Santa Barbara Sheriff’s Department deputies set out Saturday night to help look for a man who had not returned from a 17-mile hiking loop at Nira Campground. According to Sheriff’s spokesperson Drew Sugars, family members of the hiker — who’s in his forties — reported him missing after he failed to show up for a dinner engagement.
Staff with the Santa Barbara County Search and Rescue team were dispatched late Saturday night and again at dawn the next day near Cachuma Saddle, and in the Manzana and Hurricane Deck areas. After two hours of searching in the morning hours, a helicopter located the hiker who had caught the attention of personnel on board by reflecting the sun with a hand mirror. Sugars said the man was taken by helicopter to the command post at Cachuma Saddle and later released after being examined for minor injuries.
The original hike, as recounted by Jennifer Beer, Search and Rescue’s incident commander, began around 1 p.m. on Saturday at Nira Campground and was supposed to continue from Manzana Narrows to White Ledge and circle around Hurricane Deck to Manzana River and back to the campground. The hiker, however, left the existing trail at Happy Hunting Ground Campground and became lost. He tried to hike cross-country to Hurricane Deck through thick brush without a flashlight, and eventually decided to stay put once it became too dark to see.
The Santa Barbara Search and Rescue team has information on its Web site, sbscar.org, with suggestions on what to bring when hiking. It credited the man for taking a mirror with him in the case of an emergency.