Arizona woman details being missing in forest for 3 days after getting lost on walk

Dec 14, 2023, 4:35 AM

PHOENIX — An Arizona woman was rescued last week after she spent three days in the forest with her dog and no phone in frigid December temperatures.

Joann Ward took her dog, Mia, on a walk near her and her husband’s motor home in Bagdad on Dec. 5 at about 3 p.m. when she attempted to take a shortcut.

The new route instead ran them into a ravine. Ward, who did not have her cellphone on her, searched for a road and couldn’t find one. As night rolled in, Ward found a tree and curled up there with Mia for the night, hoping to stave off the cold and coyotes in the area.

When was a missing person’s report filed for Ward?

Search crews began looking for Ward the first night she went missing about 125 miles northwest of downtown Phoenix, but were unsuccessful.

The next morning, the Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office put out a bulletin urging the public to help find Ward.

The 62-year-old woman said on the second day, she heard helicopters in the area but couldn’t get close enough to them to be noticed.

Ward’s husband, Jim, started to worry that his wife had been injured and couldn’t physically get out of the forest.

That wasn’t the case, according to Ward.

“I knew they were out looking for me,” Ward told YCSO. “I could see all the activity and that gave me hope and the strength to keep going in the direction that they were working.”

Ward and Mia spent another night in the cold.

How was Ward found by rescue teams?

The third day proved to be fruitful in the search.

She said she again heard helicopters in her area, but also started to hear vehicles.

Ward found her way to a road and soon after, ran into a group of people who were searching for her.

“They asked me my name … they told me ‘We’ve been looking for you for days,'” Ward said.

John Harris, who manages a YCSO search and rescue team, said about 50 people helped look for Ward. The woman was taken to a hospital for evaluation.

“When I came into the camp and saw how many [people] were out there, I was overwhelmed and I am so grateful and thankful for every one of them,” Ward said.

Harris was grateful for a happy ending.

“There’s a lot of emotion for both parties,” Harris said. “The person is obviously glad they’ve been found but the people who are looking, there is a reward you have completed it. Not all of our searches have a positive end.”

What advice does Ward have for other hikers?

After nearly 72 hours by herself without a phone and only her dog, Ward doesn’t want to relive the experience again.

She said she would not be trying to cut out times on her walks any time soon.

“Don’t try to take a shortcut like I did thinking it was going to be so easy,” Ward said.

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Pass it along to the KTAR News team here.

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Arizona woman details being missing in forest for 3 days after getting lost on walk