In an Epic Tale of Survival, Two Women Walk 36 Hours After Their Motorhome Wrecks Deep in the Mendocino National Forest

In the deep dark of the early morning of August 7, 2021, three Lewiston residents were traversing the sketchy roads of the Mendocino National Forest. Forty miles east of Covelo, nearing the Tehema County line, California Highway Patrol’s Officer Rick Fowler said the adventure took an unexpected turn when the motorhome went off the roadway, down an embankment, colliding with multiple trees as it descended.

Officer Fowler said the crash left 51-year-old David Flowers injured, unable to walk from the crash site. So, in hopes of finding someone to help, 57-year-old Stephanie Swain and 39-year-old Nichole Ferguson, took off into the Mendocino National Forest on foot. 

Between the early morning of August 7 to noontime of August 10, Swain and Ferguson negotiated the terrain of the Mendocino National Forest finally being spotted by a male passerby around 11:10 a.m. on August 10.

It is difficult to assess just how far Swain and Ferguson walked during their time in the woods. Officer Fowler could not identify the exact location where they were located except describing them as being found on Forest Route 1N02 which converges with one of the major thoroughfares through the Mendocino National Forest, the M1. Officer Fowler identified the crash site approximately one mile from Hammerhorn Lake. 

Using the crude tool of Google Maps to derive an estimate of how far the pair would have traveled to be located, the closest occurance of Forest Route 1N02 to Hammerhorn Lake is 3.8 miles. It should be noted the location identified by Google Maps has not been identified by officials as the place where Ferguson and Swain were located, merely an approximation.

Initial reports indicated the woman had no idea where they came from and could not identify where the motorhome they had walked from had crashed. Officer Fowler said medical helicopters were called to the scene and the wrecked motorhome was actually located from above. 

When emergency personnel arrived at the motorhome both Flowers and a dog were located.

Officer Fowler said that Flowers was medevacked to Willits’s Howard Memorial Hospital due to cuts and bruises and pain in the back and chest. Ferguson and Swain were transported by ground and treated for minor injuries.

This reporter attempted to contact all three of the individuals described in this report to get a first hand account of their odyssey. If any reader has connections to this trio of rugged individuals, please, reach out.

Officer Fowler, reflecting on the incident, said the tale highlights the importance of precaution and preparation “anytime you decide to go off the beaten path.” The brave and bold that choose the rural routes must be prepared with water, food, first aid, and equipment to be “self-contained,” as Officer Fowler described it. In a world of amenities, Officer Fowler said, “We can forget to prepare.”

Please note: an earlier version of the story mis-stated the minimum miles the women walked.

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