EL PASO, Texas - An Arkansas reporter is rescued from Big Bend Ranch State Park Sunday, after being lost for more than four days.
Cathy Frye and husband Ricky McFarland were airlifted to University Medical Center, where Frye is still recovering.
"It was a real pretty hike and I'm thinking,you know, it's beautiful," Frye said. "So we decided we'd go ahead and finish the loop."
A decision that will forever impact Arkansas reporter Cathy Frye's life. As weathered hikers, Fry and her husband are familiar with Big Bend National Park. They were married there and continue to visit once a year. This year though, the day they arrived was the day the government went into partial shutdown, closing all national parks. They were told to try out Big Bend's little brother to the west, the 300,000 acre state park also know as "the other side of nowhere."
"We lost the trail so many times that we realized we were going to have to spend the night there," Frye said.
Frye said trail markers were nowhere in sight, either covered by vegetation or destroyed after recent flash flooding. But they kept trudging through the brutal heat, with a couple water bottles and trail mix. The first night was cold. But the next day was hotter.
Day two, lost in the desert, Frye and McFarland were weaker, hungrier and hotter. They had been nibbling on cactus to stay hydrated, leaving their mouths and clothes full of painful needles. Frye thought they had finally turned a corner when she said she heard McFarland yell he had found water.
McFarland had come across an oasis and they gorged.
"We had taken our canteens and he was just scooping water," Frye said. "And we just laid on our backs and it was the best."
They also took a bath, not realizing the temperature would plummet and hypothermia would set in.
Day three, hydrated and hopeful they set out again.
"We thought, okay, we've got water and we know what we're doing," McFarland said. "Then we lost the trail again."
After walking some time, she turned to her husband and told him she couldn't make it, and to forge ahead.
"He told me he had one more hour when he thought he could push and I told him I can't do it," Frye said. "I will hold you back. And I told him to please make sure the kids know I tried my best. And I didn't just sit down or give up on them. But at that point I knew the only shot that we had was for him to get where he could get."
McFarland eventually saw a reflection coming from a car's windshield, and found his way back to park headquarters. Rangers immediately began searching, and although she could see their helicopters, Frye was no where in sight. She figured her husband's body had been found. By Sunday at high noon, she had lost hope.
"When they came over the ridge and they came down there and they me they couldn't believe I was still alive, that's when I asked if he made it," Frye said. "And they said year,he's the one who told us you were out here."