A Langley teen is giving her account of what happened after she went on a camping trip in Golden Ears Park last week and got lost in the brush for over two days.
In a letter published online, 16-year-old Esther Wang says she started the hike on June 27 with four other people as part of a youth group.
“We started from our campsite at North Beach, and we used the East West Canyon Connector to access the Golden Ears trail,” Wang’s letter reads.
Wang goes on to say the difficulty of the trail caused her to lose sight of where the rest of her hiking party went.
“At one point, the group made a turn somewhere along the trail, but I did not notice because I was solely concentrating on following the trail right in front of me.”
Once Wang realized she was alone; she decided to double back and see if she could return to the correct path.
“I tried to turn around, but I tripped and fell down until I reached a flatter part of the mountain. Scared and lonely, I curled into a ball, and I tried to stay as calm as possible,” Wang’s letter continues.
“I started to hear whistles and noises that sounded like a signal. I started to climb the mountain towards the noises; however, I still could not locate the signals.”
After trying and failing to alert search crews, Wang says she pivoted efforts to finding water and camp for the night.
“Thankfully, I was able to refill my water bottles and I had packed food for the hike. I tried to get some sleep on the rocks nearby, but I was cold and freezing.”
She says she used a headlamp at around one in the morning after seeing searchlights up the mountain but says no one noticed her.
“The area is very thick, the canopy for searching from the air makes it very difficult,” according to Ryan Smith with Ridge Meadows Search and Rescue.
“We were literally covering almost every square meter of that area that Esther was in. Unfortunately, it sounds like a few times Esther saw the lights or heard the noises or dogs barking. Unfortunately, she wasn’t able to make contact with us and we weren’t able to make contact with her,” Smith explained.
In Esther’s letter, the young hiker says she felt deflated when the search crews missed her.
“I was filled with hopelessness and fear, but I knew I could not give up.”
At around five in the morning on June 28, Wang says she tried to climb back up again but failed.
She then worked her way down the mountain, moving downstream but slipped on the rocks and hit her head.
“Thankfully, I did not lose consciousness and I was still able to move,” Wang continues.
“All throughout the day, I saw a yellow helicopter fly over my head multiple times. I tried making noise, singing and even shaking nearby trees to grab their attention, but everything I tried failed.”
Wang says she spent the rest of the day hiking to the top of the mountain to get a better vantage point and hopefully alert search crews to her location.
“I used my phone to make noise in hopes that a person might hear it. Sadly, my phone was dying, and it eventually dropped out of my pocket somewhere when I was hiking.”
In Wang’s letter, she says she was exhausted after making it to the top and decided to sleep under a tree until the next morning.
After waking up on the morning of June 29, Wang says she looked at pictures on her digital camera to help recall landmarks to help her find her way back.
“Once I was down the mountain, I found a rapid river flowing downstream. As I continued to follow the river, I noticed pink tape on some trees around me and my hopes soared high,” Wang shared.
“Eventually, I spotted a gravel path nearby the river. Filled with relief I followed the gravel trail until I hit a beach.”
Wang says as she continued along the gravel path her body began to fail her.
“The sign at the beach was labeled ‘Hiker’s Beach’ and I knew I needed to get to the Gold Creek parking lot which was in the opposite direction, according to the sign. So, I dragged my feet back to the river and crossed as carefully as possible and followed the path.”
Wang says she continued along the path as disorientation set in.
“I began to feel dizzy, and I started to imagine things in front of me when there clearly wasn’t anyone around me,” Wang recounted in her letter.
“I continued to encourage myself to keep moving forward and to not give up yet. It was around 9:15 p.m. when the gravel road ended at the Gold Creek parking lot, and I could see some people in the distance. I waved and immediately, I recognized my parents and I tried to run towards them.”
Wang says while she was able to make it out under her own power, she says she couldn’t have done it without search crews and volunteers.
“They led the way, and I was able to follow. Thankfully, there were park rangers nearby and they were able to radio the rescue team leader that I was safe,” Wang said.
“Afterwards, an ambulance came to check my physical state and make sure I was alright. They checked the many scratches and bruises all over my legs and arms as well as my head injury. Because I crossed the river many times, the wetness of my socks rubbing against my feet caused the back of my heels to bleed immensely. The medics cleared me to go home, and I was finally able to get a good night’s sleep in my bed.”
Wang credits her four years in the Air Cadet program as providing the survival skills that saved her life.
“The information I have learned from aviation to survival skills played a huge role in my ability to sustain myself in the wilderness,” Wang shared.
“Every incident, we really encourage every subject who needs help, to remember S-T-O-P, according to Sandra Richies with BC AdventureSmart.
“Please stop, think, observe and plan. Search and rescue can find you faster and often in better condition,” Richies explained.
Wang says she and her family are thankful to search crews, police and volunteers who never gave up trying to find her.