Brandon Day’s Survival Story to Air on I Shouldn’t Be Alive

Loyal readers of the “print product” will remember Brandon Day as the cover boy for our December 2006 issue. He and his then girlfriend, Gina Allen, after dating for only about a month, took a trip together to Palm Springs. Then they rode a tram to the top of Mount San Jacinto to get some drinks at a bar — and wound up lost, spending three nights in the wilderness without shelter. Read their story. It’s truly amazing. And when they told it in the pages of D, I figured it would only be a matter of time before it became the subject of a made-for-TV movie. (Do they still make made-for-TV movies?) Well, that hasn’t happened yet. But this Friday, the story will be told from Day’s perspective on the Discovery Channel show I Shouldn’t Be Alive. The episode is titled “Date From Hell” and will air at 8 p.m. Set your TIVOs now. (Seriously. This cable TV thing is here to stay?)


  • You are both very lucky to be alive! Truly amazing story!

  • Laura Y.

    Just wanted to say that I’m very glad you told your story on Discovery Channel. I live in the Palm Springs area and we always hear about the “stupid day hikers that waste tax payer money on rescue efforts” in our local papers, on TV and even in reader comments on rescue articles. I must confess I used to think it was pretty silly too, but Brandon and Gina’s story is a major lesson as to just how easy something like this could happen and how scary it would be to live through it. Thank you for telling your story. Hopefully locals here will see it and not be so quick to judge the next time something like this happens in our mountains or deserts.

  • Rick L.

    They are complete idiots. I’ve been to that area many times, it is crisscrossed with trails and the mountain is surrounded by Idyllwild, Palm Springs and Banning. In three days they could have walked in any direction and hit a road. Mt. San Jacinto is hardly wilderness.

  • John Christopher

    To Rick L. You obviously forgot that John Donovan, an experienced hiker died out there. Let’s have some respect for him and be thankful Gina and Brandon were rescued.

  • Scott

    this was 4 years ago.

    did they get married?

  • Colin O.

    @Rick L let’s drop you out there and see how you make out if you think they are so stupid

  • apcfix

    I saw this story the series, “I Shouldn’t Be Alive” show last night and have to ask…did you ever sue the Tour Company that left you there? I just returned from a tour and our guide would have NEVER assumed we took other transportation back. That guide was EXTREMELY negligent in my opinion. I hope the company compensated you for your trauma.

    Lucky for you Donovan didn’t think to use his matches. But odd how a Navy man didnt try every possible resource he had. Very sad for him, a miracle for you!

    SCOTT – According to the show last night, Brandon and Gina didn’t wind up staying together.

  • Search and Rescue

    This was an interesting story and food for thought for anyone intending to leave a populated area or a tour group to venture out into wilderness on their own and being ill-prepared to do so.

    Inexperienced/ill-equipped hikers obviously should not attempt what these two people did. What may seem like a simple, fun adventure can turn ugly all too quickly!

    At the very least, all hikers should carry a Personal Locator Beacon. The chances of being found by me or my colleages are much better that way.

  • Dave

    Saw it last night here in Australia.
    Got me thinking afterwards – why did’nt John Donovan, the veteran, set fire to the forest with his matches ?

  • apcfix

    I’ve asked myself the same thing Dave. Only answer is it was fate. Those two were meant to have the matches one year later.

  • Brandon Day

    To those who wished us well, thank you for your thoughts.
    John couldnt light a fire because he was caught in a snow storm, everything around him was wet.
    On a side note, we weren’t hikers. If we had intended to hike our preperation would of been much different. We didnt know anything about the area other than what was advertised to us via the conference we were attending. We just intended to stretch our legs before eating at the mountain station.

    To Rick L, I’m sure your the expert of every inch of that area but the local experts there dont exactly agree with your opinion. Their site is as follows:

    Best Regards,
    Brandon Day

  • apcfix

    Thanks for the reply Brandon. They did mention John was caught in the snowstorm. We should of realized he couldn’t have lit a fire.

    I hope you both sued that tour company. They were extremely negligent in my opinion.

    Continued good luck and health!

