In the summer, Whitson, his 13-year-old son and girlfriend, Krystal Ramirez, had decided to spend Father’s Day weekend backpacking the Arroyo Seco River. In the past, Whitson made as many as 20 backpacking trips to the central California coastal forest each summer. This time, however, things were different. They were trapped atop an isolated 40-foot waterfall. The family spread out their blue tarp in a clearing and assembled white rocks to spell out “SOS.” As the sun set, they used a headlamp to keep that message illuminated.Whitson spotted a lime green Nalgene water bottle and carved ‘HELP’ into the durable plastic exterior. Ramirez, his girlfriend, had brought scratch paper with her to keep score when they played games. She scratched out a quick note and popped the piece of paper inside the bottle. They send the message in the water. It was a miracle to happen: after a few hours a rescue helicopter located them. Because it was night, the family was told to stay put and stay warm, and a rescue crew arrived early the next morning to save them.
The family with rescue team
The story had a happy end. Whitson was told the bottle was found by two hikers about a quarter-mile downstream . They floated down to the trailhead, then hiked a couple of miles and reached the campground where they alerted the camp host without giving their names. Witson wants now to find the two hikers who found his family’s message and saved them.