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Typically, when people put messages in bottles, they aren't found for decades. Fortunately, that didn't happen to three stranded hikers when they used that unique form of communication as a call for help.

Curtis Whitson, his 13-year-old son Hunter, and Curtis' girlfriend, Krystal Ramirez, were on a backpacking trip around California's Arroyo Seco River on Father's Day weekend when they became trapped in an isolated area, according to ABC News. They were at a spot in the river called the waterfall, surrounded by solid rock that was as tall as 40 feet on each side.

Climbing ropes that can usually be found there were missing and the currents were too strong for them to wade through.

"One bad step or one misjudgment in regards to that strength of that river and it could've just carried us right over the edge and that could've been it," Whitson told ABC.

An innovative SOS

The trio heard voices on the other side of the rock, so they tried yelling for help. They also tried carving an SOS on a stick and tossing it over, but that didn't work, according to CNN. So they came up with a clever alternative.

Whitson scratched "GET HELP" on the outside of a green reusable water bottle. Ramirez took a paper receipt from her backpack and wrote the date and "We are stuck here @the waterfall. Get help please."

The placed the note in the bottle and tossed it over the falls, hoping someone would find it.

Realizing they had done all they could, they retreated a short way upstream, spread out a bright blue tarp and made an SOS sign out of rocks.

Meanwhile, about a half mile away from the falls, two hikers found the bottle and alerted a campground manager who called California Highway Patrol. A helicopter rescue crew arrived the next day and the family was airlifted one by one to safety.

In tribute to the power of a water bottle, Ramirez gave Whitson a new one, this time with a love note inside.

"Stuff like that only happens in the movies really," Hunter told ABC News. "Seeing like an actual message in a bottle be the reason someone actually got saved is just mind blowing to me."

Mary Jo DiLonardo writes about everything from health to parenting — and anything that helps explain why her dog does what he does.

Stranded hikers saved by message in a bottle
Family sends an SOS message in a bottle from California's Arroyo Seco River — and it saves them.