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Lost And Injured In The Desert

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Roger Dannen, 75, slipped 60 feet down a rock face in remote Indian Canyons, near Palm Springs, California, in January 2018. He survived in the desert for three days.

It wasn’t supposed to be an overnight. That much was obvious by what I brought with me: a running vest, snacks, some water, and an insulated vest. At most, my longtime hiking buddy Gordon and I expected to be out for five hours.

There are more than 60 miles of trail in Palm Springs’s Indian Canyons, and we knew most of them by heart. But the heavily switchbacked, 13-mile route connecting the Cedar Springs and Jo Pond Trails was new to both of us.

On the morning we planned to tackle it, the thermostat read 39°F, and when we arrived at the trailhead, we stepped from the car into several inches of fresh snow. It didn’t seem deep enough to affect our navigation, so we set off, ascending amid yucca and desert scrub to views of the San Jacintos. After two hours of hiking, we lost the trail in the powder.

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