Girl Scout spends night lost in mountains

May 24, 2009 6:47:26 PM PDT
An 11-year-old Girl Scout was found safe after a night of roughing it. She spent the night lost and alone in the treacherous terrain of the Santa Cruz Mountains.

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She was found shivering but is expected to recover. The girl named Sierra created quite a scare for her camp and law enforcement officials. Saturday night they launched an aggressive search after she wandered away from camp around 1:15 p.m. Saturday.

Search crews finally found her more than 20 hours later. She was last seen at the Cutter Scout Reservation near rural Boulder Creek.

It was cold and foggy on the mountain and Sierra was wearing only jeans, a t-shirt, a fleece and tennis shoes. It was a rough night at the Cutter Scout Reservation as campers, counselors and parents waited for news about the missing girl.

"Last night was a long night for a lot of us. Everyone really. You could hear the dogs," said one camper's mom, Leslie Lord.

The dogs were part of the search and rescue effort. Crews also brought out horses, all-terrain vehicles and flashlights so they could spend the night looking for the girl. But, it was not until 10:30 Sunday morning when word came that she had been found safe.

"You could hear it around the campsite everywhere. You could hear people cheering and the moms finally let go and confessing how worried?" said Lord.

The three volunteers from Alameda County who found the camper said they first spotted her footprints. They followed them until they could hear her voice and finally they saw her.

"She was just shivering, a little pale, just suffering from being out in the exposure over night. Kind of wet," described search volunteer Frank Smith.

"She wasn't crying, but I think she was very glad to see us," said volunteer Dan Gallagher.

She was in such rugged terrain it even challenged her rescuers. After they warmed her up and fed her it was time to hike back out.

"We tried to keep her mind distracted because it was a pretty long hike out. So, you try to talk about other things like school or girl scouts. That kind of thing," said Gallagher.

Hiking out was not easy. It took another couple of hours to get her back to camp. But, once they arrived, rescuers got to see the moment they had all been waiting for, the girl hugging her mother.

"It's touching. It's really great after the ordeal she's been through, to have her reunite with her mom because she was really wanting to do that. That was her goal," said search volunteer Carl Kowalski.

Officials did protect the girl from the media. They are not releasing any more details about her and want to protect her privacy. She was taken to a hospital and is expected to be okay.

As for why she wandered off, rescuers say they did not ask her that. They just wanted to focus on making sure she was okay.

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