I had just come from what I thought was the summit of Horse Mountain 4,686' after a brief trip to the top of Elk Mountain 4,191' from roads that access these peaks. It appeared to be about an acre clearing surrounded by trees. Zero views. But on the way back I found a stretch of hillside that had pretty good views south towards Clear Lake. I lingered enjoying taking photos at leisure. The way back should only take half hour most down the trail I came up that met the fire road. It's getting on dusk and I go over to where I thought the trail came up. Figured It would be obvious. Couldn't find it. Since I didn't take the road I wasn't sure which way to go. It's getting real dusky now with less than 30 of useable light. Try to get my bearings. Had no map, it was all google earth memory. Basically poor prep. But it was really so easy getting up.
Decide to bushwack down a bit but get stonewalled by a thicket.
This is getting serious. It's only less than a mile to the van as the crow flies. Trudge back up to the road that appears to go down the west side of the mountain. At this point I'm what the Forest Rangers call "turned around". The sense of direction is resting in a landscape of incomprehensible proportions due to falling darkness fueled by a misplaced sense of urgency that only adds to the confusion. Adrenalin is pumping and I'm racing all over the place only to return to where I started. I called friends and tried to get them to go on a map and see if they could help me get down. It's so dark now I can't even see the fireroad I'm on after over an hour of wasted attempts. But I have a lighter and my cell phone. Wearing shorts, a tee shirt and a sweat shirt. No water or food. At over 4,500'. It will drop into the low 40's tonight. Hmm?
Hunkering down to tend the fire
Sanhedrin Mtn. from Horse Mtn.
At this point it is stone cold dark and after 9PM. A friend reminds me I can call the SAR folks! Called 911 and with sketchy reception the lady got my cell coordinates to within 80 meters. I had stumbled apon a clearing and built a fire with some branches. At 11:30 the cell phone went dead. It was certainly quite chilly. My only occupation for the duration of the night was to keep feeding this fire to stay warm and wait and see if anyone responded.
Smoke gets in your eyes
West sunset from Horse Mtn.
I keep busting up sticks and dragging branches into the center of my little blazing shrine to human comfort and well being. Had to be careful with the fire because of the droughts effect on the forests.
Checking the clock as the hours roll by. Over and over the damn smoke would blow in my eyes.
It's 2:30 now....
Did I hear something out here at this hour besides the breeze?!
Headlights from 2 ATVs come chugging into view.
I was under the distinct impression they were not there to set up camp.
MP of the night!
South from Horse Mountain
They give some water a pair of gloves and a pull over cap.
i get on the back of one of the ATVs and we promptly get lost at a wrong turn.
Not to worry, with walkie talkies, GPS and a cast of 20, that's right, 20 Volunteer Search and Rescue folks were all out in the dead of night just to rescue lil' ole' me the "Missing Person" (or MP as I was referred to). This is a great bunch of men and women who get their kicks saving boneheads like me in the wee hours of the morning on big old forested mountains up in the Mendocino National Forest. Not only did they rescue a pup looking at hard time til' dawn but they gave me 6 gallons of gas since it was 4 AM and no gas stations open.
Finally get to turn in in my own bed at 6 AM this morning. Could only sleep a couple hours. It goes without saying that if I didn't have that lighter and the cell phone...!
btw- Spent some time on Google Earth again today and even then I'm not altogether sure where it went south!