Miley were gone. He searched the area, honked the horn, blew a whistle, and called for her, but didn’t hear anything. About 45 minutes after they first arrived at the campsite, he activated an emergency signal on a SPOT device and a multi-agency search was soon underway.
Joe knew something was off. There was no way she could have just gotten lost while setting up camp. A mountain lion attack seemed unlikely—it would have left a trace of something. Rattlesnakes don’t eat humans whole. She was not planning on going for a hike: she had no phone, food, or water.
Joe had the windows rolled up while he moved the car. Sheryl wandered close by, looking for a flat place to pitch the tent. She peed behind a tree.
According to Sheryl, a man appeared, made a sexual remark, and threatened her with a knife, grabbing her left wrist. She managed to wrestle free of his grip and run. She ran fast and far, carrying Miley under her arm. Not knowing if the man was chasing her, she chose to avoid the canyon she’d fled from and instead hiked cross-country with the intention of going back up the road to the camp. Sheryl soon realized she was lost.
Meanwhile, Sheryl’s children Greg, 29, and Farrah, 27, drove up to the area from their homes in Los Angeles and Santa Barbara, respectively. The family set up a GoFundMe on July 13 and raised $40,000. They wanted to use the funding to hire a private investigator. News trucks arrived (they are now in the process of issuing refunds). Psychics called. Posters were posted.
Days passed. Sheryl eventually found a spring with stagnant water. She worried about her family searching for her. She ate cactus and rationed a turkey treat for Miley that she was carrying. She’d seen helicopters, but they did not see her. She thought she needed to get to higher ground to be spotted. With the heat and her waning energy, Sheryl decided she needed to leave Miley behind.
She tied the dog to a tree near the spring; she planned to come back for her. On the afternoon of July 15, the search team heard Miley barking. A few hours later, they found Sheryl.
Sheryl was immediately taken to Northern Inyo Hospital and was treated for dehydration. She was discharged the same day and is expected to recover quickly.
“It’s a miracle—a miracle of all miracles,” said Joe.
Inyo County Sherrif’s department released the following statement: “We are asking that the public be on the lookout for anyone matching the following description: under 6 feet, 180 pounds, bald/shiny head, dark eyes, brown eyebrows, white male but with tanned skin, potentially with a Southern accent, around 50 years old, no visible tattoos, stocky, dark colored backpack, dark green button up shirt with long sleeves, dark colored pants, armed with a 6-8 inch bladed knife with a dark colored handle...
“This case is considered an open investigation - we are urging the public to report anything that might assist by calling 760-878-0383, option 4.”