Jessica Rose Garcia won't know for weeks whether she will walk again.
But the Yosemite employee, rescued after a three-day search, had a more immediate concern when she spoke with family members at the Fresno hospital where she was taken:
"She wanted to know what kind of cake (her rescuers) like," said her aunt, Darlene Cunningham. "She wanted to bake them a cake."
Garcia, 23, went for a walk Saturday afternoon after moving to the Wawona area of Yosemite National Park, where she had landed a job at a hotel. The Ceres resident had spent the summer working in Yosemite Valley, where she discovered a love of nature and hiking.
Searchers started looking for Garcia when she didn't report for her first day of work Sunday. She last had been seen Saturday after orientation. Rescuers found her Tuesday afternoon, roughly two miles away.
On Friday, Cunningham recounted what Garcia told family members when they could ask her what happened.
"She wanted to familiarize herself with the area, so she went on a short walk," Cunningham said. She took with her a bottle of water, her cell phone and a lollipop. She also had a coat and a work-issued down vest.
After walking a couple of miles, Garcia started heading back home when she lost her footing and slipped on a wet rock or root. "She slid down for a little bit when her wallet fell out," Cunningham said. Garcia turned to retrieve her wallet and then fell down a 35-foot drop.
"The next thing she knew, she woke up a couple hours later," Cunningham said. Garcia was in a lot of pain, and would later learn she had a broken leg and pelvis, as well as spinal cord damage. With unsettled weather approaching, she knew she needed to get to higher ground, so with her arms, she pulled herself about 100 feet to settle in next to a bush.
Confident she'd be found
"She knew that no one was going to start searching for her until the next day," Cunningham said. Still, Garcia told family members, she remained confident she would be found. She saw a helicopter fly over her six times during the next three days. Wearing khaki pants, she knew she blended in with the terrain and would be difficult to see. Yelling was impossible because it was too painful.
"She was cold the first two nights, but by the third night, she was getting a little bit warmer," Cunningham said. Garcia rationed out her water; she still had some when rescuers found her about 1 p.m. Tuesday.
She is being treated at Fresno's Community Regional Medical Center, where she underwent a 12½-hour spinal cord operation Thursday. Doctors told family members the procedure went better than they expected, but it will be weeks before they know if Garcia will be able to walk again.
Family members have established a bank account to help pay for what they anticipate will be extensive medical costs. Donations can be made to the account at any Bank of the West to the fund "For the Benefit of Jessica Rose Garcia."
For the next several days, Garcia will remain in intensive care as doctors watch for blood clots and wait for swelling to recede. In the meantime, the family is remaining optimistic, Cunningham said. "We have high hopes that it's going to have a positive outcome."
Bee Breaking News Editor Patty Guerra can be reached at email@example.com or (209) 578-2343.