Monday, December 04, 2006

Newlyweds lost for 5 days, slept in cave w/no food

It was supposed to be a scenic one-hour jaunt to look at a waterfall in Castle Rock State Park. Instead it turned into a five-day ordeal in the wilderness of the Santa Cruz Mountains for two San Jose newlyweds who couldn't find their way back to their car.

Arnaud and Maria Stehle were forced to seek shelter in a cave for two nights and spend another two nights in a hollowed-out tree, authorities said.

The couple didn't have the clothing or equipment for such an adventure. Both had left their coats in the car and they had no food, and Arnaud, a 29-year-old Silicon Valley engineer, was wearing shorts. But the two emerged from the back country relatively unscathed Thursday after a massive search.

"They were cold, tired and hungry, but in pretty good spirits," Santa Clara County sheriff's Lt. Mark Eastus said. "It's a very pleasant outcome for how many days had elapsed."

The couple survived on stream water and determination before a search and rescue party found them about 1 p.m. Thursday, Eastus said. The two were taken to a local hospital to be treated for dehydration and as a precaution because of possible hypothermia, Eastus said.

The couple got lost after deciding to go look at a waterfall in the 5,200-acre park riddled with wildlands and perched on the highest ridge of the Santa Cruz Mountains, relatives said.

They hiked down steep terrain to get to the bottom of the falls, said brother-in-law Vaughn Paladin, a San Jose resident who helped search for the couple.
Unable to climb back up, they hiked along the creekbed in search of a route back to the trail, he said.

But they encountered even steeper terrain and ultimately became lost.
The couple was found after a rescue dog -- a golden retriever -- picked up their scent; rescue team members shouted out their names, and eventually Maria Stehle's voice could be heard. Ropes were needed to pull the couple up from their perch about 300 yards from the trail, said Paladin, who was on hand when the rescue party brought them out.

"I will never make fun of the French again," said Paladin, referring to Arnaud's French heritage. "Arnaud was a lot tougher than I thought; he walked out of there in shorts." Article here.