PROVINCETOWN — When her red convertible got stuck in the mud on a dirt road on the Truro-Wellfleet line, Marla Perkel, 84, survived the night by walking, napping, and finally scooting, using her shoes to protect her hands.
Perkel, who needs a walker or two canes to get around, had neither when her Toyota Solara became mired on a fire road off George Nilson Road in Truro at about 4:30 p.m. on Thursday, June 18. As the temperature that night went from a high of 78 to a low of 55 degrees, Perkel attempted to walk to a main road.
She had not taken her mobile phone on the ride.
“I guess I walked through the night and somewhere along the way, I lost my footing and I fell down — and my problem is, I cannot get up very well,” said Perkel, a former New York City mounted policewoman. “I got up twice but immediately fell down again.”
As someone who started living on the Outer Cape part-time in 1974 and has been here full-time for many years, Perkel knows the landscape by heart. She was driving around that evening visiting her favorite spots in preparation for selling her beloved car.
“I was feeling very, very bad about selling it,” she said, “so I went on some old paths that I knew well.”
She didn’t count on getting stuck. As the night went on, Perkel took two naps, but became so cold that her teeth chattered, so she had to keep moving, no matter how slowly.
She eventually heard the birds beginning to sing. She also heard police sirens, which she figured were for her.
“I kept calling out, but they couldn’t hear me,” she said.
At the point of total exhaustion, she stopped moving at 9 a.m. just as four hikers came along.
The walkers, Janet and Richard Kaiser of Harwich, Lilo Kimball of Centerville, and Susan Jilson of Sandwich, “were so wonderful,” Perkel said, as were dispatchers, police, and firefighters in Provincetown, Truro, and Wellfleet.
“I said my husband is just about crazy at this point, and he was very, very upset, and he’d called all the police and tried to get help for me,” she said. “The hikers gave me a phone and I called him.”
The hikers half carried her out of the woods; an ambulance crew found her in good enough health to go home.
Buddy Perkel, her husband, was waiting for her at their condominium at Seashore Point in Provincetown.
At Seashore Point, friends, family, and neighbors received her joyously. Perkel said she feels foolish but grateful to dispatchers Sarah Bartholomew, Andreia Ribas, and Samantha Dewitt, as well as to Sgt. Chris Landry, Sgt. Tom Koumanelis, Officers Jason Sullivan, Mike McCauley, Samantha Voltolini, Shannon Beloin, Tom Roda, and Sarah Lake, and Lt. Scott Holway.
“I’m afraid of a lot of things, but not my woods,” said Perkel. “I guess I’m too stupid to be scared.”