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California Camper Survives Days In Remote Wilderness After Fleeing Knife-Wielding Attacker

Sheryl Powell says she was walking her dog near her campsite when a "burly" man armed with a knife threatened to sexually assault her.

By Jill Sederstrom

A missing California camper has been found alive days after she got lost in the wilderness while trying to flee from an armed attacker.

Sheryl Powell, 60, first had to survive the man she says confronted her with the knife while out on a walk with her dog Friday afternoon—then had to spend the next few days trying to survive the rugged wilderness.

Powell was found alive Monday, dehydrated and exhausted, with a harrowing story to tell.

“I’m happy to be back with my family, happy to be here to tell my story. I didn’t know if I’d make it,” she told NBC’s “Today” on Tuesday.

She told the morning show she had been out walking her dog at the Grandview Campsite just after she and her husband, Joe Powell, had arrived at the site Friday afternoon, when she was confronted by a “burly” man.

She said the man told her, “The first thing that’s going to happen here, I’m going to use this knife on the dog, and then if you don’t let me have my way with you, I’ll use it on you.”

A terrified Powell initially played along and tried to pretend to be “docile” before she fled with her dog, a five-pound black and gray Yorkie Poo named Miley.

Sheryl Powell

“He was pursuing me,” she later said.

Her son, Greg Powell, told The Orange County Register his mother ran for hours from the balding, middle-aged man she encountered.

But after Powell had successfully escaped the would-be attacker, she realized she was lost in the wilderness and had to battle heat, rugged terrain and rattlesnakes.

“I had to concentrate on how to get through this,” the experienced hiker said, adding that she survived by eating cactus fruit and drinking water from a spring she discovered.

After Powell didn’t return, her husband searched for her for about an hour before calling authorities, who launched a massive search effort for the missing woman.

Powell later told “Today” she saw the helicopters passing by as they searched for her, but realized they were looking in the wrong direction.

Her son Greg said that by the fourth day, the lack of food and water began to take its toll on his mother and she was barely able to move.

“At one point, she thought ‘This would be it, that these would be her last days,” he told the local paper.

But on Monday, searchers discovered Powell’s dog Miley. Although initially there was no sign of Powell, they discovered the exhausted camper nearby a few hours.

“Searchers describe her as resilient and strong but exhausted after being lost in an extremely remote area above Big Pine, CA,” the Inyo County Sheriff’s Office wrote in a post on social media.

Joe Powell called his wife’s safe return “the happiest day of my life.”

Sheryl was brought to an area hospital to be treated for dehydration and minor injuries—but is happy to be once again reunited with her family and dog.