Ed Rosenthal Holds Onto His Hat, and Lives to Tell the Tale

Ed Rosenthal at a poetry reading in West LA
Ed Rosenthal at a poetry reading in West LA

Many prayers were answered Friday morning, Oct 1 when Ed Rosenthal, real estate broker and passionate hiker, was alive and able to talk and walk when he was found after going missing almost a week in a canyon at Joshua Tree Nation Monument. Lost in a hot canyon with only the water and food he’d planed for a day hike, Rosenthal took out a pen and started to write on his hiking hat.

Rosenthal set out Friday from Black Rock campground on a day hike after driving to Desert Hot Springs the day before.He said that he lost the trail and made a wrong turn. He ended up in East Wide Canyon, which looks to the southern border of the park. Happily, he was found Thursday morning, almost eight miles from where he left the trail, in a ravine near the canyon. He was spotted by a helicopter from the San Bernardino County Sheriff when he waved a shiny, Mylar-like material.

Rosenthal was not reported missing until late Saturday, when the hotel where he was staying noted that he had not returned. A camper who had spoken to Rosenthal before he went hiking noticed that his car was still at the campground Sunday and also called authorities. The Park Service mounted a massive search with up to 60 rescuers a day, helicopters, Civil Air Patrol planes, searchers on horseback and dogs.

According to the Los Angeles Times, Rosenthal, a poet, never went anywhere without a pen. But he didn’t write a poem. He wrote to his wife and his daughter to say he loved them. He wrote to business partners, and where to donate money in his memory. And he wrote an account of what he thought would be his final hike in a life spent walking through wilderness.

On Thursday, his wife, Nicole Kaplan, commented , “It’s really very miraculous,” she said “I didn’t think that he’d be around.”

Rosenthal hikes every weekend and some weekdays.

He hiked for about a day and a half, descending almost 2,000 feet down the canyon, and then he ran out of food and water.

Park rangers said Rosenthal was probably helped by high cloud cover this week, which spared the desert from the heat wave that baked the coast. Highs in the area ranged from 97 to 99 degrees most days. Kaplan said that Rosenthal, who is Jewish, relied on his experience with prayer, meditation and fasting.

“Everybody that we knew was praying for him,” she said.

Kaplan, who calmly gave numerous interviews to television reporters at the hospital, would not share all the details of what Rosenthal wrote. “He basically wrote down everything he wanted us to know on that hat.”

While the text on the hat might not have been intended as a poem, it may at least be a love song to those he was thinking he would not see again.

Ed Rosenthal will be holding a press conference early next week to answer questions and say more about his sojourn in the desert.

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