August 14, 2020
Cleveland National Forest
Written by Blake Douglas.
RMRU was activated at 6:30pm on Friday August 14th, on the cusp of a major heat wave across inland Southern California. Our subject was in the Cleveland National Forest, in the vicinity of Tenaja Falls. This was my first callout to this particular part of the county.
Initially this was shaping up to be a search, with our subject’s last known location being in the San Mateo Canyon Wilderness, on the Bluewater Trail approximately midway between Tenaja Falls and the Rancho Carillo Fire Station. The difficulty of accessing these locations, the uncertainty of the subject’s true location, starting point, or destination, and terrain interference with our communications, caused us to change our plans in-route several times. It was nearly 9pm when Cameron and I were finally able to contact Star 9 overhead, who relayed that they had visual on the subject approximately 4 miles west of the Fisherman’s Camp Trailhead. James and Corey, who had initially responded to the opposite side of the canyon, would re-route, and run base while Cameron and I retrieved the subject.
Despite the remote location, the trails were well-marked and maintained, and the hike was relatively easy. The only complications were the enduring heat (I do not believe it ever went below 80 degrees) and the abundance of large spiders. I do not particularly have a problem with spiders, but these guys build their webs directly across the trail and I did not want one on my face, thank you.
We found our subject directly on the trail, responsive and in good spirits but not in the best shape. Out of several injuries, his most significant were lacerations to both forearms, one of which had fully penetrated the skin, and had not been thoroughly cleaned or treated for six hours.
According to the subject, he and his hiking partner had become dehydrated in the early afternoon, and the subject felt too weak to continue, while his partner had dropped a full pack and hiked out. Fortunately, our subject had encountered a local hiker who provided him with water, so his dehydration was no longer debilitating by the time we found him.
While a helicopter retrieval would have been convenient at this point, the canyon was too dark and brushy to risk it. After retrieving the partner’s pack, we began a slow and steady hike back to the trailhead, arriving around 3am without further incident.
RMRU Members Involved: Cameron Dickinson, Blake Douglas, James Eckhardt, and Corey Ellison.