Injured hiker survives Utah wilderness with prayer and a poncho

Victoria Grover spent four days with no food after breaking her leg on a hike in Utah's Dixie National Forest. Grover, a Mormon, says she prayed and wrapped herself in a poncho during the cold nights.

The hunger and pain weren't the worst of Victoria Grover's ordeal as she shivered alone for four days with a broken leg and no food in Utah's rugged wilderness.

The toughest challenge was facing the "incredible" boredom and severe cold that came as nighttime temperatures dropped to the low 30s in the high desert, she said.

A veteran outdoor enthusiast, the 59-year-old had set out on a 6-mile-long day hike Tuesday in the Dixie National Forest, but became stranded after breaking her leg during a jump from a 4-foot ledge.

By the time rescuers located her Saturday, she was holed up along a creek and diagnosed as suffering from hypothermia.

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"The hunger is something that comes in waves. You get hungry and want to eat everything and then it goes away," Grover said. "The worst thing is the cold. It never warmed up except for a few hours in the afternoon."

Grover, a physician assistant from Wade, Maine, was recovering Sunday at a southern Utah hospital where doctors expect her to make a full recovery.

"I'm sure she'll be hiking again," said Dr. Daniel Allen of Valley View Medical Center in Cedar City.

Grover told reporters at a news conference Sunday that she survived by sleeping in shade during the day when highs were in the 50s and low 60s. She stayed awake at night while curled up in a poncho that she said helped save her life by serving as a wind breaker

"The last night I stopped shivering and that's one of the early signs of hypothermia. The last night was the worst," Grover said.

She relied on her faith, played mind games and recited poetry to help pass the time until rescuers arrived, she said.

"I prayed a lot and derived comfort from it," said Grover, who is Mormon. "I thought God would do everything possible to help me overcome my stupidity. I learned from my mother that things can always be worse."

Authorities were able to locate Grover through a rental car agreement found in her room at a guest ranch where she was staying. The establishment notified the sheriff's office when she failed to check out Thursday as scheduled. Grover didn't leave an itinerary of her hike behind.

The unmarked, unmaintained trail Grover hiked took her over terrain featuring slot canyons and pine- and juniper-covered ridges.

Ironically, Grover was revisiting country she first saw while taking a Brigham Young University survival course 40 years ago. "I knew what I had to do to survive," she said, because of her outdoors and medical experience.

She finally enjoyed her first meal Saturday night.

"Before that, I was dreaming of oranges, which is one of my favorite foods," she said. "But there are people who can go for weeks and weeks without food in this world. We have it easy in America."

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.

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