No matter who you are or what you do for a living, everyone loves a vacation. The type of trip you take comes down to personal preference, though; while your partner might like going on an adventurous backpacking excursion, relaxing at the beach might be more what you’re trying to get down with. Yet, no matter how perfect that next getaway seems, there’s always a chance things can go wrong.

That’s exactly what happened to a woman from California who went on a weekend-long camping trip and ended up lost in the wilderness. Her harrowing tale has a lesson that every hiker who hits the trail — or traveler in general — needs to hear.

As a nature-loving 60-year-old, Sheryl Powell was in heaven. Living in Huntington Beach, California, gave her the best of both worlds: the ocean was within earshot and forests and lakes were a short drive east. Little did she know that paradise was about to get dangerous.

Inyo County Sheriff’s Office

Sheryl and her husband, Joe, decided to take a trip somewhere different. They headed northeast towards the Nevada border. Driving past Death Valley and the Sequoia National Forest, they came to the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest.

The area is home to some of the oldest trees in the world, which twist skyward from the rocks. It’s also known for being a secluded and surreal pocket of nature. That made it the perfect spot for the couple to go camping.

Everything was coming together. The pair beat Los Angeles’ infamous traffic, made it to the park, and found the ideal spot to settle down. But then Sheryl mentioned that she had to get out of the car.


The couple brought their small dog with them and, after driving for several hours, it was time for her bathroom break. Sheryl took her for a quick walk as her husband re-positioned the car.

CBS San Francisco

When he returned minutes later however, something was strange. Sheryl and the dog were nowhere to be found. Surly they couldn’t have gone too far that quickly. So Joe began to look around.

Inyo County Sheriff’s Office

He spent an hour searching the area where he had last seen his wife. There were no clues; he was stumped. Joe returned to the campsite and decided he only had one choice left.

Inyo County Sheriff’s Office

Joe got out the emergency satellite phone and called for help. If he couldn’t find his wife, maybe trained professionals would have a better chance than he did. If nothing else, it was worth a shot.

A missing hiker will always generate a swift response, but this case was something different. Sheryl had instantly vanished from right behind her husband’s back within feet of their campsite. Something worse might be afoot, so time was of the essence.

Inyo County Sheriff’s Office

Before long, helicopters were circling overhead. Search crews with jeeps combed the underbrush while dogs sniffed for any sign of Sheryl or her pet. Despite those efforts, days began passed without any signs of life.

Inyo County Sheriff’s Office

They still couldn’t find any clues. Hope started to wane. Sheryl was somewhere out there in the baking sun without supplies; she was at risk of heat stroke, dehydration and snake bites. Her family began to develop a new theory, however.

California DFC

They suspected that Sheryl had been abducted. She wouldn’t have willingly wandered away from the campsite; her dog also had a bad leg, so it wouldn’t have led her away either. Someone or something had to have taken her.


Four days after the disappearance, rescue teams were searching approximately two-and-a-half miles from the campsite. Morale was running low, but they heard something out of place in the wilderness that gave them hope.

Inyo County Sheriff’s Office

Searchers found a small barking dog that matched the description of Sheryl’s dog, Miley. If she was still alive, maybe her owner was somewhere nearby! With cautious optimism, the team kept pushing ahead.

The search team inched downhill, fighting against the steep terrain. After about two-and-a-half hours of painstaking progress, they found something else. Someone quickly placed a call for a helicopter.

Malibu Search and Rescue

Sheryl had been found, exhausted but otherwise unharmed! She was airlifted out of the park by medevac and taken to a local hospital to recover and rehydrate. But what had happened over the past four days?

According to Sheryl, when she’d stepped out of the car, she was approached by a stocky man wielding a knife. As if that sight wasn’t shocking enough, he made a threat that instantly terrified her.

The man reportedly threatened to rape Sheryl. If she didn’t comply, he would use the knife on both her and her beloved dog. Sheryl made the only choice she could: flee the campsite across the rocks.


