Lost Hiker, Wet and Cold

March 19th, 2005
Deer Springs Trail, Idyllwild

Search finds lost hiker safe near Fern Valley

by Becky Clark, Editor, Idyllwild Town Crier

Rescuer Henry Negrete with Richard Smith (Photo by Patrick McCurdy)Riverside Mountain Rescue Unit (RMRU) saved a La Jolla man from possible hypothermia and death after the man used his daughter's cell phone to report being lost on a day hike.

Richard Smith, 42, was hiking alone in the vicinity of Deer Springs Trail and Suicide Rock Trail Saturday when he lost his way as the weather began to worsen arid dusk approached.

The man's hike to Sui-cide Rock was intended to memorialize a friend from San Diego who recently had committed suicide, ac-cording to Smith's rescuer, RMRU member Henry Negrete of Idyllwild.

Smith was wearing light clothing -- a long-sleeved cotton shirt and sweatshirt and had no food or supplies, including a parka or rain gear.

At about 4:45 p.m.,Smith phoned 9-1-1 to report being Iost.

Six RMRU team members responded and divided into two teams. Negrete, Tra-vis Henderson, Dave Webb and Robert Poe followed the Marion Creek drainage in Fern Valley while GIenn Henderson and Brenda Luna took the Deer Springs Trail to the Suicide Rock Trail junction.

"He did go up to Suicide Rock and on the way back, apparently he had gotten off on one of the climber's trails which brought him down into the Marion Creek drainage,"said Negrete.

Negrete located Smith in the drainage about 2 miles north of Fern Valley at about 9 p.m.

"He was in the begin-ning of the second stage of hypothermia," said Negrete.

"He was feeling numbness in his hands and feet and was shivering uncontrollablly."

Team members got Smith into dry clothes and gave him food and water. Negrete said Smith was so drenched from the constant rain that day that his clothes weighed between 10 and 15 pounds. He had no injuries and said he was capable of hiking out.

RMRU members accompanied Smith to Fern Valley which they reached at about 11 p.m.

Negrete said Smith probably had taken off on the hike between showers, figuring he would dash up to Suicide Rock and back down in a short time.

"We did praise him for one thing,' Negrete said."He did stay inone place. He did have to hike out a couple of times to get his cell phone to work but he returned."

Rescuers were unable to triangulate Smith's phone signal to find him sooner because two or three cell towers rather than one are required.