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Footprints lead rescuers to hikers lost 5 days on California mountain, deputies say

A beginner’s guide to safe and happy hiking

A remarkably dry spring will resume this weekend as forecasters predict temperatures to rise into the 80s. It's a prime opportunity to go hiking. This video provides some simple advice to make your journey more enjoyable.
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A remarkably dry spring will resume this weekend as forecasters predict temperatures to rise into the 80s. It's a prime opportunity to go hiking. This video provides some simple advice to make your journey more enjoyable.

Eric Desplinter and Gabrielle Wallace had a simple plan for survival while lost five days in rugged terrain near Mount Baldy in Southern California, The Press-Enterprise reported.

“We rationed our food, drank water through a LifeStraw, kept as warm as possible,” Desplinter said, KABC reported. LifeStraws filter water to make it drinkable.

Desplinter, 33, of Chino Hills and Wallace, 31, of Rancho Cucamonga had gone missing Saturday while on a hiking trip with friends, KCBS reported.

The two had decided to press on to Cucamonga Peak when their friends turned back, but failed to return as expected, KABC reported.

Searchers fanned out across 30 square miles looking for Desplinter and Wallace, KTTV reported.

On Wednesday, searchers on foot found two sets of footprints into Cucamonga Canyon, the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department wrote on Facebook.

The searchers notified the command post, which dispatched a helicopter to survey the canyon, according to the Facebook post. The helicopter spotted Desplinter and Wallace at a campfire and lifted them out about 10 p.m.

“We’re very grateful to be found tonight,” Desplinter said, KABC reported, adding that neither had any serious injuries. “I’m ready to get to bed and get some rest.”

Desplinter said he and Wallace had gotten lost after losing the trail, according to the station.

“We had a little bit of a slip going up to the peak of Cucamonga Peak,” he said, The Press-Enterprise reported. “We decided we wouldn’t go back up the ice and snow, so we tried to descend through a valley, and that valley was much more treacherous than we thought.”

Authorities described Desplinter as an experienced hiker, KCBS reported. Brenda Wallace, Gabrielle’s mother, said her daughter, who works with Desplinter, had recently purchased hiking gear for the trip.

Brenda Wallace said she was grateful that the two had been found, The Press-Enterprise reported.

“Thank god she won’t be on the mountain tonight,” she said, according to the publication. “I was getting really worried. This had gone on too long.”

San Bernardino Sheriff John McMahon credited volunteers and searchers from other agencies for the rescue in the Facebook post.

“Volunteers are a real blessing to our agencies, providing thousands of hours giving back to make our communities better and stronger,” McMahon wrote. “This is a perfect example of their commitment.”

Mark Smallwood of Modesto talks about being lost in the Stanislaus National Forest with his girlfriend Donna Hallberg and dog LuLu.

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Don Sweeney has been a newspaper reporter and editor in California for more than 25 years. He has been a real-time reporter based at The Sacramento Bee since 2016.
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