Ruby Stein, an 85-year-old Colorado native, is old enough to be Bear Grylls’ grandma — and tough enough, too.
Stein spent five days with her cat, Nikki, in the snowy backcountry of the Rocky Mountains after taking a wrong turn and getting stuck on a mountain road deep in the Eagle County wilderness area. On a drive from Gypsum to beat a winter storm home in Akron, Colorado, Stein ended up on a muddy, snow-covered steep road that her Nissan Sentra couldn’t handle. After realizing she was stuck, Stein started doing whatever it took to get out of the predicament.
“I blowed my horn and blowed my horn and flashed my lights until the battery ran down,” Stein says, according to initial reports from the Denver Post. “Then my car went dead. I had a cellphone with me, but it wouldn’t work.”
So without a car battery and no cell service, Stein switched from hoping for a rescue to focusing on survival. She collected all of the spare items of clothing she had laying around the car and fixed them together with safety pins, creating a makeshift blanket. She planned to ration what little food she had — a sweet roll and a Rice Krispie Treat — and collected snow outside to melt and drink to stave off dehydration. Luckily for Nikki the cat, Stein had packed cat food for the car ride that had suddenly turned into a five-day dilemma.
The days came and went without Stein having any idea when help would arrive, or if it would at all. She only allowed herself two bites of food a day and willed herself to remain calm with collected thoughts. “I was keeping myself very, very calm,” Stein says in the Denver Post report. “I knew I either had to or it was over with. I have too many great-grandkids and grandkids. I didn’t want it to be over with.”
On the fifth day of being stranded — and as she was on her last morsel of the Rice Krispie Treat — two hikers came across Stein and Nikki curled up in the back of the Nissan. Dan Higbee and Katie Preston just happened to be hiking on a trail near the LEDE Reservoir, where Stein was stranded. They loaded the 85-year-old and her cat up in their four-wheel-drive vehicle and took her home.
Upon safely making it back to her family and her home in Akron, Stein has had time to reflect on her ordeal and credits her rural Kansas upbringing on teaching her to stay strong and use her wits in times of need. “I’ve got scars on my body from horses,” she said. “I’m only 5 foot and 110 pounds. I’ve just always been a doer. I’m an old farm girl from the day I was born.”