  • A. Kaspari

    Gina & Brandon, your experience, as another posted, was AMAZING. Thank God you are both alive and well and sharing your story. Best Wishes to both of you!

  • R. Durham

    That tram person who disregarded 2 missing people so casually, ought to be brought back to that mountain and be left there for 4 days with just her uniform on. I’d like to see how she’d regard 2 empty seats after that.


    So glad both of you made it out alive Brandon and Gina.

  • Randy R.

    I watched this program again tonight because it is my favorite “I Shouldn’t Be Alive” episode and I’ve seen just about every one. It only makes me wish you guys had been able to stay together, but I know that sometimes things just don’t work out. I have a lot of respect for both of you for making it through your ordeal. As for the one comment here criticizing you two, there’s always someone who has to post judgmental comments on stories like yours because it’s easy to say what you would do when you’re not in that situation. I hope both of you make the best of the second chance you were given, as I know you’re doing. God bless you both.

  • apcfix

    R. Durham I like your idea very much! I had just come home from a two week tour when I watched this episode and was enraged at that tour guide. I hope (at the very least) that the tour guide got fired!

  • Richard Ejaz

    Hi Brandon ,
    I am Richard from Karachi Pakistan i would like to speak with you .my email address is [email protected]
    kindly send me your contact number.

  • william

    Just curious, how was he caught in a snow storm on may 8th??

  • ~SonjaLyn~

    What an absolutely amazing story!! The show took my breath away and further inspired my ritualistic internet ‘immediate quest for more information’!!! So here I am…..

    Brandon and Gina are both so fortunate to have learned such valuable life lessons, and at such a VERY young age. It takes most of us the journey of a lifetime to even partially appreciate what their young minds were forced to digest in just a matter of days, emotionally and physically.

    I am very curious how both Brandon and Gina’s life focuses and/or priorities may have changed following the rescue, i.e. material and/or monetary valuation, preservation of life and the value of sacrifice just to name a few.

    Isn’t it always so convenient to judge the mistakes of others, and also ourselves, in hindsight? While “Rick L” may label Brandon and Gina’s actions “idiotic”, I couldn’t disagree more. They are both alive and well, while an experienced hiker never made it out of the same area alive. There’s simply too much to be said about Mr. Donovan’s sacrifice and his role in the survival of two complete strangers. What an awesome story! Thank you for putting a genuine smile on MY face after a 7 day face-off with the flu.

    Only “When a man is pushed, tormented, defeated, he has a chance to learn something.” ~Ralph Waldo Emerson~

  • Danielle

    Absolutely, one of the best stories I have ever heard! Absolutely Amazing!
    Im with “SonjaLyn” though, we need more info! Im curious to know what happened after the rescue as well. Brandon Day, hook us up with some answers!

  • Jennifer

    Am really glad they made it out alive and hung in there, and if they can survive that kind of ordeal together, if they aren’t still together, I hope they remain friends for a long time.

  • Melinda

    I have to agree that I think the tour guide should be held accountable in some way – at least I hope she learned a valuable lesson to follow up in those instances where someone does not return; which I would hope if someone didn’t return by choice they would leave a note @ the bus or with the bus driver as well so that should have been a signal as well that something was wrong to the guide. Hind sight I guess – at least in this instance all was well. I hope they did get to put the fire out and it didn’t burn too much of the mountain wilderness though – just for the animals sakes.

  • Melinda

    also I think John Donovan saved them there is no doubt about that for sure – but they also saved John Donovan in a way because his family may have always worried and wondered and they were able to gave his family a much needed peace of mind. Many families of missing people never get that.

  • Malcolm

    I honestly don’t see what the big deal is. I realize the show probably takes some dramatic liberties, but c’mon. It’s four days without food and they make it seem like they are death’s door.

    IF the show was correct and they had a tent and matches I don’t see what the big life or death struggle was. Were they just city slickers that didn’t know what they were doing? Maybe it’s because I was raised in Alaska but I’ve had harsher trips just going hunting.

