San Gabriel Valley Tribune

San Gabriel Valley Tribune
Article Published: Monday, June 09, 2003 - 6:51:40 PM PST

Caltech hikers found safe in Angeles Forest

PASADENA - Some of the 13 Caltech hikers rescued from the Angeles National Forest on Monday morning said it was "a bit embarrassing' to be found after becoming lost and stranded overnight.

"I found that the Angeles National Forest is a bit wilder and riskier than I thought,' said postdoctoral researcher Milos Milosavljevic, 28, who organized the trip. "For most of the hike there weren't any trails even though the guide books had mention of trails.'

The hikers, members of the Theoretical Astrophysics and Relativity research group, had divided into two groups to hike the Vincent Gap trail north of San Dimas. They had expected to complete their 14-mile journey by 8 p.m. Sunday, but settled in for the night after one group became lost and the other exhausted.

Authorities said the trail is rugged and treacherous, with multiple river crossings. It's long enough that many trekkers make it an overnight trip, said Sgt. Larry Wineinger of the sheriff's San Dimas Station.

After starting at opposite ends of the trailhead, the two groups had successfully met midway to exchange car keys, so they could shuttle themselves back to Caltech, Wineinger said. But then the hike lasted so long that their loved ones began reporting them missing about 1:30 a.m., after the hikers had decided to rest for the night, he said.

The San Dimas Mountain Rescue team located the group of seven that had hiked southbound from Vincent Gap about 2:30 a.m.

"The search-and-rescue people were remarkably positive, friendly and good-natured,' said retired professor Peter Goldreich, who's hiked the trail five times and led the exhausted southbound group. "It's like they felt they had been fishing and had caught a big fish quickly.'

The group of six, which included Milosavljevic, had become lost while hiking north from Heaton Flat and was located by a L.A. County Sheriff's helicopter about 6:40 a.m., near the Prairie Fork Junction, Wineinger said. By the time they were found, they had found the trail and were hiking out, he said.

The helicopter landed in a clearing, picked up the hikers and took them to their destination, Wineinger said.

Milosavljevic said the group felt "touched that somebody had initiated this kind of operation,' but that "it was a bit embarrassing.'

The groups had plenty of food and water, Goldreich said, and no one was injured.

-- Marshall Allen can be reached at (626) 578-6300, Ext. 4461, or by e-mail at marshall.allen@sgvn.com.


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