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Wife details lost Joshua Tree hiker's story

October 1, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
Temperatures were scorching. Edward Rosenthal was losing strength.

On Sept. 24, he strayed 13 miles off course while hiking in Joshua Tree National Park before hunkering down and waiting for help in the sun-baked desert.

But the 64-year-old found hope by writing messages to his family on the only thing he had: his hat.

"He was not sure he was going to make it out and he said he made a wrong turn," said Rosenthal's wife, Nicole Kaplan.

That wrong turn almost cost the Culver City resident his life.

"By either Tuesday or Wednesday, he was praying for rain, and there was some rain," Kaplan said. "It definitely gave him hope."

Rosenthal is a poet. He never goes anywhere without a pen. But all he had to write on in the desert was his hat.

"He used the hat to write, 'I don't think I'm going to make it, and I want you to know how much I love you,'" Kaplan said. "There were people he wanted me to thank and to eventually celebrate his life and make sure I ordered Persian food. He got pretty specific."

It could have been his farewell message. He was dehydrated and hungry.

"He said, 'Nicole, when you cross cold seas, think of me,'" Kaplan said. "Cold seas meaning very hard times. He wrote me and Ed in a heart on the bottom."

Search crews spotted Rosenthal on Friday.

"The helicopters got into a kind of valley, wash area," Kaplan said. "They got in and scooped him up. He couldn't walk."

Rosenthal's wife said she has nothing but praise for the search crews.

"I feel like they're our family now," Kaplan said. "I am just so indebted to them for what they did. They were doing their job, but they found my husband."

He remains hospitalized, but is in good condition.

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