Two men are lucky to have survived getting lost in California’s Death Valley National Park.
On July 4, the men were driving through the park in a Chevrolet sedan when they took a wrong turn while navigating by GPS, park officials said.
They drove back and forth on a gravel road for about three hours in the dark.
“Around midnight, they became concerned about running out of gas and decided to drive directly across the salt flat to Badwater Road,” the National Park Service said.
It didn’t work.
Instead, the car got stuck in mud roughly one mile from where they left the road. Together, they walked the remaining mile to Badwater Road and then another 12 miles on the paved road, NPS said.
Growing desperate to find help, the men decided to split up around 3 a.m.
One walked six miles to the north where he was found around 8 a.m. by a family visiting the park, officials said. They drove him to Furnace Creek where he was able to call for help.
The same family went to pick up the second man and drove him to Shoshone, just outside of the park’s boundaries, where he was then transported to Desert View Hospital in Pahrump, Nevada, to be treated for heat-related illness.
The lowest temperature that evening was 90 degrees.
Driving off-road is strictly prohibited in Death Valley National Park due to potential harm to plants and animals, including the desert tortoise.
“In this case, it could have cost their lives,” park officials said.
The car remained in the mud for three weeks until it could be carefully towed to minimize further damage to the landscape, NPS said.
Both men now face potential charges and fines for illegal off-road driving.
“Death Valley is an awe-inspiring place that demands our utmost respect and preparedness,” said Superintendent Mike Reynolds “We urge visitors to exercise caution and adhere to park rules. Don’t drive off established roads; this damages the environment and can turn deadly.”
At 282 feet below sea level, Death Valley is the lowest point in North America and among the lowest on Earth.
In late July, a 71-year-old man Los Angeles man died after hiking in Death Valley on a day when temperatures reached 121 degrees.