A Kiwi woman whose hike through the Californian desert turned into a mission for survival is recovering in Toronto under the watchful eye of her mother.

Claire Nelson, originally from Auckland, narrowly escaped death in May when she spent several days alone and seriously injured in the Joshua Tree National Park in California.

The 35-year-old lay in a dried out river bed for more than 72 hours, alone and in extreme pain after falling from a boulder stack and falling several metres to the ground.

She was forced to drink her urine after she ran out of water, and had little more than a T-shirt and shorts as cover from the scorching sun.


Nelson's mother, Maggie Hickton, flew out from Wellington this week to Los Angeles to meet her daughter before they flew on to Toronto together.

Speaking to the Herald on Sunday, Hickton said juggling wheelchairs, crutches and multiple bags on the trip had left the pair "exhausted".

They would have to now find a doctor and physical therapist in Toronto.

"I have been very fortunate that my employer [Contact Energy] have allowed me to travel over here and spend a few weeks with Claire while still working remotely," Hickton said.

"It would have been financially challenging without that support."

Nelson had moved to Toronto from the UK on a working holiday visa in March and had planned to spend the summer visiting friends and exploring the country.

She had been cat-sitting for friends at their home in California and hiking "most days" when the accident happened.

The freelance writer lived in the UK for 12 years and worked as a sub-editor on Jamie Oliver's magazine.

Shortly after the incident, Nelson's mother told the Herald her daughter had all but given up on being rescued.

Joshua Tree National Park Lost Oasis Trail where Claire Nelson was rescued after falling and breaking her pelvis. Photo / Supplied
Joshua Tree National Park Lost Oasis Trail where Claire Nelson was rescued after falling and breaking her pelvis. Photo / Supplied

She was thinking: "Nobody knows where I am, nobody's going to know I'm missing", Hickton said.

She was due to meet someone on the Thursday, and hoped they would raise the alarm when she didn't show up.

"When no one came searching on Thursday she really felt she was going to die. She couldn't move and the sun was fierce. At night she was petrified of the rattlesnakes and other things."

It was on Friday, on the fourth day after her fall, that she heard a rescue helicopter overhead and her name being called over a megaphone.

Nelson was found in a "wash" - a dried out river bed - in the park.

The weeks after being rescued have been a struggle with hospital care, insurance companies and physiotherapy.

She was originally taken to Desert Regional Medical Centre, where she had multiple X-rays, CT scans and surgery by a pelvic specialist.

Pins were inserted into her pelvis to reconnect the broken pieces, so they could fuse together again.

Since the surgery she has been undergoing physical therapy, and is about to begin treatment to alleviate nerve damage in her left foot.

Fundraising efforts to help pay for the Kiwi's recovery were ongoing through her GoFundMe page. She has US medical travel insurance but it is limited.

The funds are largely helping pay for rehabilitation, which her insurance did not cover.