Three Missing Hikers Tenaja Trailhead

June 18, 2012
Ortega Mountains

Written by Paul Caraher

The call came out at 2:39 in the morning for three overdue male hikers in the Cleveland National Forest. The mother of one of the subjects reported he was due for fatherís day and never showed up. Upon arrival at the Tenaja trailhead, I joined veteran member Glenn Henderson and was told that he and I were it. More members would be arriving later in the day to assist.

Glenn was able to get a description of the trioís shoes, which included Converse hi tops, DVS skate shoes and a lug-hiking boot. Having attended an in depth tracking course months prior, I was confident we could find their tracks and stay on course. We did see these prints at the Tenaja trailhead going into the canyon but not coming out. Since the subjectís itinerary included Fishermanís Camp and Tenaja Falls, Glenn and I started clearing the trail up and beyond Tenaja Falls. After numerous call outs and no sign of the subjectís prints, we decided to head back to the trailhead and make our way to the starting point for fishermanís camp.

Arriving at Fishermanís Camp, we were able to get on track. The prints were leading away from camp and heading out the San Mateo Creek trail in the complete opposite direction. Around this time we heard Star 9 arriving on scene and directed them to the general area where we thought they might be. Not long afterward the subjects were located camping on a streambed about a mile and a half from fishermanís camp. There was so much dense vegetation on the trail; we decided to get back to the CP in case we were needed to assist with aviation.

Star 9 landed at the Command Post and picked me up to fly in for a welfare check with a Deputy. As we circled overhead, Star 9 once again instructed for the hikers to stay put. The pilot landed about a quarter of a mile away. The Deputy and I hiked into the hikerís camp only to find them gone. Back in the helicopter we spotted them on the trail heading back to the Command Post.

At base, I was greeted by fellow teammates Jeri, Lew, Dana, and Roger May. Glenn was now running base with Lew Kingman. Jeri, Dana, Roger and I descended into the canyon to meet up with the hikers. Jeri led the way and made contact with them about an hour and a half later. Other than being a little dehydrated and embarrassed, the three hikers were healthy and able to hike out to the trailhead.

RMRU team members present: Paul Caraher, Glenn Henderson, Lew Kingman, Roger May, Dana Potts, and Jeri Sanchez.

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