This photo provided by Los Angeles County Search and Rescue Reserve Deputy… (Doug Cramoline / Associated…)
The second of two hikers rescued after being lost for days in Orange County’s brushy back country is in improved condition and will be released from the hospital Monday after being treated for dehydration and other injuries.
Kyndall Jack, 18, was rescued from thick brush in the Trabuco Canyon area midday Thursday, the day after her hiking companion, Nicolas Cendoya, was found shoeless and disoriented.
The two had become separated after taking off late Easter Sunday on what was to be a routine day hike toward Holy Jim Canyon, a moderate roundtrip trek of less than 3 miles. But Cendoya said the outing went wrong as darkness began to fall.
PHOTOS: Missing hikers in Orange County
Cendoya, who was released from Mission Hospital Regional Medical Center on Sunday, described the ordeal in the wildness as a harrowing misadventure.
He said that in the growing darkness, they couldn't find their way out of an area surrounded by cliffs and sharp brush. They called an emergency operator to say they were lost, but the cellphone battery died. After waiting for a helicopter, Cendoya said, he looked at Jack and told her, "It is pitch black.... If we don't get out of here, we are going to die."
Cendoya described grabbing Jack and trying to carry her through the brush in an effort to get back to the road where his car was parked. Somehow, though, he fell and hit his head.
"I was just out, unconscious," Cendoya said, speaking briefly to reporters after being discharged. "I can't even tell you when I woke up.... [Afterward] I was in lucid dreams, lucid hallucinations, every single day." He recalled that after the fall, Jack begged him to keep his eyes open, and he speculated she may have thought he had died. He wasn't sure how the two had gotten separated.
Cendoya said he recalled eating plants and leaning on his faith and his memories of a friend who had recently died. He said his hallucinations were vivid. He thought he was "in the afterlife" and grew so convinced he was being stalked by predators that he grabbed a sharp stick for defense. He thought he saw Jack get rescued, though, it turned out, he had no idea where she was, and she wasn't rescued until the day after he was found.
Cendoya was rescued Wednesday night. He was so weak by then, he said, that he wasn't sure he could have survived another night.
"When the firefighters came up, I didn't believe it," he said, adding that his hallucinations had him convinced that the firefighters were yet "another fake."
After being treated at the hospital for dehydration, cuts and head and neck trauma, Cendoya said that he couldn't wait to see Jack again and that the two have corresponded via social media since her rescue. Jack has been treated at UC Irvine Medical Center in Orange.
Cendoya also thanked the scores of people involved in the rescue operation, especially the reserve sheriff's deputy who suffered a severe head injury after plunging down a hillside while trying to reach Jack. The reserve deputy, who has not been identified, remains hospitalized.
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