"Maternal instinct" and a "solutions-oriented" personality are what a 46-year-old Pennsylvania mom says helped her survive a treacherous trek over more than 25 miles of the Grand Canyon to find help for her stranded family, after their car got stuck in a blizzard, Karen Klein tells NBC News. Klein, now recuperating from exposure in a Utah hospital, was found early Saturday after trudging more than 30 hours through the snow. Klein tells NBC10 her ordeal started Thursday after her family, vacationing in Las Vegas, decided to drive to the Grand Canyon using GPS-provided directions. "Google Maps shows there's a way—but it's impassable" due to closed roads, a local sheriff notes, adding he's seen that type of confusion happen before. When the Kleins' car got stuck in a ditch during a snowstorm and they couldn't get cellphone service, they decided Karen, a triathlete, should head out for help. "It was pretty simple," husband Eric tells CBS News. "Karen is our problem solver, and she's got experience. She's super intelligent."
Klein had just a small package of Cheerios to keep her going—she eventually resorted to eating tree twigs and drinking melted snow—during her quest. She refused to let herself sleep (she was afraid she'd freeze to death), lost one of her boots along the way, and had to pick up one of her own legs and move it with her hands after she pulled a muscle. "I could only move it 10 steps at a time" before she became fatigued, she tells NBC News. She finally broke into an empty park ranger cabin, where she was rescued Saturday. After a mini-trek themselves, her husband and son had been able to get cellphone service and call for help. Thoughts of her family pushed Klein, who may lose some frostbitten toes, through her long walk. "I can't leave my son without a mom," she remembers thinking. "[I] can't leave my husband without a wife. I'm not letting my parents bury me." (Read more survivor stories.)