  • Scott

    This was an amazing story that I watched on T.V. “I shouldn’t be alive”. Going into the mountains just a little ways and a person or persons can get lost, it happened here. I’m sorry Gina and Brandon that this happened to you. Not knowing if you are going to live or die has to be the worst feeling in the world. I understand that you two had only been dating about a month when this occured which even makes it more difficult since the two of you didn’t know each other too well at the time. I understand you two stayed in a relationship together for about 18 months after this happened but are no longer together now, is that correct? I wish you both the best. As for John Donovan, bless his heart, a true warrior who left everything he had on that mountain.If you wish to contact me do so at [email protected]


    Hello Brandon and Gina,
    I have just watched you both. Really, by God’s grace and your efforts saved you both. You are a nice couple. Why you separated? Why didn’t get married? It is also amazing. This event must have developed intensive love for each other. I want to know more about you both. Are you on FB? Please send me some information at [email protected].
    Thank you very much.

  • Eric

    I dont get how people can get lost there. Ive hiked up the Mt. San Jacinto skyline route 3 times, about a mile away at most from where those 2 people got lost. The route goes from the desert floor all the way to the top of the mountain and takes most people a day, deaths on the route are rare and happen about 4 times a year. After hearing this story, I decided to hike Skyline again and find the place where John Donnavan died. The location is about 0.9 miles northwest of the 6,000ft portion of Skyline. It takes about an hour to get to because of some scrambling. I decided to climb up the mountain following the river described in the story, which took about 3 hours. I dont get how they could have taken 2 days. According to my GPS, the distance they went from the point where they got lost to John’s campsite was only 2.75 miles and 2,374 feet in elevation gain. It would take a snail to do that in 2 days!

  • Al

    WOW.. Eric…sounds like you had your trip ALL PLANNED OUT. Eric, so funny to read that you can’t believe what happened. FOOL, they did not plan on hiking in that terrain, nor did they have a GPS. You must be a stud, it took you only 3 hours to climb the mountain with ALL YOUR GEAR. I am sure you planned ahead and told your mommy and daddy that you went on a day hike and did mommy pack your lunch and send you off with a kiss. DUDE, you must be so proud of yourself. Next time you plan on a day hike, let your mommy or daddy drop you off in an area that your not familiar with and just take what Brandon and Gina had and I bet not only would you DIE on the mountain but you would probably FREAK out and call out for your MOMMY. Your a JOKE……….

  • Dick L

    I can totally relate to Brandon and Ginas plight when they were all caught up in the widerness and everything. I too shouldn’t be alive. I once was trapped in a dressing room at Walmart for 3 days straight before I was rescued by a Walmart Assistant Manager. My ordeal began when I tried on some Lee skinny jeans and couldn’t get them back off of me. Eventually the Lee skinny jeans cut off all circulation in my legs then eventually caused me to pass out. When I came to, I still had on the Lee skinny jeans, but lost the use of my legs. I cried out for help, but no one came. I was lost, scared, and all alone…in my skinny jeans. I knew that if I could just, inch by inch, move myself using my knuckles along the floor to a pair of scissors that were laying on the floor 15 ft away from my, then eventually I could cut myself free. So on I went. Digging my fingernails into the floor and pulling myself towards the scissors. After 2 days of this pulling, I eventually reached the scissors. But after not drinking water for 2 days, I barely had the strength to even make the first cut of the skinny jeans. With all the strength I could muster, to make a second cut, I passed out. I awoke on the 3rd day to a Walmart Assistant Manager that was in a break room adjacent to the dressing room where I was. He heard me snoring when I was passed out. When he woke me up, I was so full of joy and glee. Even though he did say: “Dude, you’re going to pay for damaging those skinny jeans.” I didn’t care. He saved my life that day.

  • What an amazing story, it got more and more interesting and the twist with John the hiker…gave me chills. To those making rude comments, it’s very easy to judge people and think you know it all. Do you really think they wanted to be where they were and suffer the way they did. NO ONE that appears on the show I shouldn’t be alive wished to go through what they did. Coulda woulda shoulda…like I said it’s easy to talk sitting in a comfy chair infront of a screen about someone elses experience. To those asking why are you not together, for God’s sake…let these people live their lives. I’m sure they have a deep connection from the expierence but it doesn’t mean they have to be tied together. Sure it would have been an amazing story to tell their kids but I’m just glad they are well and hope they remain in contact for what they shared and endured together.

