A Quebec woman stranded for three days on a snowy New Brunswick logging road after her GPS led her astray says she expected to be stuck until spring.
Stephanie Parent, 22, set out Sunday on a 10-hour drive from her home in Sherbrooke, Que., to a medical internship in Bathurst, N.B.
Her parents raised the alarm when she did not arrive in Bathurst, and police from both provinces began searching.
No record of her trip could be found after 1:30 p.m. Sunday, when she used her bank card at a gas station in Rimouski, Que. Her family feared the worst.
But at about noon Wednesday, a trio of snowmobilers discovered Parent — cold, tired and afraid but otherwise unharmed on a remote road in the forest near Wayerton, N.B., more than 100 kilometres south of Bathurst.
'I was sort of in survival mode. The only thing I was thinking about was I need to tell them something so they won't leave me here.' —Stephanie Parent
Parent told reporters she survived on the knowledge her parents would be looking for her and on the cooler full of food her mother packed for her.
"I just survived thinking about what else could I do to get myself out of there, and why I wanted to get myself out of there, which is I wanted to see my father and my mom and my brother again," Parent said Thursday. "It would have kept me going for another six weeks."
Car equipped with GPS
Parent, who was supposed to begin a medical internship at Chaleur Regional Hospital on Monday, said her car has a GPS navigational device, which she used for her trip.
But at one point, the device sent her down a logging road, where she became stuck in snow. She was seven kilometres from the nearest paved road, closer to Miramichi than to Bathurst. She had a cellphone but there was no reception in the remote area.
Parent said that she left her car at one point and began walking but decided it would be safer to stay in her vehicle because of bad weather. She spent almost three days in the car before Azad Haché and two snowmobiling friends came upon her on their way to a camp near Wayerton.
"She didn't panic, she was very, very calm, she was in survival mode," Haché said. "One of the first things she said was, 'I had planned to be here until the spring.' She prepared herself with the pillows and the blankets and the food. She was using her head."
Pierre Parent said the days his daughter was missing were terrible for the family.
"It was heaven, after hell," he said of finding out she was safe.
He thanked the police in Quebec and New Brunswick as well as her rescuers.
"I was sort of in survival mode," Stephanie Parent said of the moment Haché and his friends arrived. "The only thing I was thinking about was I need to tell them something so they won't leave me here. So I was only afraid for them to leave me there. It was the only thing I could think about."
Parent is not the first visitor to the province to get lost after following a GPS device. Police cited a recent case involving a Montreal man who called 911 after getting lost under similar circumstances.
Read your manual, experts say
Experts say New Brunswick poses a particular problem for the GPS because the province has so many dirt roads. The default setting for most GPS units is to use all roads, regardless of whether they're paved. If a driver goes off track, a device will send them down any road to get them back to the main route.
But unbeknownst to the GPS unit, a road passable in the summer may be closed in winter. Most manuals explain this, but few people read them or change the settings to ignore unpaved roads.
"It's going to take you to places you really don't want to be," said Bob Ross, owner of Gps Explore N.B. in Sussex.
The self-described back-road enthusiast said the area Parent got lost in is full of dirt roads a GPS can see and will use.
"There are hundreds and hundreds of them out there," he said.
"If the GPS was set to 'shortest distance' and 'unpaved roads' was not checked off," he said. "I cannot even imagine the kind of roads any unit will take you over."
Ross advised drivers to read their GPS manuals and correct the settings.