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Woman survives 6-day ordeal in Sierra Nevada

CARSON CITY, Nev. -- A Nevada woman survived on snow and tomatoes for nearly a week and found shelter in a hollowed-out tree after she became stranded in a winter storm and her boyfriend died trying to find help, a family member said.

Paula Lane, of Gardnerville, was rescued Wednesday along a dirt road in the Sierra Nevada after her brother, suspecting the couple might have returned to Burnside Lake where they had camped before, took a highway front loader and went looking for her, the Nevada Appeal reported.

Lane, 46, was recovering from frostbite at a Carson City hospital after spending six nights in the frigid Hope Valley in California's Alpine County.

Lane and Roderick Paul Clifton, 44, were reported missing after they left Citrus Heights, Calif., the afternoon of Nov. 29.

Alpine County Undersheriff Robert Levy said Clifton had recently purchased a 1989 Jeep Cherokee and wanted to try out its four-wheel-drive when he drove around a locked gate blocking access to a road.

After their Jeep got stuck in mud, Clifton tried to hike out to Highway 88, about six miles away, authorities said. His body was recovered along the dirt road on U.S. Forest Service land that was barricaded to traffic because of poor conditions and stormy weather.

Three days after Clifton left, Lane "attempted to walk and crawl out," the sheriff said. She later told responders she had found Clifton's body while making her way down the road.

Linda Hathaway said her sister -- the mother of 11-year-old twin boys -- is doing well and is eager to get home. "All I can tell you is she wants to get better so she can get home to her babies," Hathaway said.

Hathaway said her brother just had a feeling about where he could find the couple. "We couldn't stop him, we just let him do what he had to do," she said. "They have a special bond, they really do."

A friend was with Gary Lane when they found his sister. At one point, knowing she was near hypothermia, they cut off her clothes to get her warm.

Dr. Vijay Maiya said Lane was in stable condition and recovering from malnourishment and first-degree frostbite on her toes.

She ate snow to stay hydrated. Before the couple left California, they stopped at family members' homes and got tomatoes, which helped to sustain her during the ordeal.

"She realized after she left . . . [the Jeep] that she couldn't make it, so she had a blanket and tomatoes and . . . [stayed] in a hollowed tree until rescued," he said. "She was very lucky."

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