Death Valley National Park–, Calif. – Park rangers were dispatched to Badwater Basin in Death Valley National Park around 2:30 am on the morning of March 24 to look for a woman reported missing by her companions. The woman returned around 8:20 am after hiking to a road and hitchhiking.
The group had hiked onto the salt flats at night to photograph stars. The 61-year-old woman from Austin, TX, left her group to retrieve something from the vehicle in the parking lot. Her companions became concerned when she did not return. After searching for her, her companions drove to Furnace Creek for cell service and called 911.
Park rangers drove to Badwater, turned on bright flashing vehicle lights, and searched on foot. When she hadn’t been found by daybreak, more Death Valley National Park employees were called out to assist with the search, bringing the total to seven responders. Park rangers requested assistance from a California Highway Patrol helicopter, which was on its way when the woman was found.
When the woman realized she had hiked farther than the distance to the parking lot and was lost, unable to see landmarks in the dark, she stopped moving. Once the sun rose, she was able to see the road and walked to the junction of Badwater Road and Natural Bridge Road, a few miles north of Badwater. She hitchhiked back to the Badwater parking lot and arrived around 8:20 am.