Rescued teen stranded overnight in Zion National Park Narrows shares her story
Jul 19, 2023, 7:25 PM | Updated: Jul 20, 2023, 11:40 am
ZION NATIONAL PARK, Utah — A southern Utah teen is recovering after being stranded overnight in The Narrows in Zion National Park, spending the night cold and alone in the canyon. Zion National Park crews rescued the teen Wednesday morning.
Aurelia Lunceford, mother of 14-year-old Aloha Joy, told KSL TV that both the teen and her family spent a sleepless night with Aurelia worried something horrible had happened.
They had gone on a group family hike in The Narrows, but Lunceford explained that the group got split in two between some faster hikers and slower hikers. Aloha wanted to get caught up with the faster group, and accidentally turned down into Orderville Canyon.
“She followed who she thought was my brother into Orderville Gulch. She truly thought she was still in The Narrows,” Lunceford said.
However, the further she got, the more challenging the hike became. She got to a huge rock and was determined to scale it so she could “finish catching up with the group.”
“She finally threw her shoes up onto the top hoping to climb with her bare feet,” Lunceford said. “She bruised her knees badly in her attempts to climb the rock and in the end lost her shoes and couldn’t make it.”
At that point, she realized she was all alone and it was beginning to get dark.
“She realized she was lost so she started screaming for help,” Lunceford said. When no one came, she bunkered down for the night.
“I felt prompted to get emergency blankets and thank heavens she had that with her,” Lunceford said.
The two groups each thought Aloha was with the other group, and Lunceford explained they realized after they all finished the hike that she didn’t return.
“When our faster party finally got to us at 10:30 I still thought Aloha was with them,” Lunceford said. “Imagine my horror when she was unaccounted for.”
They reported her missing to the National Park Service, but the park couldn’t search until the next morning.
“We sent two teams of responders into The Narrows this morning,” said Jonathan Shafer, public affairs specialist at Zion National Park. “They were looking for a party who had been reported as overdue or lost. And they made contact with that person near Orderville Canyon.”
Rescuers brought Aloha safely out of The Narrows.
“And we were very glad that our search and rescue team was able to make contact with them this morning and escort them the rest of the way down that route,” Shafer said.
Aloha was cold and hungry, but OK. Because she lost her shoes, Aloha hiked back out in her socks.
“She didn’t complain even though walking out without shoes was extremely painful. They carried her out on a stretcher when they got to the hot paved path,” Lunceford said. “People knew about her from Facebook and cheered.”
Aloha was reunited with her family and Lunceford said they were on cloud nine and so happy to have her back. She explained that Aloha told Lunceford that she survived the night by wearing an emergency blanket and staying put once she realized she was lost.
Later in the day Wednesday, she and her family made it back home and Aloha was getting some much-needed rest. Lunceford was so grateful to the search and rescue team, and for all the prayers to bring Aloha home.
“I’m so very grateful for your help in this nightmare,” Lunceford said. “You all certainly brought light.”