An actual message in a bottle saves some stranded California hikers and no, they’re not pirates
this summer when Curtis Whitson, his 13-year old son, Hunter, and Whitson’s girlfriend, Krystal Ramirez embarked on a 20-plus mile journey along the Arroyo Seco River, they didn’t know they’d need to send a message in a bottle for help.
They’d hiked “The Waterfall,” a backcountry section of trail along California’s Central Coast area often. A few days into the trip, and near its end, Mother Nature had other plans.
High and fierce water in the “narrows” or waterfall section of the river made a familiar terrain unpassable. Desperate for a way to reach other humans and needing something that was durable enough to survive the rough current, Whitson detached his Nalgene bottle from his backpack and etched “HELP” on the hard exterior of the bottle with a knife. He and Ramirez wrote, “We are stuck here@the waterfall, get help!” on a piece of paper. He tucked the note inside the Nalgene bottle, and threw it hard as he could downstream. The bottle cleared the falls and floated towards civilization.
Within hours, two hikers found the Nalgene bottle and reported the incident to the local camp director: California Highway Patrol Coastal Division Air Operations. The California Highway Patrol rescued the Whitsons and Ramirez by the next morning.
“We were in awe when Curtis shared this amazing story with us,” said Elissa McGee, general manager, Nalgene Outdoor. “For 70 years we’ve had a simple, leak proof and durable design. This isn’t exactly how we expect people to put those qualities to the test — but we sure are glad for Curtis’s quick and creative thinking that lead to a positive outcome.”
Nalgene containers started as lab equipment in 1949 as part of the Nalgene Co. in Rochester, New York. For decades, Nalgene has been a recognizable presence: the 1980 U.S. Olympic men’s hockey team used Nalgenes in the gold-medal winning game against the Soviet Union, the “Miracle on Ice” game that sparked the 2004 movie of the same name.
“We always love to hear stories from our consumers, how they use our bottles or where our bottles have journeyed with them,” adds McGee. “Curtis and Krystal’s story does stand out though. We’re so happy that their message in a bottle made its way down river to someone who called for help and grateful for the (California Highway Patrol) officers that jumped into action.”
Once they were home, Ramirez replaced Whitson’s beloved bottle. She wrote a love letter to go inside the new bottle instead of a rescue note.