How the Carrico Girls Survived Alone in the Wilderness

Five things we can all learn from Leia and Caroline's two days lost in the woods

two young girls
Leia, 8, and Caroline, 5, CarricoHumboldt County Sheriff’s Office

Many are calling it an absolute miracle. The search for two missing California children, Leia and Caroline Carrico, 5 and 8 years old, concluded with a very happy ending, and some are crediting the girls’ survival training to the joyous outcome.

The young sisters wandered away from their northern California home on Friday March 1, 2019, and spent the next 44 hours alone in the cold wet woodlands.

More than 250 responders from at least 14 agencies joined the search and rescue effort, and the girls were found alive and well after their ordeal. How did they do it? Here are 5 lessons we can learn from these tough little outdoorswomen.

1. They Didn't Separate: Strength in numbers can save your life. Leia and Caroline knew enough to stay together rather than splitting up to look for help or to find the way home. These brave kids never left each other's side.

2. They Stayed Put: When you're wandering around aimlessly, it's difficult for search and rescue to find you. It's even possible that you could circle around to an area that has already been searched and will not be revisited soon. As the hours and days passed, rather than wandering further from home, the girls stayed put until rescuers tracked them down by their boot prints and discarded snack wrappers. These kids did what we should all do when SAR is involved—stay in one spot until help arrives. They were found sheltering under a shrub less than two miles from home.

3. They Huddled Together for Warmth: Without adequate shelter or clothing, they huddled together for warmth as the nighttime temperatures dipped.

4. They Were Resourceful: In order to survive, you've got to take advantage of available resources. The Carrico girls found sustenance by drinking the water from leaves to stave off dehydration. They had also planned ahead for their excursion by bringing snacks to eat on their hike (though they couldn't have guessed it would become a two-day outing).

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5.They Received Training: While some observers credit their salvation to the innate survival instincts of young children, others give credit to the 4H survival training that the girls received. If more people valued knowledge, experience and training, we'd have more happy endings in the stories of outdoor adventure gone wrong. Don't be shy and don't let your ego stop you. We should all keep learning, since we never know when that knowledge might come in handy.

These young ladies displayed some very grown up wilderness savvy, and their toughness and correct choices should be an example to all outdoor enthusiasts, regardless of experience. As this story clearly illustrates, doing the rights things will keep you alive.