    Thanks for sharing your story. You guys both seem like such genuine people and during the interview, hearing you guys explain the emotions with tears brought me, a 25 yr old guy to sadness and happiness for you both. I love connecting with good hearted and genuine ppl so feel free to conncet via facebook through [email protected] God bless you guys and thanks for sharing your amazing story.

  • Joseph F

    They are very Lucky, However it was not the fault of the bus guide. Hint: bus guide. They wandered off the trail and they got lost. Simple. If they could sue the bus company then the people searching for them should be able to sue them for getting lost. It’s not someone elses fault when you make a mistake. It’s your’s. Be thankful someone found them and leave it at that.

  • Antoinette

    I can’t believe how rude some people can be, and judgemental, we should not judge these two innocent people for walking off trail, they made a mistake and paid dearly for it, and they very easily could have lost their lives, thank God they didn’t, it was a good story & a valuable lesson, thank you Gina & Brandon for sharing your story.

  • Stacey R

    I just watched this story and I was amazed. Are Gina and Brandon still together? My DVR cut off the end of the episode so I didn’t get to see if it said anything about that.

  • Hayden V

    Never really cared for I shouldn’t Be Alive but this story was remarkable to me. I think mainly because at the time you were such a young couple. Was interesting to see what kind of bond is made through such a traumatic experience.

    I’m glad to see you’re still together (I think you are right?) I certainly hope so!

  • Stephanie

    I too want to know if they’re still together!!! I read the story they wrote in 06′ in some magazine and there were quite a few details that the show missed and the show exaggerated on… Anyways, how scary that mustve been. And to the skinny Jean walmart story guy, while it was funny, also inappropriate. And why would one shop at walmart!!!!!!

  • Evan

    Whats with all the Muslims leaving their email addresses? Does anyone else find that strange? And are they really dumb enough to think that these two people will actually email them because they requested it on a discovery magazine forum??

    I’m sure Brandon got on that rescue helicopter and said to himself “thank god Im alive, now I cant wait to start a relationship with three creepy pakistani men”

  • Brett

    To Stephanie who said: Would would anyone shop at Walmart?

    Gosh, I wish everyone would ask such easy to answer questions. Simple, Stephanie – to save money and lots of it. The reason why Walmart is so crowded with people who choose to shop there is because they beat other store’s prices so therefore, in order to spend less and have more to spend in other places like rent, mortgage, car maintenance, food, life, etc., that is the reason why people shop at Walmart.

  • Gina Allen

    First off, I would just like to totally thank every one of you for your input and thoughts. The support we’ve received even afterwards from family and friends has been such a blessing. I’ve read each of these comments, and I know Brandon has too. There are some common questions that I’d like to try to answer the best I can to put some curiosity to rest. Many of you have asked why Brandon and I are not together. This is an experience that life threw our way in the same time in both our lives. This could’ve happened to anyone. It did bring us together and we’re still very close today. That event bonded us forever. If you’ve ever been in a near fatal car accident with a b/f or g/f that wasn’t your fault. That is a test of “will” that you both experienced. It doesn’t really mean that you should get married. But a does create a very strong bond. As for easily getting as lost as we did and how that could’ve happened, the best way I can compare it to, is something we’ve all done and that’s losing your car in a parking lot filled with cars that all look so familiar to yours. You go into the mall making a ‘mental note’ as to how to get back to your vehicle. But after an hour, when your mind has been exposed to other sites/sounds and under the pressure of making it back in a certain time. Then that’s when things all look the same and it’s more difficult to get back. Even though you made that ‘mental note’. Because things can change in the scenery in such a short time like shadows, sky, certain boulders look different even though they may be they same landmarks. Add the pressure of getting back in time and it all get’s confusing.
    Thank you to everyone that had left their email addresses no matter your race, religion, or where you live. We hope that everyone everywhere can learn from us. To the person with the skinny jeans story in Walmart, thank you so much for sharing : ) as many times as I read that, it made me laugh every time. Humor can go a long ways and be the best medicine in a healing process after a life threatening situation. Just as the President of Chile recently had a soccer game for those trapped Chilean Miners after their rescue. Very appropriate. We also should keep in mind that Walmart spends millions a year on it’s Missing Children Program which has helped find and recover hundreds of missing children a year. With that being said, I think Walmart should be commended for their efforts, not dismissed as some kind of bad place. Thank you again to each and everyone of you for your thoughts, your comments, your concerns, and even your constructive criticism. I hope I answered and explained some things that weren’t clear. Count your blessings every day, because you never know what’s around the next bend. : )

