Kyndall Jack, who was the second hiker rescued after days in the wild following an Easter Sunday hike, is still confined to a wheelchair, but at a just-concluded press conference before heading home from UCI Medical Center in Orange, the Costa Mesa 18-year-old was smiling and upbeat as she recalled the ordeal. That is, what she could recall because she's forgotten more than she remembers. Then there were the bizarre dreams, like believing a python was eating her.
"I definitely gave up hope," Jack said.
She remembers having nothing to do and going to Trabuco Canyon to hike with 19-year-old Nicholas Cendoya, who she was hanging out with for only the second time. She remembers them losing their way, making a 9-1-1 call and misplacing her lighter after darkness fell, which would lead her to suffer an anxiety attack.
But from about then until she was rescued late in the morning on Wednesday, Jack does not recall much. Asked by a reporter if she knew hundreds of people had been searching for her, she answered, "I had no idea I was missing. I just thought I was in a big dream."
She does know she ate some dirt, although being told when she was found she had dirt and small rocks around her mouth also clued her into that. She knows she hallucinated a lot, something that happened quickly once she and Cendoya realized they were lost Sunday and went through three plastic water bottles they'd brought to split between them.
Before it go too dark to continue, they tried to scale a cliff to get to a top of a hill, where they hoped it would be easier to see around them and be spotted. After the 9-1-1
call, she remembers vomiting because she was so worried. She remembers looking at Cendoya and telling him neither could close their eyes or they'd not be able to open them again.
"My parents were in jail half the time," she said of her weird dreams and visions that would follow for days after. "I was searching for my sister. I thought I was being eaten by a python. Nick saw tigers, I was getting eaten by a python."
She believes she fought off animals while clinging to a rock or tree. She's since learned that Cendoya believed he, too, fought off animals, though neither knows what kind of creatures.
Asked if she would go back to the mountain, as Cendoya has indicated he wants to do to chase away any demons from the experience, Jack answered, "Definitely, no."
She's still recovering from scratches and bruises on her legs and hands, but worse is frostbite on one hand that has left her unable to move her fingers. Doctors have told her she will slowly recover feeling. She also can't walk right now and was wheeled away once she was done talking with reporters.
Asked if the experience has made her change her views on anything, because Cendoya has said it made him a different man, Jack answered, "I am definitely going to change the way I look at things." She chose not to elaborate.
Asked about her relationship with Cendoya, she described them as just friends, although this experience has created "a really big bond."
"We just wanted to go on hike," she said of heading to the canyon Sunday. "We were not doing anything, so we searched for places in the area where you can hike."
Later: "I didn't know I lost Nick. I didn't even know I was with Nick, it was that bad."
She took a backpack that held her cell phone, glasses and wallet, none of which were with her when she was found. She was wearing shorts and a jacket and new Nikes, which are also gone. She'd only gone hiking once before, for school. Asked if she had advice for other novice hikers, she said to do something she and Cendoya did not do: stay on marked trails and bring as much gear as possible.
Jack thanked her rescuers (shout out to Fred and Jim!), and she hopes to meet them soon to thank them personally.
She does remember hearing people call her name, but in her confused state she was answering back at them to shut up because yelling back would cause her to lose air in her lungs. She believes she'd also heard people calling her name when she first started hallucinating, before anyone knew she was missing.
Physicians informed her she could have died had she remained in the elements longer, she said.
Leave it to a female TV reporter to ask Jack about her weight.
"I hope I look good right now," she said looking down at her legs. "I didn't weigh myself."
She probably wouldn't recommend her canyon diet, which included sucking on a tree stump she believed to be a straw leading into a pool of water. Then again, whatever works. Details at 11!