The 47-year-old woman, whose identity remains anonymous, was first reported missing on 25 November, 2020, in the area of Diamond Fork in Spanish Fork Canyon.
The missing persons’ report was filed after a US Forest Service official discovered a stranded car in the parking lot of a campsite, according to a press release from the Utah County Sheriff’s Office on Monday.
After finding the car, they wanted to inform the owner about a seasonal closure in the area, but they could not find her. They did come across camping equipment and other items that allowed them to identify the missing person.
Search parties were sent out to look for her, but they were not successful. Deputies towed the car and confiscated the camping equipment, assuming they had been abandoned.
Officials attempted to get in touch with those with connections with the woman to establish potential locations she might be. They were unable to get in contact with her family, but authorities managed to speak to her colleagues.
Her location remained unknown until Sunday when a USCO officer went back to the area of Diamond Fork with representatives from a charitable organisation that carries out search parties. They had continued looking for the missing woman, according to reports from the sheriff’s office.
The woman was discovered almost by chance after a search drone crashed close to where she was camping. The search party located the drone and stumbled across what appeared to be an abandoned tent, however, it was discovered to be occupied after the missing woman came out of it.
She “had lost a significant amount of weight and was weak,” the sheriff's office said. “But she was apparently, also resourceful.”
The woman, who did have a bit of food with her, said to the authorities that she had foraged for food and used the nearby river for water.
“And we now believe she knowingly chose to remain in the area over the months since November 2020,” a statement said.
Authorities said the woman had been taken to a hospital for a mental health evaluation and was given access to help should she want it.
“But we want to be clear that while many people might choose to not live in the circumstances and conditions this woman did, she did nothing against the law,” the Sherrif’s Office said. “And in the future, she might choose to return to the same area.”
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