    Gina Allen

  • the dude

    @Dick L…. that was tooooo funny!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    but foreal.. im glad gina and b-money are safe

  • JD

    I have nothing other to say other than Gina is incredibly cute and Brandon seems like a stand up guy. All the monday morning quarterbacking doesn’t work when you are there.

  • ken s

    G and B , you never grubbed for food ? I would have been eating whats left of the old guy after four days ! RIP John !

  • JD

    Oh and the documentary i want to make is..”Date Stories from Myspace”

  • Gina, I just want to say that thanks to you two I now carry supplies for a month in my car at all times. JUST IN CASE. And I will never leave home to go on vacation, without my pistol, tazar, matches, food, water cell phone, matches, blankets, and a map. I was on the edge of my seat watching the two of you and I was so proud of the both of you for pessing on. There is one question that I want to ask though. When you and Brandon heard the others talking why didnt you both yell out and say hey we r lost? If you could hear them they could hear you as well. Was it a pride thing? Not judging just asking you Gina.

  • also thank you for the comment about Walmart I work there now and have for 9 years

  • @Dick L
    your story was absolutely funny but i can imagine how you fared to survive that 3 long days w/out food and water and ultimately mobility. glad you managed to show a sign of your presence. 🙂

    you there. i cant figure out how you stumbled upon this site just to ask someone here a question full of shit? i think you’re being too judgmental with what you said. what’s wrong with shopping in a cheap supermarket? everyone has their own way to save money and minimize their spendings and to tell you, we people here don’t fucking care where your favorite shopping mall is.

    Btw, the experience Gina and Brandon had was totally a miracle since the last shot they gave granted them their very survival. however, it’s sad to hear they aren’t together anymore.

  • Sylvie Laliberte

    Hi Gina. I watched your story yesterday on television (translated into French for Quebec viewers) and I read your comments on this post. You are a hell of an amazing human being and I’m so glad you survived this ordeal.

  • Wiley

    How many people were killed in the resulting forest fire? and how many crispy critters?

  • Alie

    Did they sue that company?! I sure hope so….unbelieveable!!!

  • Hi Gina & Brandon,

    I watched your story today and am glad you two made it out OK. Mr. Donovan’s unfortunate death was truly a blessing for you guys….and I have no doubt that one day in the next life you will both be able to thank him in person.

    My wife and I went through a similar (but to a much lesser scale) experience like yours- getting lost for an entire day with no water in 100 degree plus heat. We had no intentions other than taking a 30 minute walk on a nature path, but due to a simple misjudgment went through a scary experience. If I had been by myself this probably wouldn’t of happened, but when you are with someone and having a good time talking, sometimes your sense of direction can get away from you and then it’s too late.

    Anyway, I’m glad you made it out of your ordeal and I hope others can learn from this and not get caught in the same unfortunate predicament.



  • Tim T

    Brandon and Gina, I just watched your story and wanted to say how thankful I am you both made it out. For Gina, thanks for your comments about God and faith (and thanks to the show’s producer for not editing it out). Too often today the power of prayer is not discussed, too taboo I suppose. After 3 tours in Iraq and 2 in Afghanistan I can say with all sincerity that prayer is an amazing thing. I’m definitely not the preachy type, probably would have rolled my eyes at my own comments 10 years ago, but when things are at their darkest, God is there.