From there on, she stayed off main roads and traveled at night out of fear that the man would find her. She avoided him, but got lost in the process, only surviving cactus fruit and stagnant water.

The Spruce

Understandably, her family was overjoyed to have her back in one piece. “SHES ALIVE!!! This is the happiest day of our lives. We can’t thank everyone enough!!!!!!!” Powell’s daughter, Farrah, wrote on Facebook.

Sheryl’s escape provides a valuable message for any hiker. Make sure you have food, water, and other essentials accounted for; you should also be familiar with basic survival skills in case of emergency. But what happens when a dog, rather than a person, vanishes?

Liz and Graham Hampson considered themselves the ultimate dog parents. Though they have an adult human son, they devote most of their attention to caring for their schnauzers, Charlie and Theo.

The Hampsons lived in the quiet English village of Buttermere. Maybe it wasn’t the most exciting place in the world, but it was peaceful and gave their dogs plenty of room to roam around.

Coleraine Probus Club

The nearby Red Pike fell made for a fantastic walk. The rocky ground could pose a challenge to the unexperienced hiker, but Theo and Charlie had traversed it many times. They probably had every stone memorized, figured their family.

Striding Edge

One pleasant summer day in 2017, John had rare free time on his hands. He volunteered to take the schnauzers on a walk up by the fell. His parents told him to have a nice stroll.

Both pups, aged 7 years and 15 months respectively, were generally on good behavior. Since there weren’t any other people around they would bother, John decided to let them off their leashes for a while. Wouldn’t some wide open space do them good?

However, the unpredictable British weather threw John for a loop. A heavy mist rolled in out of nowhere, making it impossible to see just a few feet in front of him. He called out so Charlie and Theo would come back to him.

Daily Mail

But as the fog receded, neither schnauzer was anywhere to be seen. Trying not to panic, John scanned the landscape in every direction. He whistled. He prayed. Still nothing.

Meanwhile, Liz and Graham’s relaxing afternoon back home came to an abrupt halt. The phone rang, and neither could process the words coming out of the speaker. John said that their beloved dogs ran away.

The Sampsons were desperate to get their pups back home, though they knew the Red Pike fell posed too much land for just a few people to cover. Without help, they’d never get Theo and Charlie back.

Word about the lost pets got around quickly, and plenty of people stepped forward to help. Over 120 locals volunteered to help look! They didn’t turn up any leads after the first day, so one resident proposed a novel strategy.

The techie brought out his two drones! They flew all over the surrounding Buttermere area, scanning for two scared and hungry schnauzers. But after four days of searching, the dogs were still nowhere to be seen.

Sky News

Things weren’t looking good, and Liz and Graham’s hopes began to waver. They figured that their poor canines must be starving out there. And that sad thought suddenly transformed into a bright idea.

Graham, rifled through the refrigerator without stopping to explain to his wife what he was looking for. She saw him grab a package from one of the drawers and dash outside. He was headed for Red Pike fell.

Liz followed her husband out to the exact spot where John lost track of the dogs. She then understood that he’d carried a bundle of sausages out of the fridge, and they were now roasting over a small portable grill.

HuffPost UK

His plan was simple. If the hungry dogs hadn’t gotten far from where John had lost them, they would smell the crispy, sizzling sausages. And if he knew anything about Charlie and Theo, it was that they couldn’t resist a barbecue.


The couple crossed their fingers as the grill sputtered. Then, two tiny silhouettes appeared on the horizon. “When they first appeared it was like a mirage. I could not believe it was them,” recalled Liz.

Charlie and Theo returned! The moment proved overwhelming for their human parents, who couldn’t believe that their last-ditch strategy worked. However, they had one phone call to make before they could really celebrate.

John, now back at the naval base, had been in an awful way. When his parents called him to share the good news, they heard a chorus of cheers in the background as he told his sailor pals that the dogs were back.

Atlanta Metro Council

Nobody quite knows what Charlie and Theo, who happen to be father and son, got up to during their four days in the wild. Maybe they were busy with some heroics out there? Strange as it sounds, it’s happened before.

Lancashire Life