Holly Courtier, 38, was found safe last Sunday. Family members say Courtier had a mental breakdown and went to Zion in the middle of the night on a spiritual journey without telling anyone, and without food or water.
"I think she was seeking solitude. And then a number of choices just went horribly wrong," Courtier's sister Jaime Strong said. "I think she thought she could go in there, spend a couple days alone, fast and pray, and then come out of the park."
Rescuers found the Woodland Hills mother after 12 days in the park.
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She was found in a clearing, not far from the main trail. Her family says she suffered a concussion early on, leaving her disoriented.
"I guess when she sat into her hammock one of the first times and kind of swung back, she hit her head very hard on the sharp edge of the tree," Strong said.
The lack of food and water made the situation even worse.
Courtier marked a tree to help her keep track of the days.
Some rescuers are questioning her story and her choices, especially since the water in Zion's Virgin River is toxic due to an algae bloom.
"If she had been drinking that water, unless she had some really high immune system, she would've been very, very ill and probably unable to come out on her own," said Sgt. Darrell Cashin from the Washington County Sheriff's Search and Rescue.
"She was very well aware of the toxins in the river. She said she was very tempted to drink it sometimes because she was so thirsty," Strong said. "She said she would scoop it up and swish it out in her mouth to kind of wet her mouth because her mouth was so dry."
Rescuers say Courtier was able to walk out of the park on her own. Her family said she was extremely weak and dehydrated and had to be treated at the hospital.
Family says the focus now is getting her the help she needs.
"We'll be the first to tell you it's not normal to walk into a park without a cellphone, and maybe with no food or water," Strong said. "That's not a normal thing to do. I don't think her head was in the right place when she did that."
The sheriff's department in Zion says the case is still under investigation.