Lost Hiker Caramba

July 03, 2020
Tahquitz Peak Area

Written by Vinay Rao.

With many popular get-away locations (beaches, no fireworks, etc.) closed for the July 4th weekend, RMRU anticipated that this would be a busy weekend. Wow were we right! On July 3rd, RMRU was activated for three nearly concurrent searches. This description is for the search in the Idyllwild area.

A group of about ten hikers that were camping in Idyllwild and decided to begin their hike from the Devil’s Slide Trail to the San Jacinto Peak. Due to differing levels of hiking ability the group began to separate early in the hike. Due to the lost hiker’s (“subject”) unfamiliarity with the area, it appears that she may have headed towards the Tahquitz Lookout when she reached Saddle Junction.

Of course, by the time she made it the Lookout she was not able to find anyone else from her group. After enjoying the views for a while, she began her descent. Her path of travel took down towards the Chinquapin Flats area which does loop back towards Devil’s Slide, but unfortunately being unfamiliar with the area, she veered off trail and headed east following Tahquitz Creek. Her path took down towards the infamous area – Caramba Overlook, the exact opposite direction from where she should have gone. After hiking for quite a while, she decided to call her son who called 911. RMRU team members responding to this second mission, were Blake, Shani, and Vinay (“the Team”).

After staging base in Idyllwild, the Team started up Devil’s Slide at approximately 10:00pm. RSO Aviation had previously flown over the subject’s location and given the Team a GPS waypoint and, most importantly, told the subject to STAY PUT. We made it quickly up Devil’s Slide and continued onto the Caramba Trail area. However, the trail essentially disappears, and the heavy underbrush of whitethorn made going difficult. The Team continued past the Caramba South Landing Zone and down towards the beginning of Tahquitz Canyon where we began to do a series of shout-outs. At some point during this we could faintly hear the subject shouting back. However, because of the high flow of water in the Canyon and significant echoing, locating the subject became a challenge.

Luckily, the Team had good radio communication with CSO (Community Service Office) Jeff Funkhouser at base and he had cell phone contact with the subject. Using a series of relay communications, the Team was able to find the subject at 3:45am. Given that the weather was cool but very tolerable and most importantly that the subject was un-hurt and stable, the Team decided to hunker down at that location and wait for first light.

While the Team was resting, CSO Jeff Funkhouser did a fantastic job of arranging for RSO Aviation to pick up the Team and the subject at the Caramba LZ (Landing Zone) as soon as the first Aviation team came on duty. At 6:30am, the Team and the subject made the short hike to the LZ and waited for the Helicopter to arrive. First Shani and the Subject were picked up around 9:00am for the short ride to the Keenwild Ranger Station in Idyllwild.

Subject flying out.
Image by Shani.

Then the Helicopter came back and picked-up Blake and I and flew us out. Another successful mission and we even got in some good hiking and night-time route finding.

Blake, Shani, Vinay, and Subject at Base.
Image by Sheriff.

RMRU Members Involved: Blake Douglas, Shani Pynn, and Vinay Rao.