Hernandez's ordeal began around midday on July 6, when she was driving southbound through Big Sur and an animal suddenly appeared in the road in front of her. She swerved to avoid hitting it and lost control. "I don't really remember much of the fall," she says. "They say I fell somewhere around 250 feet."
Hernandez, 23, had been reported missing in the Big Sur area on her journey from Portland, Ore., to Southern California, but heavy fog had complicated search efforts. She was eventually found by a couple hiking the coastline in search of a fishing spot and was hoisted up the cliff by rescuers and taken to a hospital.
She suffered a brain hemorrhage, collapsed lung, ruptured blood vessels in both eyes and four broken ribs and broken collarbone, plus an intense sunburn.
She says she remembers only waking up in her car and feeling the Pacific Ocean rising over her knees. She used a multitool to break the window, then jumped into the water and made her way to shore, where she promptly passed out. In the coming days she used a piece of hose that broke off her Jeep to collect fresh water dripping off mounds of moss for drinking.
"The next few days kind of became a blur," she wrote on Facebook. "I'd walk up and down the beach in search of another human being. I'd climb on rocks to avoid the sharp sand, walk along the shore to avoid the hot rocks, and air wrestle tiny crabs. I found a high spot I was able to climb up to and found myself there almost every day. I could see cars driving across the cliff and felt like if I could yell just loud enough, that one could hear me or see me. That's all it would take to make it back to my family. Just one person noticing me. I'd usually stay there until the sun became unbearable and then would find a way to slide myself back down to the shore."
It sounds like the accident has given her a new lease on life. Her most recent Facebook update is a short video of her playing a guitar. "Wasn't sure if I'd still be able to play after my accident, so this makes me so happy," she writes.