VOLCANO, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) – 61-year-old Vera Matsuda-Brownlea has taken walks behind her Maunaloa Estates neighborhood for years. But, at one o'clock Wednesday afternoon she wandered off track on to a trail in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, and couldn't find her way home.
For two sleepless nights her husband, Steve Brownlea, went into a downward spiral. "It was complete hell. I was sure she was dead. I was sure she was gone. I was blaming humanity and everyone else," said Steve Brownlea, Vera's husband.
As police, family and friends searched, Vera's survival skills kicked in, the 4'10" mother ate a mix of bugs and berries and did what she could to stay hydrated.
"She mostly drank water out of the ginger plants. There's been plenty of rain so there is plenty of water. Vera is a good girl scout. She made herself a shelter for each night and the last day she used the sun for her guide, and not the trails," said Brownlea.
Vera did the right thing. If it ever happens to you, survival experts say look for water on plants including moss and just squeeze it. If you go hiking, bring a plastic bag to catch rain and always carry a cell phone.
That was Vera's mistake, she left her purse in her car. She finally found a fence, followed it to a road, then ran into a bicyclist and asked for directions. At 8 o'clock Friday morning she walked home and called her family.
"Everybody rushed home and you know she showered and they had snack and a big breakfast and she is doing very well," said Linda Ugaldo, a family friend.
After nearly eight years of marriage, Steve says authorities considered him a prime suspect in his wife's disappearance and now that she's home, he is elated.
"I got my wish. I wished she would come back ok. I didn't care if she had broken two legs or two arms, I didn't care I just wanted her and she's back "
Vera did suffer some minor bruises and scratches but is in good condition.