Ann Rodgers and her dog were lost in the Arizona wilderness for nine days, and today, the 72-year-old woman is lucky enough to share her survival story. Other than suffering from dehydration and exposure, Rodgers considers herself lucky to be alive.
According to the Arizona Department of Public Safety, Rodgers and her dog left Tucson to visit her grandchildren in Phoenix on March 31. What should be a three-hour drive, turned into a nine-day fight for survival when Rodgers ran out of gas.
Rodgers told a White Mountain Apache Tribe Game and Fish officer that she was heading toward Show Low when she ran out of gas. Thinking that she could refuel at a Cibecue exit, the 72-year-old left the main road but became all turned around and lost on the backcountry road.
Being stranded in the middle of nowhere with no more gas in the car, Rodgers first considered staying with her vehicle, but after discovering that she had no cell phone reception, she began to climb some ridges in the hope of being able to connect to someone out there.
Looking back, Rodgers says that she should have stayed with her Ford Fusion, but after she spent one night in the car, she was hoping to get a stronger cellphone signal higher up on a ridge.
“Below freezing every night,” she said. “I had a fire lighter with me. I had a Nutella jar with me, which became my water vessel.”
Rodgers said that she survived her 9-day ordeal by eating some of the local vegetation and by drinking pond water. During the night, she used her lighter to build a campfire. However, “I did cry,” she recalls. “Everywhere I looked, there was nothing to do with humans … I was praying to the highest of the high.”
Search crews who were looking for the 72-year-old woman first discovered her car but there was no sign of the woman. On April 9, a White River Tribal Game and Fish officer found Rodgers’ dog walking out of the Canyon Creek area, but again, no sign of Rodgers.
When a helicopter crew spotted her “HELP” sign made out of sticks and rocks and a note underneath one of the rocks, search crews knew that she was at least alive.
Based on her note, search crews knew that the woman was proceeding down the canyon, and upon further search, they discovered an abandoned shelter that indicated Rodgers had been there. Following the woman’s trail just around a bend in the canyon, a rescue helicopter finally saw Rodgers — jumping up and down.
Rodgers was transported in the helicopter from the Canyon Creek area on the White River Indian Reservation in Gila County on Saturday. “To finally have human contact and see that they were there, it was overwhelming,” she said. “What I feel like is a survivor.”
According to Johnny Holmes, a detective with the tribal game and fish agency, when officers contacted family members of the 72-year-old woman early last week “they did not realize she had gone missing.”