"I am not sure how she survived," said her sister Kristen

By Caitlin Keating
Updated December 27, 2016 10:26 AM
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Credit: Coconino Sheriff's Dept.

A Pennsylvania mother survived more than a day out West in snow and freezing temperatures by eating pine tree twigs and drinking her urine.

Karen Klein, who will turn 47-years-old on Saturday, was driving with her husband Eric, 47, and their son Issac, 10, on Friday from Bryce Canyon National Park in southern Utah to the Grand Canyon Nation when their car got stuck in a ditch, according to The Morning Call.

Karen, a college professor from Easton, Pennsylvania, decided to walk to the main road, about 10 miles away, and flag someone down for help or to get a cellphone signal, her sister Kristen told the news outlet in an email. When she saw that the main highway was closed due to snow, she kept on walking to the entrance of the park which was another 14 miles away.

At this point she had run out of food and water so she consumed the twigs and urine. Karen, who had taken wilderness survival training classes, hiked about 30 miles for 30 straight hour, hallucinated at times and pulled a groin muscle during the hike.

Searchers on snowmobiles early Saturday morning tracked and located Karen, after she walked about 26 miles in search of help before taking refuge in a cabin at a seasonally closed park entrance, authorities said. Other searchers rescued Eric and Isaac Klein Friday afternoon after the 47-year-old father was able to hike to higher ground to get cellphone service to call for help, authorities said.

Eric and Issac slept in their car overnight and were later treated for frostbite. On Sunday Karen was in stable condition in an intensive care unit at a Utah hospital, says her sister Kristen.

“This is a Christmas miracle,” Jim Driscoll, chief deputy for the Coconino County Sheriff’s Office, told the Associated Press. “Our guys are ecstatic. This is a save. We were able to get a family back together for Christmas. It could have gone very bad very, very easily.”

Searchers found Karen curled up in a bedin the cabin, so exhausted from her cross-country trek through and over snow as deep as 3 feet she couldn’t make a fire, he said.

Driscoll said the main highway in the Canyon’s north rim, State Route 67, was closed due to the snow in the area, which is about 8,000 feet above sea level. The family, he said, was looking for an alternate road and found Forest Road 22 — one of the few available alternate routes.

“Google Maps shows there’s a way — but it’s impassable,” he said, adding. “This is a problem we’ve had numerous times.”

Yet even the route they took had large amounts of snow ranging from 3 inches to 3 feet.

“I don’t think they realized it was impassable,” he told the Associated Press.

The closed entrance station is about 30 miles from the gate where the highway is closed for the winter.

Driscoll told KTNV that Karen tried to get help because she’s a triathlete and marathon runner and the family agreed she was in the best shape to make the attempt to get help.

When she was found she was conscious and communicating but suffering from cold exposure.