  • sahil sash

    Brandon and Gina , last night i just saw your story in I Shouldn’t be alive on Discovery channel , I am from India. i LOve Ur story and i already watching this continuously from the last night , i respect your feelings , and can understand how difficult it was for u to get out from that situation , AND I PERSONALLY SALUTES TO THE JOHN DONOVAN < EVEN AFTER HIS DEATH HE SAVED TO LIVES < MAY HIS SOUL REST IN PEACE !!!!!!
    Sahil SAsh

  • spud

    Wow, some of these comments are so laughable!
    Yes Brandon and his pal were pretty stupid to go off without finding their way back. buck really, carry a personal locator beacon??? Get real. All they needed was a compas, firestarter, and decent jackets. It not like they were lost in the artic tundra! And like someone posted, in 4 days they could easily have walked out to civilization on their own. They panicked and did not employ the most basic survival skills.

  • Cindi D

    I am so glad Brandon and Gina were found. Brandon you did great. starting the fire was your only choice and hope. my heart goes out to both of you. I wish you both well in your lives.

  • Debra L

    Today I’ve been feeling a little down about the things I don’t have that I would like to have — you know that feeling you still get even when things are just fine? It has to do with never being quite satisfied with what you have. It’s stories like this one of Brandon and Gina that bring me back to the basics of what makes life good. I was dismayed to read negative comments and criticism and concerns about blaming someone (an American past time it seems) but perhaps those are from people who still have important lessons to learn and positive character to build like Gina and Brandon possess.

  • Susan H

    Gina or Brandon: I have a question you dont have to answer why did you break up????

  • Stephen

    I just went on the Palm Springs Tram to the Mountain Station on Saturday (5/22/11) and wanted to comment to those who stated that the tram company should have taken a count. The tram runs fairly independent of tickets. Also, you can buy either one way or round trip tram tickets. Your tram ticket does not have designated times. Gina and Brandon, it was a blessing to see what you both were able to make it through.

  • Michelle

    I have to admit that this was the only “I Shouldn’t Be Alive” episode that I watched from start to finish. Your story was extraordinary, it must be have been so scary to think that you were trapped in those mountains just waiting to starve or freeze to death. I’m so glad you’re both alive and well, and like many people who have watched this documentary, I’m filled with admiration for your perseveranece!

  • Rose

    Wow… God is good 🙂 Instances like these are really eye opening and can change your whole perspective on things. God Bless you two and stay safe!!

  • Tammy

    Brandon & Gina
    Today (7/9/11) is my 2nd or 3rd time watching the episode and I’m always moved by the experience!! Your story was truly inspirational and faith building for me. I truly believe in the power of God and I truly believe God was there with the two of you and delivered you to safety!
    Yes, it would have been a more beautiful ending to the story if you all had stayed together and continued to build a wonderful life….but perhaps God has other plans for your lives..I’m also grateful you both were instrumental in bringing closure to Mr. Donovan’s family.

  • Shaun

    This was a unique episode of I Shouldn’t be Alive. I think what makes it special is that they did what many people would have done in the same situation. Following the river out, leaving some clothing to mark where you had been, and hiking down to get out are all things I think other people would have done in the same situation. I wondered why they felf “trapped” at the end but now I understand. They basically climbed into a hole surrounded by mountain face, cliffs, waterfall, etc. That is why John Donovan could not get out because he had the added problem of being injured during a snowstorm.

    What makes this episode unique is understanding that someone else died in that exact same spot. Finding a dead body, actually seeing it, would definitely put a sense of reality into the seriousness of the situation.

    People do not realize how common getting lost is when you are unfamiliar with your surroundings. I once went to a place called the Red River Gorge in Kentucky and was surprised to find out it is a big place for cliff climbing. The place and what it is known for reminded me of that movie Wrong Turn. Every year it seems like someone either falls into the Gorge or people end up missing. In the forest there are these paper signs on trees that say the following:
    “Since (some year), over (some thousand) people have gone missing or been injured in this area.” Then the sign states that you are at least 50 miles from the nearest hospital so be very careful about not getting injured.

    The theme of this is that two people from Texas could not have known what to expect in California because I would never have thought that Kentucky, which I think of as being rolling blue grass hills with lots of horses is a place you go for cliff-climbing(I forget what the sport is called).

    One could say they should have gone this way or that, but the ironic thing is maybe the morale of the story is that hiking into a hole was the best way out. They got out of the gorge alive. Alot of people do not.

