Hiker took a short-cut and never made his destination

September 16, 1999
Spitler Peak Trail

ForwardReturn to IndexBack


On Wednesday, September 15th, Manuel Areallano was taking five gallons of water to the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) via the Spitler Peak Trail. This was in support of about 30 Marines from Twenty-nine Palms who were hiking the PCT from Fuller Ridge to the Desert Divide. At about 4:30 PM, he decided that Spitler Peak Trail was not the quickest route and that it would be better to go straight up the mountain. He never made it to the PCT.

RMRU Base Station at Lake Hemet (photo by Chris Babcock)His fellow Marines realized that he was overdue and searched for him until Thursday afternoon when they decided they needed to call for assistance. RMRU was contacted and were in the field by about 8:00 PM. Later that night, additional personnel were requested from the Desert Search and Rescue from Palm Springs. In the morning, helicopter support was provided by the Marine Corps Air Station in Yuma, Arizona and the Riverside Sheriff's Department.

Teams were sent in from several directions to cover the perimeter while other teams searched from the point last seen (PLS). Teams searched all through the night and well into the morning. None of the perimeter teams ever made contact with Manuel but one team, near the PLS, found his tracks on the hillside. Marine Corps search and rescue helicopter gives lift to rescue teams. (photo by Chris Babcock)As that team was following the tracks, we were notified that Manuel had found his way out.

After interviewing Manuel, it was learned that on Wednesday he hiked up and around the south side of Spitler Peak. On Thursday he spent the entire day crawling through dense brush. During that difficult day he dropped his water container and most the water spilled out. By the end of the day he was out of water. He decided to leave his backpack behind since it was slowing him down. He slept Thursday in the cold without his sleeping bag. Friday morning he hiked downhill to where he could see the buildings at Forbes Ranch. A man in one house gave him food and water before driving him back to the trailhead where he was reunited with his friends.