A California family was hiking in a remote area of the Arroyo Seco tributary when they realized they were trapped atop a waterfall. Curtis Whitson, his girlfriend, Krystal Ramirez, and his 13-year-old son, Hunter Whitson, were in the middle of a four-day camping trip when they reached the top of a 40-foot waterfall. When Whitson hiked the trail seven years ago, there was a rope secured to the top of the waterfall, but it was no longer there, leaving the three of them with no safe way to get to the bottom.
He did bring a rope with him, but the water was moving too fast for him to secure it to the waterfall so they could rappel down.
While their friends knew they were hiking, it would be days before anybody realized they were missing and sent help. There was no cell phone service in the area, leaving them with very few options.
"I knew that our friends would call somebody at some point when we didn't show up," Ramirez explained. "But I was worried about how long it might take for anyone to find us."
That's when Curtis had an idea. He grabbed his Nalgene water bottle and scratched "Help!" on each side of the bottle and put a dated note inside that read: "WE ARE STUCK HERE @ THE WATERFALL GET HELP PLEASE."
After he tossed the bottle down the waterfall Curtis, Krystal and Hunter used rocks to spell out SOS before setting up their camp and going to sleep.
It wasn't long before another group of hikers found the water bottle and contacted authorities who sent out a search party. Just after midnight, the trio was woken up by the sound of a helicopter overhead. While it was too dark to attempt a rescue at that time, the rescuers used a loudspeaker to tell the family they would return in the morning to bring them to safety.
The next morning, the helicopter returned and the trio was airlifted to safety.
Curtis still can't believe his plan actually worked, but he is glad that the hikers found his message in a bottle and got help.
"It blows me away how it all came perfectly together," he said. "What are the odds?"
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