But large boulders blocked her path. "If I could have used both my legs, it would have been no problem," she said. But without them, she was stuck.
"My whole thing was just trying to find a way out of the river," Garcia said. "I wanted to see my family again."
She made her way back to the bush and slept.
In the meantime, others began to realize something was wrong. Garcia's supervisor went to look for her when she didn't arrive for work Sunday morning. By that afternoon, a search-and-rescue operation was launched. Authorities also called her family, which quickly jumped into action.
Debra Garcia, Jessica's mother, doesn't remember exactly what she did and when. "I was in shock," she said. "It's one emotion after another."
Rangers mobilized searches from the Wawona Hotel area. But nobody knew where Garcia had gone -- shy by nature, she hadn't lived or worked there long enough to make friends. And Yosemite, even just the Wawona area, is a big place to be looking for one person without any idea where she might have been going. Night began to fall with no sign of Garcia.
Monday morning, Garcia decided to try again, going the other way along the creek.
"I thought I would try to see if there was a way to go up the hill," she said.
She hoped there would be people looking for her, but she had no way of knowing.
"A couple of times, I thought I heard a helicopter," she said. She saw several airplanes, but knew they were passenger aircraft up far too high to be of any use.
Without anything to eat since the lollipop Sunday, Garcia considered her meager options.
"There were red ants," she said. "I was thinking about it, but I didn't do it. I was getting there, but I wasn't that hungry."
Underneath her uniform, Garcia wore a purple tank top that would come in handy. Eventually, she would use it as a flag to wave at a helicopter. First, though, she balled it up and bit down on it to help block out the pain.
She thought that if she could get back to where she fell, she might be able to make her way back to the trail. But it was hard going -- when her mother first saw her at the hospital in Fresno, Debra Garcia was struck by the bruises that lined her daughter's forearms -- and she stopped under a tree for another night of fitful sleep and watching the moon cycle.
As temperatures dropped back into the 30s, Garcia found herself shaking in the cold but grateful for her work-issued jacket, which rescuers later told her likely saved her life by keeping her from hypothermia.
One bright spot in the ordeal: "Because I was up so high, I saw a lot of shooting stars. I was trying to think positive."
Family members started a Facebook page to keep extended family and friends updated. That was how Denise Gilmore, a retired nurse, learned what had happened as she returned from a trip to Reno to her home in Redding. Bags still packed, she headed to her sister, Jessica's mother.
More rescue teams arrived at Yosemite to help. Volunteers from Mariposa, Marin and Madera counties joined National Park Service teams.
They kept Garcia's family apprised of every step, showing Debra Garcia on maps where they had been looking and where they planned to go next.
"They were great," Gilmore said.
But for Debra Garcia, there was only one answer that would suffice, and she would spend three sleepless days waiting for it: "I didn't care how I got her back, if she was paralyzed or whatever," Garcia said. "I wanted her back."
At one point, she went for a walk to try to get a grip on her emotions. She found herself drawn to a spot by the start of the Swinging Bridge Loop. She later would learn she stood less than a mile from where her daughter lay.