Couple lost at Big Bend for days
El Paso, TX (KTSM) — A dramatic helicopter rescue in rugged deadly terrain leaves one Arkansas couple thankful for their lives and each other. Husband, Rick McFarland's passion saved his wife's life after being lost for 5 days at Big Bend Ranch State Park.
His pictures are his life and his living. On their annual trip to Big Bend, they were just supposed to be for fun. Newspaper photographer, Rick McFarland didn't know he was leaving a trail that would save his wife's life.
"I got tired of carrying the darn thing," said McFarland. "It weighs 2 pounds, but its like I'm a photographer. I just couldn't do without my camera".
McFarland and Cathy Frye married at Big Bend National Park in 2001. They go back every year
This year, they were told they had to leave because of the government shutdown. They decided instead to go to Big Bend Ranch State Park.
They hiked the rim of Fresno Canyon, but recent flash flooding destroyed and hid trail markers. After a day of searching for the trail, it was still no where to be found.
"We finally got to the end of the day and we were like were not done," Frye said. "We're going to have to spend the night".
They camped out, sleeping on gravel. The next day started again.
So it went for four days. They were lost in 300,000 acres of desert mountain terrain.
"iI told him that he needed to go," Frye said. "I was holding him back".
With an exhausted body and heavy heart, McFarland left his wife of 12 years behind.
"One of us has to go, because if we stay there were going to die, McFarland said.
It was later, now alone, McFarland saw his first sign of hope.
"I just got new energy and just took off," McFarland had seen a car.
He followed the shiny car to a road then to a ranger station. Despite darkness, the search for Frye started right away.
Ahelicopter, park police and rangers couldn't find Frye that night.
"I had the pictures that showed some of the spots the two spots where we stayed and found water and the last day," he said.
A trail of pictures helping park police and rescue crews narrow the search.
"I guess that's when I knew I had finally given up was when I woke up the next day and I was not even under my little shady area," Frye said. "I had taken my clothes off".
"Cathy, can you hear us? And we heard 'help', said Big Bend Ranch State Park policeman Fernando Rincon Jr. "We jumped up put our rescue packs on and ran about a hundred yards".
"You want to be found, Frye said. "You don't want to die in a place like that all by yourself".
She did nearly die, but thanks to dozens of rescuers and a photographer who wouldn't give in, the couple has a new story to tell about their love for Big Bend.
The couple said they plan to return next year, despite this misadventure.