CAMP VERDE, Ariz. — In a canyon 70 feet below the Indian Maiden Falls trail, Jacob Velarde laid broken and bruised.
Velarde is an experienced hiker. He goes hiking about once a month and his hike on Aug. 4 in Camp Verde was expected to be like any other.
Velarde and his brother planned a 12-mile overnight trip. Velarde's brother chose to go back to the car before finishing, the steep edges and gravely terrain in the first mile convinced him to turn back. Velarde gave him his keys and told him they would see each other later.
He decided to trek on alone.
"It all happened in an instant really, I remember pushing down and then hurting a ton, flinging around and landing on the bottom and hitting my head on a rock," Velarde said.
After taking a wrong turn on the path, Velarde felt the ground fall out beneath him. He dropped 70 feet into a canyon where he stayed for 24 hours.
Velarde planned a route that would take the entire night and the next afternoon. He fell around 8 a.m. the first morning and no one would have expected him until around 1 p.m. the next day. That would be 29 hours before Velarde's brother would even think to be concerned.
Velarde fractured his skull, orbital bone, nose and ankle. He sustained a concussion and multiple cuts and bruises to his entire body. But he said he is happy to have walked away without anything more serious.
Hiking accident survivor photos
"I'm not paralyzed, I'm not impaled, I survived that without any super serious injuries, I knew I'd hit my head and had a concussion but my thoughts were just on survival," he said.
While Velarde was in the canyon alone, he focused on keeping himself shaded and with water. Though he did lose some of his gear on the way down, he still had a water purifier which was a lifesaver.
Velarde's thoughts stayed with his family while he was in the canyon. "Honestly all I was thinking was how I'm going to get out of this and how bad I feel for my parents having to deal with this," he said.
A family stumbled upon Velarde and helped him get emergency help. "As soon as they found me the dad ended up almost jogging three-quarters of the way out just to get a signal."
He said when he first saw them, he thought he had imagined them. After getting contact, first responders airlifted Velarde to the hospital. While doctors are not entirely sure how long recovery will be, Velarde knows he has a long road ahead.
Despite the accident, he plans to return to Indian Maiden Falls for his redemption.