A Culver City real estate broker who spent six days lost in Joshua Tree National Park amid an oppressive heat wave said Tuesday it was a "miracle" he survived the ordeal.
"It was definitely a miracle. I'm much more religious now than I was," 64-year-old Ed Rosenthal told reporters at Clifton's Cafeteria. Rosenthal helped broker the sale of the eatery last month, and embarked on the hike not long after the deal closed.
At Tuesday's news conference, Rosenthal said he was so weak when a helicopter rescue crew found him on Sept. 30 that he couldn't even sit up.
"I ended up exhausted in a hot canyon, and I could not walk. I hid under a tree all day. At night, it was freezing," said Rosenthal. "So, I stayed calm and focused. I did not get excited. Because if you do that, then you really just drop dead or you have a heart attack."
On Sept. 24, Rosenthal set out on what was a familiar route -- an area he had been hiking in for years. But on this trip, Rosenthal left the Black Rock Campground and somehow got lost, roaming in canyons he had never seen before.
"The area is open space with few markings. Going back, I lost the trail. It was a huge surprise," Rosenthal said. "I wandered through a few scary canyons, and the drops got worse."
He eventually ran out of food and water, so he found a shaded area and set up a lean-to for shelter.
"I got weaker and weaker," he said. "I would have died without my hiking stick to raise and lower myself. I stayed there five days, and it turned out I was very friendly with this horsefly that was my companion there and that slept on me and hung out all day."
Rosenthal said he tried to remain calm, but the lack of water and the oppressive heat took a toll.
"Your mouth turns to, like, sand, and then your saliva turns to sand and rocks," he said. "I don't even know if I did the right thing, but I scraped my mouth out all the time. You couldn't eat anything."
During his ordeal, he wrote notes on a hat to his wife and daughter, telling them both how he loved them, whom he wanted to be his pallbearers and other instructions in case he did not survive.
It wasn't until last Thursday that rescue crews, which had been scouring the area for days, found him.
"Finally the helicopter I had seen for days came into the canyon," he said. "And the gentleman asked me, 'Hey, are you that Rosenthal that's out here?"'
Rosenthal, who lost about 20 pounds during the ordeal, was taken to Hi-Desert Medical Center in Twentynine Palms to recover.
"I never had that kind of energy to walk 25 miles. I never hiked like that. I hike like three to five miles," he said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.