Lost in The Narrows overnight, hiker, 14, talks about her rescue

Jul 20, 2023, 6:00 PM

missing hiker The Narrows...

An ambulance photographed at a parking lot near The Narrows, in Zion National Park, where the search for a missing climber continues. Photo credit: Ashley Imlay

SALT LAKE CITY –A 14-year-old hiker is trudging her way through The Narrows in Zion National Park when she becomes separated from her group. 

Dave and Debbie speak to Aloha Joy and her mother, Aurelia Lunceford, about her night alone out in the dark, cold desert.

Aloha said she was hiking with her family and decided to leave the slower group behind and join the faster group, which included her older siblings and cousins.

She floated on an inflatable tube along the deeper parts of the river until she came to a cross-section of the canyon. Aloha said she saw footprints leading down a trail and decided to follow them. Plus, she thought she spotted someone familiar.

“She also saw what she thought was my brother,” her mother, Aurelia, added.

Aloha thought if she shed her shoes, she could climb big rocks faster and catch up with her uncle.

Cold night in The Narrows

Once Aloha realized that she was lost, she decided to “hunker down.” The food she had was soaked from the river ride, but she did have an emergency poncho blanket to keep her warm in the chilly night, which she said she was grateful for bringing along.

“I was really, really freezing, but I think I would have been so much colder without that blanket,” she said.

During the night, Aurelia didn’t sleep and her thoughts drifted to the worst-case outcome. But she said her husband prayed and was confident that their daughter would be found safe. He was even able to fall asleep, Aurelia said.

In the morning, a couple “came and found me” and led Aloha back out of the canyon to safety.

“Strangers?” Debbie asked.

“Yeah. They were really sweet,” she said.

“Is there anything that either one of you would have done differently?” Debbie asked.

Hold on to your shoes, Aloha advised. Walking over rocks is painful, she said.

Also, wear long pants. She said her legs have never been so bruised.

After a harrowing night, Mom’s recommendations are to always use the buddy system, never let someone in a group hike alone, even for a short distance, and have an exit plan in case one hiker becomes separated from others.

“When you’re hiking, it’s easy to lose sight. There are a lot of twists and turns; easy to get lost. Fortunately, everything turned out well, but what a story. What a great outcome, though,” Dave said.

Read also: Missing Layton woman and her children found safe


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Lost in The Narrows overnight, hiker, 14, talks about her rescue