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Yosemite rangers rescue a very savvy hiker in the Tuolumne high country

September 20, 2010

Rangers in Yosemite National Park said they found and rescued a lost backpacker earlier this month after spotting a makeshift SOS message on the ground.

Rangers picked him up on Saturday, Sept 11, after Mike Arends had spent three unexpected days and nights in the wilnerness near the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne.

An experienced hiker, Arends' self-preservations techniques were just about perfect, and serve as a kind of a blueprint for hikers who stray into the unknown.

Park officials said Arends, whose home was identified only as Southern California, was backpacking with a group of friends, on a trip that began in Tuolumne Meadows in the Yosemite high country. The group's plan was to hike for three days and then come out on Tuesday.

Arends decided to stay for another night because he wanted to take a day hike to Grand Mountain, park officials said, and told the group he planned to finish his trip the following day. A hasty search was initiated that afternoon, but Yosemite rangers were unable to locate him.

On Thursday, the park launched a more extensive search, concentrating on the area in which Arends intended to hike. During this time, Arends realized that he had lost the trail and began hiking towards what he believed to be a ridge near Halfmoon Meadow.

After 11 hours of hiking, Arends hiked further into the backcountry towards the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne along the Cathedral Creek Drainage, an extremely rugged area of the park. Arends realized he was lost and began self-survival procedures by rationing his food and water supply.

After observing a helicopter over the area he was in, he realized that rangers were searching for him. He placed a green tarp on the ground with large white rocks spelling out “SOS."

He also lit a fire to alert rangers of his location. During midday on Saturday, September 11th, rangers spotted the “SOS” message from the helicopter. It landed and picked up Arends and flew him to Tuolumne Meadows. He was found to be unhurt and in good shape.

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