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Hiker slips off trail, hangs from cliff for 45 minutes

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  • April Meads posed for her sister, Stacy, in a May 31 photo after being rescued from a cliff at the Columbia River Gorge east of Portland, Ore. (Stacy Meads/Courtesy April Meads via AP)

PORTLAND, Ore. » April Meads’ first hike of the season was almost her last.

Her foot slipped while hiking with her sister Sunday at the Columbia River Gorge east of Portland. She fell off the trail and over the side of the cliff. Her options: Find something to hold or go into a 100-foot freefall.

"As I slid down, there was one thought I had: ‘My life is about to end,’" she wrote on her blog.

The 19-year-old clutched a branch that broke and started to slide again. She then quickly found a root sticking out of the cliff; it was small, but big enough to hold her for about 45 minutes until passing hikers came to the rescue.

One of them, Wim Aarts, climbed down nearby trees with a rope made from clothing.

Meads wrote that she grabbed the clothing rope — held by several people above —and eventually returned to safety and her sister Stacy.

"I walked to her as fast as my shaking legs would let me, and I threw myself in her arms as we both began to sob on each other’s shoulder," she wrote. "I had never been so happy to see her and to walk on flat ground."

Aarts praised Meads for remaining calm in a desperate situation.

"If you want to rescue someone, you want to rescue someone levelheaded like she was," Aarts told The Oregonian.

Meads lives near Portland and recently completed her sophomore year at Linfield College. Though she escaped her brush with death, she told The Oregonian it hasn’t escaped her dreams.

"I’m waking up kicking my legs, thinking that I’m back on the cliff," she said.

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