  • Mike

    First I wanted to say I am glad Brandon and Gina are safe, that’s the most important part. I watched the show and read their story which was very intriguing. They made it through class 4 climbs without a rope or any climbing equipment which is amazing. The class difficulty was confirmed by RMRU, which had a hard time recovering John Donovan’s body due to the terrain being so steep and all the brush. RMRU had machetes and climbing gear, but still had a hard time. Brandon and Gina had nothing but their clothes which were not suited for the mountain. And I realize how easy it is to get disoriented in the woods I have experienced it myself. I think Gina explained it well with losing your car in the parking lot. And from everything I have read about survival I would have done the same thing and started descending to a lower altitude to avoid hypothermia. And survivalists say follow a source of water out so you don’t become dehydrated, and the stream will lead to civilization. In their case they could see the lights from Palm Springs I am sure. So to all the skeptics I say don’t judge until you put yourself in someone else’s situation. I was so intrigued by the story I just wanted to know more. I found the route taken on Brandon’s link that led to Long Valley. But, could only find bits and pieces on how John Donovan ended up in the same location. So I researched and found information (from Backpacker Magazine, RMRU, and other posts on how he got to the same location which follows:
    John Donovan was and experience ultralight hiker, hiking 100 days a year and had been hiking for 20 years. His plans were to hike the Pacific Crest Trail which spans from Mexico to Canada . By the time Donavan began climbing Mt. San Jacinto on May 2, 2005, the signs of danger were real. Snow was 3 feet deep up high, and the weather report was predicting a heavy storm. Many hikers decided to wait out the storm in Idyllwild. These hikers feared the storm would hit as they were climbing Fuller Ridge, a steep, rocky spine rising to 8,725 feet about 5 miles north of Saddle Junction. Around noon on May 3, when 3 well-equipped hikers whipped down the ridge and encountered Dovovan, they warned him that they’d seen clouds sweeping in. “But we weren’t going to change his mind,” says one of the hikers Brian Barnhart. “He was emphatic about going up Fuller Ridge.” Duane Steiner, a photographer also remembered Donovan as overconfident.” He told Donovan that he would need to buy an ice axe to do Fuller Ridge, but he rejected the advice. As an ultralight hiker weight is always a determining factor and Donovan probably thought an Ice Axe would slow him down. Around 1:00 PM on May 3, Donovan likely began to have doubts. He climbed into Little Tahquitz Valley, just south of Saddle Junction, and found that the trail partly visible until then, was now concealed by snow. Donovan sought help from two other hikers Connie Davis and her son Alex, both of whom had extensive altitude experience. Connie an Alex didn’t take the most direct route staying around 8,000 feet (Marker C) See Map. Donovan stayed about 30 feet behind them. He’d put on crampons, but the spikes didn’t work well with the lightweight trail runners, and he slipped and fell repeatedly. Eventually the Davises followed a small creek uphill and turned northwest roughly half mile south of Saddle Junction (Marker A). “That’s where we saw him last” Connie Davis said. It was about 8,080 feet on the afternoon of May 3. “He was very close to Saddle Junction. There was patchy snow at this point, and you could see hints of the trails.” No one knows what Donovan did next. No one ever saw him alive again. Per Backpacker magazine
    Authorities now know from Donovan’s notes that when he parted company with the Davises on May 3, and tried to detour west down to Idyllwild. But no way to navigate he became disoriented. Donovan only carried a map, no compass or any other navigational tools. With 3 feet of snow in the mountains and a fresh 8 inches of snow there was no way to see the trail or any footsteps that might have been on the trails. In John Donovan’s notes he wrote “couldn’t find the trail to Idyllwild”. So instead he cut away from Idyllwild, drawn by the lights of much larger Palm Springs. Traversing about 3 miles northeast from the Saddle Junction area that night, he traversed skinny Willow Creek (around Marker E), then climbed a small ridge and plunged down into a steep gash called Hidden Valley (Marker B). As he dipped lower, heartier climate zones, the brush became nasty and thick, the talus rifle with scrub oak and Manzanita. Donovan’s journal places him in Long Valley; at about 4,300 feet (Marker D), the night of May 3. On May 5, still camped in the same ravine, he took a fall. How badly he was hurt is unclear. Donovan didn’t elaborate. But clearly the ordeal of the past few days had landed him in trouble. He wrote the he had already become too weak to climb up out of the canyon. Which would have been around a 4,000 vertical foot climb in a little over a mile. As for going down there was a water fall that was around 100 feet with vertical gorge walls that couldn’t be climbed. This is what Donovan was referring to when he wrote “NO WAY OUT”. This is what is referred to as a terrain trap. As you can see on the Topo map between Marker B and Marker D the contour lines become closer together as you approach Marker D. Each line represents a 20 foot drop in elevation. Therefore the closer the lines the steeper the terrain becomes. Also, note the TOPO lines right after Marker D become very close together in the creek. This could cause the water falls, with canyon walls which made it impassable. Too steep to climb out of, and too steep to go down means terrain trap. The terrain was so steep and filled with Brush RMRU had a hard time getting to the site to locate and recover Donovan’s body. Per Backpacker Magazine, RMRU John Donovan Body Recovery Mission
    Note while saving the link for the map the markers changed order. Donovan’s route was from the South moving North East approximate from above accounts, C to A to E to B to D. The approximate steps Donavan followed would be as follows on a TOPO Map  link to map.
    The reason it took so long to find Donovan’s body is because this is not a hiking route. It is extremely steep terrain, and I doubt search and rescue would have taken a chance going down this route unless they had evidence that he could be there.

