Lost hiker recalls 6 days in Joshua Tree National Park without food, water

Edward Rosenthal shows off the walking stick he says helped save his life while he was lost in Joshua Tree National Park for six days without food or water.
Edward Rosenthal shows off the walking stick he says helped save his life while he was lost in Joshua Tree National Park for six days without food or water. Corey Moore/KPCC

One Southern California man’s real-life tale of survival sounds like a scary movie — even though it played out more than a hundred miles away from Hollywood.

Call it “The Blair Witch Project” without the cameras.

Real estate agent Edward Rosenthal had to fend for himself for six days in the wilderness of Joshua Tree National Park. No food. No water. No direction.

His hike on September 24 had started off well...

“And the plan was to go on this short hike and then go back and take a nap," he said. " And I’ve done this hike five or six times with locals.”

But as Rosenthal finished up for the day and tried to return to his car, he realized he’d taken a wrong turn.
He wandered more than 20 miles under the hot sun, through scary canyons and over nasty tumbleweed hills.

At a downtown L.A. news conference, Rosenthal — an experienced hiker — recalled the strategies that helped him survive: writing messages to his family and friends on his hat, using a hiking stick to lift himself up, and strategically arranging six little antiseptic sheets.

“And they simulate moisture," Rosenthal said. "You feel like you have moisture. So it covered all my cuts on my leg and arm and everywhere. So those little towelettes... protecting me from infection, were really critical.”

While a volleyball boosted Tom Hanks’ spirits in the desert-island movie “Cast Away,” something else kept Rosenthal company while he was lost.

“It turned out I was very friendly with this horsefly," Rosenthal said as he chuckled. "That was my companion there. And he slept on me and hung out all day.”

As Rosenthal approached the brink of death, a rescue helicopter spotted him. By then he had lost 20 pounds and suffered from severe dehydration. Post-rescue, he can even joke about that part of his ordeal.

“I tried to drink urine. Forget it."

Water, Ed Rosenthal said, never tasted so good.

Rosenthal said he and his family will thank the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s search and rescue team by donating money and encouraging others to do the same.

blog comments powered by Disqus