Stephanie Puls, of Maple Ridge, had spent Thursday boating with friends on Pitt Lake, but got lost after she fell down an embankment while taking a brief walk in the forest about 8:30 p.m. PT.
Puls said she wandered in the dark for five hours, wearing nothing but her bathing suit and a light hoodie.
She then decided to stay put and wait for help, although numb from the cold. She was finally rescued just before noon Friday after 15 hours alone.
The experience was "absolutely horrifying,” Puls said Friday.
“The bears came around, and it was pitch black. I didn’t have my cellphone with me. I was in my bathing suit, I had no shoes, I had nothing. It was horrifying,” Puls said.
Puls said animals were coming up to her in the dark and sniffing her face and she would hold her breath in terror.
Her two brothers and friends who had been with her during the day searched frantically for her with no luck.
Ten search and rescue officials joined the hunt for Puls at about 11 p.m. The area has treacherous terrain, said Brent Boulet, of Ridge Meadows Search and Rescue.
“[It’s] very dangerous. There are very steep cliffs there that drop off into the river. The river’s very fast-flowing.”
Helicopters joined the effort and one of the pilots finally spotted Puls about 11:30 a.m. Friday. She suffered bruises and scratches in the ordeal, but did not require treatment.