According to The Press-Enterprise,
LOS ANGELES – Days after he ran out of water in Joshua Tree National Park, Ed Rosenthal knew time was running out for him. Then, on day six, after he had jotted his own funeral plans on his hat, a helicopter hovered overhead and a voice called out, “Are you that Rosenthal guy?” The hiker on Tuesday recalled the details of his rescue and praised the searchers who found him as he spoke out for the first time. A prominent Los Angles real estate broker, Rosenthal, 64, was celebrating a property deal with a hike in the desert.
He planned on a relaxing hike of two to three hours, but instead ended up without food or water for five days after his one-day supply ran out. At one point near the end of his ordeal, Rosenthal lay in the middle of the Mojave Desert. “I was using up my own body,” said Rosenthal who lost about 20 pounds within the past week. “I tried drinking urine — forget about it.” After six days in the desert, one of his last messages, which he wrote inside his hat, before he was rescued read, “I’m still here.” “I guess I was happy about that,” Rosenthal said, talking at the downtown Los Angeles at Clifton’s Cafeteria that he helped to redevelop.
“I probably only had one day left.” Rosenthal was rescued on Thursday by a San Bernardino County sheriff’s helicopter team that discovered him resting in the East Wide Canyon area, northwest of Desert Hot Springs. On Tuesday, flanked by national park rangers and San Bernardino County sheriff’s deputies, Rosenthal held his hat and walking stick before a swarm of reporters and photographers. “My primary purpose was to stay alive,” Rosenthal said. “I did not want to drop dead and then have my wife and daughter to have to deal with that. I had to hope someone was looking for me.” LOST Rosenthal had just closed a deal, aimed at revitalizing the downtown Los Angeles Broadway district, when he left Friday, Sept. 24, for Black Rock Canyon campground in the park outside Yucca Valley.
Rosenthal had made the same 2- to 3-mile hike in Joshua Tree five or six times before to a point that overlooks the Mojave desert and San Jacinto and San Gorgonio peaks. The trail has few markings and he became lost on his way back to the trailhead. Rosenthal wandered off the trail and into a series of about six deep canyons that required him to scale rocks to keep moving and searching for the trail. He was unable to retrace his steps. That Friday night, he slept in a 20-foot wide canyon. By morning he had used up his water supply. Facing temperatures topping 100 degrees, he found one boulder that offered a slight refuge of shade from the sun.
“I don’t know how I got into the canyon. I thought it was just a small hike,” Rosenthal said. “I tried to stay calm and focused. I couldn’t get excited, because if you do that you’ll die.” By Sunday, Sept. 26, Rosenthal said he had hiked 25 miles. He walked downhill because he thought it would be warmer at night. Eventually his legs grew weak. “If I had to walk 10 steps, it was a big deal and I had to think about doing it,” Rosenthal said. “I would hike 10 steps to one shady spot and then later to the other spot.”
MESSAGES TO FAMILY
Rosenthal stayed in that same canyon for the next four days. By Sunday, his family reported him missing. Search parties in groups of 50 volunteers from throughout Southern California canvassed the trails but at first rarely ventured into the cavernous valleys where Rosenthal had gone. Rosenthal had left two large bottles of water and fresh fruit in his hotel room and didn’t refill his Camelbak thermos daypack at the campground at the start of the trail. His daypack was packed with an emergency blanket, but it disintegrated after three days.
As the days wore on, he tried making a series of signals to anyone who might see them. He occasionally saw the search helicopters flying overhead. He made shadows on the rock, blew a whistle and twice built large fires out of flares he had brought. But search parties never saw him and ceased their efforts at nightfall. Rosenthal said he could feel his muscles getting weaker. His mouth was dry and he touched antiseptic towelettes to it for moisture.
By the third day, he said a Jewish prayer that is reserved for someone who is about to die. He took his hat and began scrawling messages and poetry to his family. He gave financial advice and told them not to have a depressing funeral for him, but instead to have a wake. He prayed for rain, and then laid his head back and collected raindrops into his mouth. By that Wednesday, he could no longer lean against the rocks and wrote, “No water for five days.”
On Tuesday, rescue crews recognized boot prints leading from the trail down into the canyon where Rosenthal was later found, San Bernardino County sheriff’s Sgt. Jeff Joling said. Crews narrowed their search. Rosenthal heard and saw the sheriff’s helicopter as it flew overhead about 11 a.m. Thursday and he heard the words of his rescuers. “It was a miracle. I’m much more religious now … My conclusion is that God is real.” Rosenthal said. “I was never so happy to see anyone.” Hospitalized in critical condition with heat exhaustion, Rosenthal said he could barely drink water, even though he yearned for it.
He was released Saturday. Authorities said Rosenthal did the right thing by staying in one location after the first three days. “One of the best things you can do is hunker down in the shade and stay put,” Joling said. Rosenthal said he plans to raise funds for the volunteers, park service and Sheriff’s Department that rescued him.
His family is planning to donate funding and is accepting donation inquiries via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org “It’s a blessing that they help you. We should help them because maybe it will help others,” Rosenthal said.