To 'dead center in the middle of
nowhere' and back
Published: January 4, 2012
FIVE HIKERS learned last weekend how
easy it is to get lost in the Ventana Wilderness after a snow
storm. And they later discovered they weren’t really lost at
The hikers were described by Monterey County Sheriff’s deputy
Kenneth Owen as “young men from the Fresno area between 18 and
20.” They left China Camp on Chews Ridge Dec. 28, and hiked west
along the Pine Ridge Trail toward the coast. Two days later,
they were found 11 miles away at Cienega Camp, a little-known
backpacking site that Owen said is located “dead center in the
middle of nowhere.”
When the hikers set out, they didn’t know where they were
going, Owen told The Pine Cone. “And they were ill-prepared for
the conditions. There was a lot of snow up there.”
Given the storm, the snow was no surprise — China Camp is
located at about 4,350 feet, and after a steep descent to Church
Creek Divide and Pine Valley, the hikers had to climb another
ridge just as high.
At some point during their westward trek, the hikers lost sight
of the trail, which had become covered by snow. According to
Owen, the last landmark the hikers reported seeing was a sign
marking a spur trail to Bear Basin Camp. Somehow, they managed
to make it to Cienega Camp, which is located six miles away.
“By mid day Saturday, they realized they were lost, so they
started looking for cell coverage,” Owen explained.
Two of the hikers climbed high enough and were able to call
911. Later, they discovered they were standing just a short
distance from the same Bear Basin sign that provided their last
landmark. But they thought they had strayed as far as five miles
from the spot.
A California Highway Patrol helicopter retrieved the hikers and
transported them to a ranch along Tassajara Road.
“We warmed them up,” Owen recalled. “They were close to getting
Uninjured, the hikers were given a ride back to China Camp,
where they were reunited with their vehicle, and soon were on
there way back home.