San Francisco couple recounts rescue from Mendocino National Forest

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- After a successful night of snow camping last Wednesday, Maia Herman-Kitami and Carlos Hernandez decided to drive further into the Mendocino National Forest, on a snow-covered track. But their adventure quickly took a wrong turn.

"As we reversed, the car got stuck," said Maia.

Maia said they spent seven hours trying to dig their jeep out of the snow-- that was Thursday. They had no cell service and weren't expected home in San Francisco until Friday night. That's when the storm blew in and left them completely disabled.

The trip was 18-year-old Maia's first time in the snow, but she was an experienced camper, so she rationed their food and posted a sign at the trailhead notifying anybody passing by that they were stuck ahead on the trail. They also had plenty of gas to keep the engine and heat running in the Jeep.

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Their families in San Francisco were worried when the two did not return home Friday night and filed a missing persons report on Saturday. And on Sunday, the families drove up to Mendocino County to help in the search effort.

By Monday afternoon, Maia was worried.

"When it was 4 o'clock and nobody was coming, I started getting kind of emotional and I was just like, I want to go home."

But, 30 minutes later, a search party of snowmobiles and trucks found Maia, Carlos and their Jeep half buried in the snow and towed them back to safety, where their families were waiting.

"I just want to say thank you and how grateful both of us are because without them, we wouldn't be here," said Maia.

Maia advises that if you're ever lost in the woods and have shelter, stay put, so you're easier to find.
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