    The hyperlink didnt show up for the map so here is the link:,-116.62923&z=14&t=T&marker0=33.76861%2C-116.66835%2C1.0%20mi%20NxNE%20of%20Tahquitz%20Peak%20CA&marker1=33.79955%2C-116.63828%2C2.5%20mi%20ExSE%20of%20San%20Jacinto%20Peak%20CA&marker2=33.76506%2C-116.66330%2C0.9%20mi%20NE%20of%20Tahquitz%20Peak%20CA&marker3=33.79657%2C-116.60846%2C3.2%20mi%20NW%20of%20Agua%20Caliente%20Indian%20Reservation%20CA&marker4=33.78394%2C-116.65727%2C2.2%20mi%20NxNE%20of%20Tahquitz%20Peak%20CA

  • Day Early

    Just returned from hiking in the exact vicinity of where the couple was lost. Without knowing anything about hiking and just wandering around, the two are sooooooo lucky to have survived. Its an area that is tough enough for someone experienced. The area is rugged and dangerous. A search and rescue person told me that its common for lost hikers to see Palm Springs down below and try to head that direction BUT by headed that direction, the lost hikers enter into the most dangerous parts of the mountains. Cliffs, cliffs, and impassable terrain.

  • raluca

    hy….my name is Raluca from romania.I just watched the show and i was amazed by what you, brandon and gina had experienced….no one should have to pass throught what you both did…..brandon, you really impresed me,…you are a sensitive guy, noble, and your tears really maked me cry also….thank god you are both ok…I thought that this event maked the two of you to never be apart……but..thats the way life is…..god bless you both!……… live a message if you want to now me

    best regards,
    Gradinaru Andrei Raluca

  • David

    Brandon and Gina have got to be the dumbest two people on earth. They get lost when there are people so close to them that they can hear there voices. They don’t take there cell phones with them. I can go on and on. Oh, and Gina gives up her faith after only 3 days???? Come on. lol I noticed it came right back when they were rescued. HaHa

  • CJ

    Brandon & Gina, I’m curious to know if you guys “did it” while lost out there? Thinking maybe it would be the last time either of you would be able to do it again.

  • indiresha

    do any one know about how we can contact Gina Allen on Facebook or MySpace please let me know…

  • I watched your Movie to-day “I Shouldn’t be Alive” What an amazing story.

    The thing that helped you both was Gina’s FAITH She prayed to St. Christopher, the patron Saint of
    all Travellers. That prayer she found in John Donovan’s wallet. She must have prayed really hard.
    I must say I have gotten almost everything I’ve prayed for, with the belief if its God’s will. If I didn’t get
    exactly what I wanted , it was given in a way I never expected. ThatSs what you call FAITH

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