NEWMAN -- It started as a plan to save money for a car.
Jessica Rose Garcia found herself studying film at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco after administrators cut the program she attended at Modesto Junior College in spring 2011. Knowing she would have a few months off for summer, she looked for a job where she could save up some money.
"I went to a job fair and the park was there," Garcia said. The idea of working at Yosemite National Park appealed to the 23-year-old from Ceres, so she applied online, eventually getting a summer job in transportation at the Yosemite Lodge.
That's where Garcia discovered a love of hiking -- and of saving the money she made. When the position ended at the close of September, she sought another Yosemite job, landing one in housekeeping at the Wawona Hotel.
"I wanted to see snow," she said. "I've never seen snow fall."
It was after job orientation Oct. 6, a Saturday, that she decided to take the long way back to her cabin and become familiar with her new surroundings. She headed out alone for what she thought would be a pleasant morning walk around the Wawona area.
Nobody would see Garcia again for three days, when a search-and-rescue team found her, badly injured, after a 35-foot fall into a rocky creek bed.
"It was a walk," Garcia said. "I didn't treat it like a hike. That's why I didn't take any of my gear."
That gear was a backpack with food, first aid, a headlamp, a water system -- all the things that really would have come in handy to someone lost in the wilderness. It all sat in Garcia's cabin, where she was headed via the 4.75-mile Swinging Bridge Loop trail.
Garcia took off a little after 9 a.m. She'd been walking for about 3½ hours when she fell.
"I'd decided if I wasn't heading in the right direction, I'd turn and go back," she said. She was about to do just that when she slipped on wet rock and fell off a cliff, landing on a granite creek bed between the cliff wall and a boulder.
"I was screaming as I fell, and I tried to grab onto something, but you can't grab onto rock," she said. Once she landed, she immediately knew she was badly injured. She would later learn that a bone in her back had broken and she had badly pulled ligaments in her right leg.
Garcia said she knew she was stuck and nobody would be looking for her for a while. "I was thinking, 'Holy crap, I did this to myself. Oh, my God, this cannot be happening.' "
First, Garcia wanted to get out of the damp area where she found herself.
"My whole objective was to get around the boulder and find a way to be warm and dry," she said. She managed by crawling on her arms and her left leg.
Once in a drier spot, Garcia immediately started thinking, and planning. Earlier in the day, she had sent her sister a text message saying she would be in touch that evening. She thought her sister might tell someone when Garcia failed to send another text. Or her boss would start a search when she didn't show up for work the next day.
In the meantime, her only hydration and nutrition would come from a water bottle and a lollipop she carried with her. She sipped from the bottle for two days and ate the lollipop Sunday.
That first night, Garcia managed to get to a bush that afforded her some protection from temperatures that got down into the 30s. Though she had rejected invitations to go on backpacking trips earlier in the summer because of a fear of camping in areas inhabited by bears, she managed to get some sleep.
Sunday morning, she started looking for a way back, crawling downstream. She thought if she could get somewhere higher, she might be able to use her cell phone, which she had turned off to save the battery.