Women rescued from Yosemite returns to the Valley

August 28, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
A Valley native who made national headlines in 1996 is now preparing for another life changing moment.

Ashleigh Wiggins, 14, sparked a massive manhunt in Yosemite when she disappeared for two days in the snowy wilderness.

The Fresno teen accidentally veered off the trail while hiking with her family near Ostrander Lake in May of 1996. Helicopter crews, search dogs, and volunteers all scoured the area before a Madera County Sheriff's posse found her near Glacier Point.

Now, nearly two decades later, Ashleigh is back with her family in Merced, preparing to marry her law school sweetheart, and has invited her rescuers to attend the wedding.

"I know if hadn't been for them, we wouldn't be having a wedding this weekend," said Ashleigh. "We would have had a funeral 17, 18 years ago."

Ashleigh has accomplished many things since her ordeal. She used money from a TV series that featured her story to go to Romania, which inspired her to study international human rights. She now works as a prosecutor in Colorado along with her fianc?.

"He is a combat vet," said Ashleigh. "He went to Iraq for a year and won the bronze star and he is riding his motorcycle out here right now. He's a very good man."

But it's Ashleigh's strong bond with her grandmother that brought her back to the Valley for this very special occasion.

Ashleigh explained, "My grandma can't travel right now, and she couldn't come to my law school graduation, and that made me really sad, and I didn't want to be sad at my wedding."

The pastor from Yosemite who supported Ashleigh's family while she was missing will perform the ceremony at Christian Life Center. Her mother says it's a perfect start to the next chapter in her daughter's remarkable life.

Janice Wiggins explained, "Because of what she went through in Yosemite and that she survived, she knows for the rest of her life what she can survive and what she is made out of."


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