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Flower Shop Owner Missing En Route to Washington Recounts Harrowing Ordeal

She had taken an ill-fated advice of a fellow camper offering a shortcut to the general store

When a Vista woman took off in her camper to visit her nephew in Washington State for Easter, she envisioned a memorable trip but not the kind making headlines.

Penelope Bax, 63, got lost in Shasta County on the way to Bellingham, Washington and was reported missing by her family when they hadn't heard from her in two days.

Bax's last known location before her discovery was at the Hirz Bay Campground on April 5, according to her sister, Toni Monaco.

Turned out she had taken an ill-fated advice of a fellow camper offering a shortcut to the general store. Bax, who owns the Rancho Santa Fe Flowers and Gifts shop, was on her way to getting lost but what she did next turned out to be the clue that helped rescuers locate her.

She was driving across a bridge and decided to take a picture.

"I shot a picture of that bridge and I sent it off to my nephew's wife," Bax told NBC 7.

The road soon narrowed to a point of no return. Bax was stuck and couldn't turn her camper around.

"I literally just ran out of road," she said. "I just couldn't go any further getting out of my RV and moving rocks out of the way."

When Bax's family hadn't heard from her in two days, they called the Shasta County Sheriff's Office (SCSO) to do a welfare check at the campground. When deputies couldn't locate her, the family filed a missing person's report. That was on April 7.

The US Forest Service (USFS) checked the campground and could not find Bax either. At that point, an all-points bulletin was issued for her in California, Oregon and Washington, according to her family.

Luckily, Bax had someone to keep her company, her golden retriever, Walter.

"He was not on a leash, but stuck to me like glue entire time," she said. Walter made her feel more secure, she said.

While friends, family members and employees back at her flower shop in Rancho Santa feared the worst, she only worried they'd stop looking for her and there was something else — bears.

"I knew they were coming out of hibernation, I knew they're gonna be hungry," Bax said.

With an RV full of people and dog food she worried they'd break in at night. So despite the comforts of a bed, she slept outside on the ground — on rocks.

"Which was not fun," she said.

Fortunately, the bears never came and the rescuers did. Bax was in the RV getting food for her and Walter when she heard the helicopters outside.

“I hit that door so hard running outside and grabbed two little rugs he'd been laying on and started waving those and going crazy," she said.

Bax was finally rescued on April 9, four days after she went down that ill-fated road. She never made it Washington. After four nights in the middle of nowhere, the trip had already been memorable enough, she said.

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